Finding The GOAT: Ol’ Dirty Bastard vs. Lil Fame…Who You Got?
As we continue the ultimate battle for the title of the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time), we are asking you to help us rank who is the greatest MC to pick up a mic. We will take over 35 years of Hip-Hop into consideration, pairing special match-ups in a sequence not unlike March Madness. For the next several months, we will roll out battles, starting with artists from similar eras paired against one another, until one undisputed King or Queen of the microphone reigns supreme.
The next MCs to square-off are both from the borough of Brooklyn, and known for making other artists tuck in their chains and re-think their rawest rhymes: Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Lil Fame (click on one to vote). Both students and young participants of the 1980s Hip-Hop scene, these men brought rugged, menacing styles to the forefront in the mid-1990s, to much acclaim and success. While one received two gold solo plaques, the other has become a 20-year beacon of grimy, old guard NYC, never stepping solo. Briefly label-mates at Roc-A-Fella Records (where neither artist released an album), these two icons stand tall in the halls of Hip-Hop.
Voting For Round 1 is now closed. Stay up to date with the latest Finding The GOAT brackets
Both attached to touted crews (who operate on different levels, despite collaborating extensively), Wu-Tang Clan and M.O.P., respectively, Fame and O.D.B. helped uphold Hip-Hop’s unpredictability as the 1990s transitioned to the 2000s. Each MC has an arsenal of talent beyond just rapping, with a penchant for challenging Rap’s increasingly pretty-boy, arguably sensitive image. Although Ol’ Dirty was unable to see things through, one can argue that Lil Fame has fought the fight in O.D.B.’s honor, into the 2010s. Similar in many ways, and quite different in others, read these backgrounds and histories, listen to their music and cast your vote.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard
A true original, Ol’ Dirty Bastard took the traditional rapper playbook and threw it out the window, swerving at 85 miles per hour. A Brooklyn, New York native, the MC first known as Ason Unique formed a mid-’80s crew with RZA and GZA: All In Together. Complementing The Genius’s precise scientific musings, and Prince Rakeem’s imaginative verbal scribbles, Russell Jones honed a style that fused sung vocal melody, rehearsed robotic routines, and an overall disdain for staying inside the lines in his raps. By the time All In Together Now evolved into the Wu-Tang Clan, the re-donned Ol’ Dirty Bastard tailored his role-playing even further. Upon the crew’s introduction, “Protect Ya Neck,” O.D.B. delivered his quick rhymes with instability, a man on the edge of sanity, with great vocal timing, and threatening verbal jabs.
Few artists gave way to their band mates as generously as Ol’ Dirty. This MC, at times, played court jester within the Clan, but also showed his dedication to Hip-Hop and MC’ing any chance that he got. One can argue that part of Enter The Wu-Tang‘s classic value owes O.D.B.’s strong role a debt of gratitude. The Brooklyn Zu leader lived life as he rhymed: out of control, with strong entertainment value. In an era when rappers favored talking about all of the wild stuff they did in their rhymes, few had the plausibility as Dirt McGirt.
On the solo side, Ol’ Dirty’s evolution was shown between his gritty, stripped down Return To The 36 Chambers 1995 debut and 1999’s polished, mainstream-aimed Nigga Please. A talented singer, despite the vocal imperfections, O.D.B. attracted producers ranging from The Neptunes to Irv Gotti to even Mariah Carey, eager to play with the possibility of Ol’ Dirty. The BK MC carried an authenticity with him, in songwriting, stage presence, and earnest raps that shined in the ever synthetic changing of the millennium. Struggling with addiction for much of his career, Ol’ Dirty passed away 10 years ago this month, a career still unfolding into its full potential. However, with 20 years plugging away at his style, his persona, and his vision, O.D.B. certainly achieved a lot with a little.
Other Notable Songs:
For over 20 years, Lil Fame has been one of the most skillful hardcore MCs in Hip-Hop. One-half of M.O.P., Jamal Grinnage is as fierce as they come—with rhymes that always took culture-vultures to task. “The overbite boss,” as he recently called himself, has been a triple-threat (MC/DJ/producer) going back to his Select Records days in the early ’90s. The love of the craft has been sometimes veiled in a string of menacing hits including “Ante Up,” “How About Some Hardcore,” “Rugged Neva Smoove,” and “Cold As Ice.” Playing the part of a Brooklyn stick-up kid, Lil Fame’s MC abilities have sometimes been eclipsed by the toothy, fearless rapper with sinister ad-libs. However, close-listening Heads know the history.
A major part of Fizzy Womack’s charm has been his delivery. Despite the “dental challenges,” Fame has driven his rhymes with an intensity that’s made his message all the more convincing. Not always the clearest, Fame is highly-effective, with a shouting-like style akin to a sidewalk encounter. As a writer, Fame stood for the Everyman, with images of train-riding, family-feeding, and bill-paying MC who still knew how to throw a punch, drive a Cadillac, and who enjoyed his smoke and drink. This aesthetic never afforded M.O.P. a plaque, but made them Loud Records stars capable of hit records, to be later courted by both Jay Z and 50 Cent for (fruitless) boutique deals.
A pillar of consistency, few artists can do so much with such limited resources as Lil Fame. Although his catalog has been tied to DJ Premier, Just Blaze, and Da Beatminerz, Lil Fame has never needed high-profile production or magnate features to make his presence felt. Instead, he’s thrived in the music industry similar to his on-record aesthetic: low profile, but lasting. The Brownsville veteran is a cult-championed poster child of grit, survival, and warrior tactics, with a Heavy Metal-meets-Gangsta Rap edge.
Other Notable Songs:
So…who you got?