Finding The GOAT: Ma$e vs. Lil’ Kim…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 active today, but reigned on the charts and in the videos during the late 1990s. Although they were never band-mates or even label-mates, Ma$e and Lil’ Kim (click on one to vote) were part of the same movement: a protege of The Notorious B.I.G. and a protege of Puff Daddy. Each helped build a commercial fortress around New York City’s late ’90s snatch-back of the mainstream consciousness. Pillars of the “shiny suit era,” these two NYC rappers made some of the most unforgettable rhymes in Hip-Hop.

Voting For Round 1 is now closed. Stay up to date with the latest Finding The GOAT brackets



Lil' Kim

With a combined four platinum, and four gold albums, one can argue that numbers don’t lie about these two onetime Biggie Smalls affiliates. However, with a famously slow-flow, and questions about lyric-writing, these are polarizing GOAT nods indeed. Read about these two legendary artists, listen to their music and cast your vote.



In the trifecta of great mid-1990s Bad Boy Records rappers, Ma$e was poised to casually walk the gaping hole that The Notorious B.I.G. left for him in 1996 and 1997. A Harlem native, Ma$e maintained a smooth-talking, slow-rapping pretty-boy persona, with a “Murda Ma$e” past, unafraid to jostle on the mic or across 110th Street. After key set-up appearances alongside 112, Puff Daddy, and Biggie, Mason Bertha’s breakthrough 1998’s Harlem World has sold more than four million copies. In the wake of the violent and destructive mid-’90s, Ma$e pivoted to the new millennium with smiles, playful sample-based production, and catchy, memorable raps that crossed over, never losing their intended core.

After a fast follow-up, 1999’s Double Up, Ma$e had quickly amassed two strong-selling solo albums, and introduced a group, Harlem World. It was here that the former band-mate of Cam’ron, Big L, and McGruff made one of Rap’s most perplexing moves: he retired. Similar to Barry Sanders’ decision to leave football behind in his prime. Ma$e left Rap, left New York, and became a Georgia pastor—to much skepticism, criticism, and speculation. He would return, for 2004’s Welcome Back. At this time, artists from 50 Cent to Kanye West to Rich Boy clamored to work with the returning, reformed star. Then, in a flash, Ma$e was on hiatus again—to more speculation. Now embarking on what appears to be his latest comeback, with Drake, 2 Chainz, and Timbaland in tow, Ma$e’s demand speaks volumes of his appeal. Despite only three albums, Ma$e is one of the few late ’90s introductions who has never encountered an album without a plaque, keeping his brand and consistency in check.

Other Notable Songs:

“Niggaz Done Started Something” (with DMX and The LOX) (1998)
“I Really Like It” (with Harlem World and Kelly Price) (1999)
“Welcome Back” (2004)

Lil’ Kim

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From a relative unknown, Brooklyn, New York’s Lil’ Kim went to a double-platinum superstar in less than two years. The First Lady of Junior M.A.F.I.A. brought range to the group’s Conspiracy debut, standing out far more than her male peers. Kimberly Jones became the ultimate Notorious B.I.G. under-study, combining her mentor/lover’s knack for telling rags-to-riches tales that Heads could relate to in one verse, and then aspire to in the next. Moreover, Kim took the mid-1990s female Rap image of Heather B, Lady Of Rage, Bahamadia, and reigning Queen Latifah and MC Lyte, and hyper-sexualized it. Kim applied XXX tactics to her marketing, videos, and “talked like [phone] sex” throughout her Hardcore debut, grabbing multi-platinum plaques in bikinis and underwear. Did this approach make Kim a better rapper? No. However, this allowed the sharp-cadenced MC to grab attention, acceptance, and showcase her musical abilities to one of the biggest audiences ever.

Into the late 1990s and 2000s, Lil’ Kim transitioned from an MC rapping about being a street-chick moving up in the word, to an icon. With cross-over hit records, the Queen B stuffed her Rap abilities into Pop tracks, working to (mostly) unite the female contingency in Rap. Following a prison stay after three straight platinum albums, Kim returned with a controversial five-mic LP in 2005’s The Naked Truth. Whether the badge of honor was truly earned, Kim’s most recent studio LP shed the makeup of Rap’s sex kitten, and delivered her back to J.M. form.

Other Notable Songs:

“M.A.F.I.A. Land” (1996)
“No One Else (Remix)” (with Total, Foxy Brown, Da’Brat & Puff Daddy) (1996)
“Quiet Storm (Remix)” (with Mobb Deep) (1999)

So…who you got?

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