Finding The GOAT: Common vs.…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 often, perhaps misleadingly linked into the same movement: Common and dead prez’s (click on one to vote). While both artists delivered refreshing messages to what was popular leading into the turn of the millennium, each has so much more to say than their hits would portray. Committed, versatile veterans, these two men both fought to bring the culture, the people, and the issues back to the forefront—something they are each still doing, in their respective way.

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



While one artist has three gold albums to the other’s low-key push, both of these artists bulldozed the status quo, several times over, and may reach the history books much more than the charts. Read these histories and cast your vote.



Album-to-album, Common may be the most versatile career MC who has still found a way to be consistent. For more than 20 years, this onetime “Unsigned Hype” spotlight has been a low-profile contributor to what makes 1994 legendary (care of his Resurrection LP), the conscious movement (care of his late ’90s albums), and the Chicago musical renaissance (care of Be and Nobody’s Smiling). At the forefront of every bend in Rap’s road, Common is sitting in the cockpit, without ever seeking credit.

Often dismissed as merely a “conscious rapper,” thanks to his challenges towards West Coast Gangsta Rap, and love-driven hits like “The Light” and “Come Close,” Common’s albums tell another story. Following his rugged Can I Borrow A Dollar? beginnings, Comm’ has showcased his abilities as an MC—especially on Resurrection, One Day It’ll All Make Sense, and Like Water For Chocolate—arguably a trifecta of solo LPs that rival the quality of any Hip-Hop artist, ever. These albums presented city symphonies, dabbled in braggadocious Rap, and even some good ol’ rappity rap about Rap. This gift made Common a big brother to Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Kanye West then, as much as he’s stepped in for Lil Durk, Louis V, and Vince Staples now. After meeting his own expectations, Common’s veered, bobbed and weaved, and made albums that balance concept, evolving sounds, and a different kind of message than a typical rapper.

Being atypical, yet connected with the heritage of Hip-Hop may be Common’s greatest asset. Like his homies and former label-mate The Roots (in their day), Common has been one of Rap’s few perennially touring acts. This is thanks largely to Common Sense’s incredible showmanship and orchestration. Whether playing with a full band, or DJ Dummy, this MC makes music to rock in person. This quality, coupled with an extensive, diverse discography, may extend Chicago’s championship status beyond the playing field.

Other Notable Songs:

“Nuthin’ To Do” (1994)
“Making A Name For Ourselves” (with Canibus) (1997)
“The Corner” (with The Last Poets) (2005)


Emerging in any era of mainstream-friendly rappers, has never minced his words for acceptance. Whether the issues were racial inequalities in public schools, or simply urging Heads to build a better diet, this dead prez co-founder has been explosive on the mic. Raised in Shadeville, Florida, brought some Southern Rap sensibilities to Rap’s underground, with raucous choruses, aggressive microphone transmission, and lots of energy.

Mentored early on by Brand Nubian’s Lord Jamar,’s assertive style and hard-nosed music-making made him and dp’z stand out in their relegated underground Hip-Hop community. Tha Outlawz likened the MC/producer to their own agenda, as have rebellious Gangsta Rap vets, as much as ’90s-2000s 12″ artists. On his own, stic has not enjoyed the commercial impact that even dead prez has enjoyed. However, Nas personally sought out the visionary in production and direction of his acclaimed 2008, Untitled album. Whether it’s Krayzie Bone, Immortal Technique, or Nasir Jones, stic’s fearlessness, his precise deliveries, and deep commitment to his beliefs on album have made him a beacon to his peers. It’s always been bigger than Hip-Hop, and this mic controller’s career not only is built upon that idea, it illustrates it in living color.

Other Notable Songs:

“They School” (with dead prez) (2000)
“Walk Like A Warrior” (with dead prez and Krayzie Bone) (2004)
“Refuse To Lose” (with dead prez, DJ Green Lantern, Chuck D and Avery Storm) (2009)

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