Finding the GOAT: Pick Another ’90s Great Wild Card For Round 2?
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.
In an effort to have Ambrosia For Heads readers decide the final candidates for GOAT, we are featuring 21 nominees for inclusion. Today’s list stems from reigning (and ringing) in much of the 1990s. At the bottom of the page, vote on your pick after sampling their finest, and reading about their cases for Greatness:
Since he contributed to Wreckx-N-Effect’s “Rump Shaker,” Pharrell Williams has been a keystone of Hip-Hop, along with a host of other genres. The ageless Virginia pillar of cool is nice on the microphone, literally and figuratively. With versatile vocals that can be sultry and arrogant at once, Skateboard P grinds the tracks with smooth transmission, no matter whether the vehicle is a solo spot, a N*E*R*D session, or those critical guest verses that have been highly sought after by anybody in reach.
The Lady Of Rage
Another Virginia native, The Lady Of Rage is a product of patience. After a year or two under the tutelage of Chubb Rock, Rockin’ Robin Allen was a huge role in Death Row Records’ early breadbasket of talent. Although her smoky nature fit in nicely alongside Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, the hard-nosed MC clearly cut her teeth in the didactic, aggressive East Coast early ’90s movement. As fate would have it, Rage has only witnessed one album to hit record store shelves, featuring involvement from 2Pac, DJ Premier, and Snoop to boot. However, still in the guest roles and mixtapes, the Lady still comes first, with those refined skills and attacking delivery.
Central Islip’s Hip-Hop claim to fame, Keith Murray “beautifully” hit the mic throughout the 1990s, into today. This Def Squad MC had a raspy delivery and highly-animated presentation to make his verses come to life over the last 20 years. “Gettin’ busy off of basic instinct,” the Jive Records star often took simple ideas and made them into head-nodding joints. Strong on his own two, Keith also thrived in the group setting, whether alongside Erick Sermon and Redman, or more recently with Canibus. Murray refuses to be eclipsed, and has the skills and charisma to pay the bills.
During the reign of Spice 1 and Too Short, Tha Luniz extended Oakland, California’s Rap enrichment. Of the duo, Yukmouth was a clear front man, rocking the mic with humor, charm, and an unrivaled coolness. As his strong solo career mounted, Yuk’ also proved to be versatile in subject matter, whether calling out a litany of foes, making weeded tracks on his Smoke-A-Lot imprint, or firing off Thug Lord bars alongside C-Bo. Like his friend-collaborators 2Pac or Kool G Rap, Jerold Ellis, III is a man of many worlds, which is abundantly clear in sampling his massive discography. Along the way, Yuk’ survived a commercial drought in the Bay, and made the kind of music that’s back in vogue 20 years into his career.
A onetime Ice-T protege with hits as far back as 1989, WC is often lost in the litany of lyricists from his class. However, whether Low Profile, the M.A.A.D. Circle, or Westside Connection, William Calhoun, Jr. remains a lethal vocalist in the booth. Clear in Kendrick Lamar’s album reference, Dub thrived on explaining life in the hood, both with insight and menace—playing a villain and a hero at once. With a flow that pivots and advances, WC was a favorite of UGK and Gang Starr alike, an authenticity source of detail, angst, and attitude of South Central Los Angeles who’s put it down in four different decades.
Between Uncle Luke and Rick Ross, Trick Daddy led Miami, Florida’s charge—something he still is active in cementing. In the late 1990s, Maurice Young forecast the Trap movement with songs about hustling hard, backing down competitors and being misunderstood both by law enforcement, but also the greater Rap community. With a drawling cadence, Trick redefined “what a thug about” in the days following 2Pac’s murder. With so much anger, intensity, and conviction in his gold-teethed verses, Trick brought the gold and platinum back to Dade County, and showed the rest of the world that for as pretty as South Beach may be, Miami had a dark underbelly.
Like N.W.A. or Wu-Tang Clan, Goodie Mob was blessed with more than three star MCs. While Cee-Lo was a breakout star long before “The Voice,” Khujo Goodie proved to be a strong, distinguished in his own right. William Knighton, Jr. seemed—like Posdnuos and Trugoy, to put the group above himself. With limited solo work, Khujo’s finest offerings are found within his Dungeon Family offerings. With a bark in his verse, Khujo had bite in his thinking, making strong commentary on his community, race relationships, and the Rap industry’s misgivings on the talent below the Mason-Dixon.
In terms of sheer delivery, Twista is a GOAT-worthy nod. The onetime holder of the Guinness Book Of Records for fastest rapping, Carl Mitchell has been serving up lyrical machine-gun funk for more than 20 years. A Chicago Hip-Hop pioneer, Tung Twista offered up a style of lung collapsing lyrics that would go on to influence generations of MCs, including Eminem, Tech N9ne, and a contemporary, Busta Rhymes. Beyond just flow, Twista and his Speedknot Mobstaz succeeded in making highly-technical Hip-Hop that appealed to mass audiences, for its vibe, tone, and universal subject matter. At multiple points in his extensive career, Twista’s been able to quickly remind folks why he’s inventive, skilled, and always relevant.
New Orleans remains high on the universal Hip-Hop consciousness. One of the key figures to shed light on the talent along with the potential of the Bounce movement was Master P. Long before Percy Miller maintained a ’90s-2000s empire at No Limit Records, P’s own music was the buy-in. Raw uncut Gangsta Rap, Master P serves up verses about the violence within his city, the parallels between Rap and drug sales, and why he’s never had an issue figuring out how to spend his money. Although often under-sung, the TRU MC is an architect to the blueprint many star rappers of today rely on as a rapping foundation.
Although he is often dismissed as Jay Z’s pupil or hype-man, Memphis Bleek is a key figure in Brooklyn, New York’s identity in the 2000s, as well as the development of Roc-A-Fella Records. Malik Cox began as an MC phenom, gifted in the ability to talk grown man business through the eyes of a trusted teenager. A proven hit-maker with a cool, calm, demeanor, Bleek later took risks and put elements of his heart and life on wax on albums like 534. While some focus on under-achievement, the Roc mainstay carries two gold albums, and a host of lasting singles, far greater than many of the artists who have criticized the veteran MC with the BK cadence.
An accomplished producer/MC, Daz Dillinger often lived in the shadow, lyrically-speaking, of his Dogg Pound partner Kurupt. However, when Delmar Arnaud released his solo debut, Retaliation, Revenge, and Get Back, he stifled many critics. A lover of street enterprise, Dat Nigga Daz has largely favored quantity over quality. However, when the Long Beach, California rapper carefully crafts an album, the results are proven. Daz has a melodic, booming voice, that can detail the world around him, chide an opponent, or celebrate his love of women, weed, and West Coast Hip-Hop.
As an “Outsida” and as the First Lady of the Flipmode Squad, Rah Digga thrives on multiple levels. The Jersey City MC hit the ’90s with a style and grace that quickly escalated her to the top of the game, and made her one of Rap’s most sought-after features. Within the female class of MCs, Rah Digga challenged conventions on both poles, being a lyrics-forward artist who could still embrace her femininity. Despite critical acclaim and sales approaching gold numbers on Dirty Harriet, Rashia Fisher would have to wait more than a decade to follow up her work with another solo set. Given a strong 2014 filled with a la carte blistering commentary, Digga has the shovels ready for the competition.
Although DOOM’s Zevlove X era hekpedset the 1990s off, pain, homelessness, depression, addiction and the loss of his KMD band-mate and real-life brother Subroc made a villain MC. Seeking refuge in art, Metal Face DOOM (a guard against the reminders of his identical twin brother) became among the most gifted MCs of the era. A product of the underground, Daniel Dumile kicked stream of consciousness lyrics, far-reaching oddball references, and bendable flows to a new level on releases like the cult-carried Operation Doomsday. With that niche, DOOM reinvented himself, stayed busy, and rapped away as much pain as possible on a string of lyrically-advanced, oft-self-produced releases that brought new meaning to “spit.”
A disciple of Eazy E’s extensive mid-1990s Ruthless Records roster, will.i.am brought the showmanship of The Good Life Cafe into Pop music, care of Black Eyed Peas. A raspy, quick rapping MC, William Adams adheres to the tried and true MC formulas, while opening audiences up with verbal sampling, channeling different eras, and presenting universal messages—vastly different from his Atban Klann days. A super-producer, will (who is a Beats By Dre founder in his own right), looked at music for maximum entertainment value.
The Artifacts’ Tame One remains a highly influential MC, especially on the contemporary class. With an intoxicated style, Newark, New Jersey’s Rahem Brown chose a graffiti writer’s aesthetic in presenting his rhymes, whether an effortless throw-up, or all city burner alongside partner-in-rhyme El Da Sensei. On his own, Tame fell into dark music, not unlike his distant mentor’s Dare Iz A Darkside effort, filled with drugs, self-loathing, and wicked, wicked rhymes to light the cavernous journey. Tame remains a creative monster, with work appealing to the visual artist, the stoner, and the neurotic all at once.
Prince Poetry is just that, Rap royalty. Often upstaged by Pharoahe Monch’s big personality in Organized Konfusion, this Queens, New Yorker truly remains dedicated to his craft. A lover of concept, Lawrence Baskerville thrived inside of his group, with strong, tight routines and bendable flows. On his own, Po’s works equally shine, proving to be a cohesive MC’s MC, with plenty to say on all subjects. In any other crew, Prince Poetry would be the star. However, this deliberately lower profile veteran chose the back, putting his rhymes to the front.
The original Rhymesayer, Atmosphere’s Slug has nearly 20 years of supplying fans with highly-metaphoric, deeply personal verses that chronicle both a B-Boy growing into the world as a lover, husband, and father, but also as a man in search of his place. Sean Daly took on the image of a sad clown early in his career, and his raps are filled with charm, humor, and musings, as the MC also writes about issues, people, and happenings in his life that he has since said make some songs impossible to perform. Along the way, Slug’s competitive edge compensated for his vulnerable subject matters, as the top-charting MC still is out to kick ass as a supreme mic controller, while examining exes, looking at childhood, and putting the Twin Cities up to the highest.
Rooted, alongside 2Pac, in Digital Underground, Saafir was a precursor to the Underground Hip-Hop movement by the mid-’90s. The Saucee Nomad would be inked to Quincy Jones’ label, but the raspy-voiced actor who appeared in Menace II Society never aimed his verses at Hollywood. Instead, Reggie Gibson’s lines asserted their place as an elite MC in Hip-Hop, capable of battling as well as providing thought-provoking messages, especially from the perspective of an ambitious Everyman from Oakland, California.
Although Big L’s breakout garnered the most attention within D.I.T.C.’s lyrical brigade, O.C. remains a top-shelf MC over the course of a 20-year career. The Organized Konfusion affiliate named Omar Credle has a raspy delivery and alters the volume of his voice in giving blistering messages about the state of Hip-Hop, vivid childhood memories, or painting pictures of chilling out lavishly in Brooklyn and Queens. Mush, as he’s also known, had the skills heard on Word…Life and Jewelz to reportedly garner interest from Puff Daddy, as well as a run of collaborations from his homie Jay Z, but the Diggin’ author has always chosen his own path. Whether fast or slow, pensive or aggressive, this independent mainstay remains a total package on the microphone, and one choice rapper.
The defacto mouthpiece of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Krayzie Bone has also steered the ship with group and solo consistency. The Cleveland, Ohio native is among the members of the group to have acclaimed solo work, with his strong vocal range, often pulpit-style delivery, and impeccable high-speed transmission. In his verses, Anthony Henderson has offered street-rooted perspective, often veering from his own fame, wealth, and success. A voice of the people, Kray’ has gold and platinum solo works outside his responsibilities within B.T.N.H.
Although he’s become a solo star of massive proportions in the 2010s, Juicy J’s work in music goes back more than 20 years. The MC/producer offered a Horror style, driven by images of violence, rough sex, and intoxication early in his career. As Three 6 Mafia’s fame brought them to mainstream prominence, Juiceman’s message grew with the stage, and the charismatic, energetic Memphis, Tennessee native born Jordan Houston used his talents to bring in the masses. With massive catalog, Juice’s Taylor Gang revival has tapped into all of those elements at once, making the MC a gestalt of his many moods. Whether Katy Perry or Project Pat are beside him on a track, Juicy J’s fast, dominating flow and often silly similes, smooth demeanor, and cool cadence bring songs to that 666 dimension.
So…who you got?
Voting For Round 1 is now closed. Stay up to date with the latest Finding The GOAT brackets
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