Finding The GOAT (Round 2): Jay-Z vs. AZ…Who You Got?

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We have reached the second round in 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 “playoffs style.” Since Fall 2014, and 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.

Jay-Z and AZ are contemporaries. While Jay’s career extends back to the late ’80s, both of these Brooklyn, New Yorkers found their truest voices at a critical juncture in Hip-Hop. Each took their styles, and took their streets, and together delivered an informed brand of East Coast Rap, that never sensationalized their worlds. These MCs have fought to stay true and evolve, to strong success, albeit on different levels. Jay has become Rap’s poster-child, and a chart-topping household name. AZ has been a beacon of consistency, but has been less mainstream. Cases could be made for both of these BK reports, but we ask you, who takes this round in the battle for the GOAT (click one to vote)?

Voting For Round 2 is now closed. Stay up to date with the latest Finding The GOAT brackets

Jay Z

or

AZ

Jay-Z (First Round Bye)

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter & Jay-Z Make Major Announcement

An MC on wax since the 1980s, Jay Z took a journey through the decades to become what is arguably the voice of Rap music for the millennium. Brooklyn, New York’s Shawn Carter is the perfect blend of delivery and content. Moreover, both of those attributes have been dynamic in a career that began as a battle-savvy MC with a Fu-Schnicken-like stutter style, before becoming a slow, conversational MC who chronicled his rise as a street figure in the shadows of the Marcy Houses. Later in his career, Jay condensed his many styles into one, on a truly seminal (short-lived) farewell, The Black Album. Does any Hip-Hop artist have more classic albums, or a wide-reaching debate of his own magnum opus than Jay?

With his business acumen, power moves, and figurehead set aside, on the microphone, the paperless MC took subliminal songwriting to new plateaus, whether he was carefully avoiding self-incrimination or simply refusing to give challengers a name-drop. A protege of Jaz-O and Big Daddy Kane, Jay Z not only hung in there during at least four eras of Rap, he thrived—with his own team and independence in place. The self-proclaimed “God MC” has the impact, the sales, and the versatile catalog throughout the last 25 years that make him an irrefutable GOAT contender. Jay’s upholding the MC tenets along with his advancement of the craft of rapping have forever changed the game.

Other Notable Tracks:

“Dead Presidents II” (1996)
“Where I’m From” (featuring DJ Premier) (1997)
“This Life Forever” (1999)

AZ (First Round Winner Against Lauryn Hill, 52% to 48%)

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For many, AZ’s introduction came by way of a blistering verse on Nas’ “Life’s a Bitch” from Illmatic. As the only featured lyricist on Nas’ classic, the Brooklyn MC more than earned his spot—arguably parlaying that single moment into a career. Since that guest turn, AZ has released eight solo albums and a classic collaboration project with Foxy Brown, Nature and Nas, as part of The Firm. However, Tha Visualiza proved early on that he may be his strongest when he’s on his own two. A role-player MC, A’s vivid accounts of street life, ambition, and the wisdom of movers and shakers has made his verses, songs, and albums incredibly sought after.

Mr. Consistent, AZ has been able to uncompromisingly extend his career for more than 20 years, with a changing music industry and an evolving city around him. Independent for more than a decade after his last Motown Records foray, A’s been dropping mixtapes and loosies on the regular, more concerned with legacy than commercial prominence. Despite his outsized skills, he is arguably one of Hip-Hop’s most underrated MCs—and of the crop of mid-’90s voices to emerge so quickly and authentically, it can be easily argued that AZ is the one who “never changed.”

Other Notable Tracks:

“Rather Unique” (1995)
“Sugar Hill” (with Miss Jones) (1995)
“Feel My Pain” (2010)

So…who you got?

Related: Check Out The Finding The GOAT Round 2 Ballots & Round 2 Results