Finding The GOAT (Round 2): Mos Def vs. Phonte…Who You Got?

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.

Mos Def and Phonte emerged from the same movement, nearly 10 years apart. Each MC is supremely adept at controlling the mic both with razor sharp rhymes and silky smooth singing. Their versatility has allowed them both to explore many genres from Jazz to Soul, Hip-Hop to Rock. Although each artist has had forays with the major label system, both have been luminaries of the independent Hip-Hop movement, making songs that permeate the culture on their own merits, by design. Each artist has caught recognition from the mainstream, especially in the form of award nominations—as well as guest work sought out by Rap’s multi-platinum elite. With so much in common, and so many contributions to the purity and creativity of the culture, these two versatile voices line it up (click one to vote):

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

Mos Def



Mos Def (First Round Winner, Against Pharoahe Monch 71% to 29%)


Mos Def, now preferring to be known as Yasiin Bey, has carried much of Hip-Hop’s ruling tenants since the 1970s into the new millennium. A devoted artist with two revered classic albums under his belt (1998’s Black Star collaboration with Talib Kweli, and 1999’s Black On Both Sides solo debut), the mighty Mos has made hits seemingly by accident, with a vocal style that commands audiences in verse, melody, free-form poetry, and everything in between. One of Hip-Hop’s most versatile voices, Dante Smith has built a career making exactly the music he’s wanted to make, on his terms, buyer-be-warned, and Heads adore him all the more because of it.

With a wide array of styles circulating as hits, Mos competes with superstars, and led the charge to restore Hip-Hop’s emphasis of lyricism, activism, and unpredictability. His rhymes and ideas have been controversial, from calling out cultural re-appropriation and carpet-bagging record executives to standing up for social martyrs like Amadou Diallo and Assata Shakur. This former bookstore-owner has been a beacon of principles, living his life like his music. On stage, Mos’ defiance also keeps things exciting. From set to set, the Rawkus Records alum veers into Dancehall, Soul, and Hip-Hop, depending on the crowd and his mood, never married to playing the hits. Few artists have taken ownership of their presentation as boldly as Mos.

Other Notable Tracks:

“Respiration” (with Black Star & Common) (1998)
“Mathematics” (1999)
“Casa Bey” (2009)

Phonte (First Round Winner, Against Malice 70% to 30%)


Hailing from North Carolina, Phonte, along with Rapper Big Pooh and producer extraordinaire 9th Wonder, formed Little Brother. Their debut album The Listening was one of Hip-Hop’s last universally-heralded “underground” albums. With his no nonsense approach, Phonte’s subject matter ranged from trying to figure out how to maintain a happy home with his family to his fierce and protective love of the culture. The writing combines blunt honesty, wit, and vulnerability, making the music cult-championed and a 2000s renaissance.

‘Tay’s skills are relating to the Everyman (and woman), and as well as any artist in Hip-Hop, he can break into song, to the extent of Grammy recognition through Foreign Exchange. Whether rapping or singing, Phonte Coleman is mastering the ceremony, applying the masters, and making music that is deeply tangible to almost all who encounter it. Between Black Thought and Drake, Phonte is the critical keystone. After releasing four albums and six mixtapes with Little Brother, Phonte continues releasing music in his many groups and incarnates.

Other Notable Tracks:

“Slow It Down” (with Little Brother) (2005)
“Best Of Times” (with Strong Arm Steady) (2010)
“The Good Fight” (2011)

So…who you got?

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