Finding The GOAT (Round 2): Nas vs. Big L…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.

This may be the most fire-power in a GOAT battle round to date. In the mid-1990s, Nas and Big L were label-mates in the Sony Records system, who even hit the road together. Each one was mentored by an MC/producer also in the GOAT tournament, with the wisdom showing at young ages. Both lyricists represented the New York City underbelly, with glimmers of hope, change, and the desire to prove the doubters wrong. Both underdogs by nature, Big L and Nas both reached incredible heights, soldiers of the same struggle. Those careers, and those lives took majorly different turns, with L’s tragic untimely death and Nas going on to be on of Hip-Hop’s most enduring and celebrated MCs. Today, these vaunted MCs faceoff in the battle for the title of the GOAT (click one to vote).

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



Big L

Nas (First Round Bye)


From the first time his voice hit wax, Nas proved to be one of the most exciting, versatile, and skillful MCs of all time. Mentored by Large Professor and Kool G Rap, Nasty Nas possesses a rawness in his delivery, imagery, and approach to songwriting. In the earliest days of his career, the Queens, New Yorker ripped mics rapping about exploiting immigrants, brandishing guns at nuns, and tucking machine guns into his Army fatigues. Later in his career, Nas had insightful commentary about raising a young woman, unifying music with its pan-African origins, and properly honoring Coretta Scott King. In between those poles, Nasir Jones has been authentic, precise, and righteous no matter his message. The raspy-voiced MC bridged the gap between the ’80s and the 2000s as well as anybody, making him such a championed favorite.

In more than 11 albums, Nas has proven to be one of Hip-Hop’s most consistent-yet-evolutionary artists. Content-wise, Life Is Good has little in common with Illmatic, which plays to Nas’ ability to grow, and differentiate his works. However, the level of rapping, wordplay, and the dynamic lens to the world has always been steadfast. He takes risks, like 2008’s Untitled album (intended to be called “Nigger”), recording posthumous collaborations with nemesis 2Pac, and making a joint LP with Dancehall sensation Damian Marley. Along the way, Nas’ catalog is decorated with five #1s, and a hallway of gold, platinum, and multi-million selling LPs. Nas’ singles have never had the same magnitude of success, making the longtime Columbia/Sony Records artist feel like an underdog, “surviving the times” in the mainstream. Although he was once “too scared to grab the mics in the park,” Nas has risen into one of Hip-Hop’s leading GOAT contenders, touching the hearts, minds, and sound-systems everywhere.

Other Notable Songs:

“Halftime” (1992)
“Nas Is Like” (1999)
“Made You Look” (2002)

Big L (First Round Winner, Against Fat Joe 89% to 11%)


Although he only lived to see one of his solo albums released, Big L remains one of the most immortalized MCs of the ’90s and 2000s. The Harlem, New Yorker was among a class of early 1990s pupils, who closely studied the reigning greats, especially his mentor, Lord Finesse. L had a radically versatile flow, deadpan wit, and Gangsta Rap subject matter, making him accessible to a wide range of audiences. Between his Diggin’ In The Crates (D.I.T.C) crew (A.G., O.C., Fat Joe, Diamond D, Finesse) and Children Of The Corn (Cam’ron, Ma$e, Herb McGruff, Bloodshed), L was a major standout within his peers, and everlasting proof that steel sharpens steel.

After garnering acclaim with his 1995 Columbia Records-backed LP, Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous, Big L became an archetype for artists who navigated the industry at high-profile despite lower sales or lack of a contract. Outside of multi-platinum artists like Eminem, 2Pac, and Jay Z, Big L is among Rap’s most quoted. His sophomore, 2000’s The Big Picture, released a year after his death, earned a gold plaque. Shining alongside stiff competition, and produced as an artist whose lyrics were forever on top display, Lamont Coleman is revered at an elite level, and remembered as an iconic MC who had a Midas touch without tons of resources at his disposal.

Other Notable Songs:

“How Will I Make It?” (Mixtape/Demo)
“Yes You May (Remix)” (with Lord Finesse) (1992)
“Dignified Soldiers Remix” (with D.I.T.C) (1998)

So…who you got?

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