Finding The GOAT (Round 2): The Notorious B.I.G. vs. GZA…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.
The Notorious B.I.G. and the GZA both hailed from the same borough of Brooklyn. Raised in the old school Hip-Hop, both of these men applied the lessons from studying the masters into advancing the culture through their own breed of hardcore rhyming. The sales followed the respect, and each would go on to cultivate storied crews, and enhance their essay. These are two cinematic MCs, influenced by film narratives as much as beats and rhymes, sewing together the ultimate package that’s endured since the early 1990s. Take a long listen to the works of each, and cast your vote for GOAT (click on one to vote):
Voting For Round 2 is now closed. Stay up to date with the latest Finding The GOAT brackets
The Notorious B.I.G. (First Round Bye)
Biggie Smalls (a/k/a The Notorious B.I.G.) redefined what a Hip-Hop star looked like and sounded like, when he released his classic 1994 debut, Ready To Die. In one place, B.I.G. combined fully-executed concept, lyricism, storytelling, and Pop-minded sensibilities. At the height of the music video era, Biggie became a superstar without ever tucking in his supreme MC abilities, that he chiseled from five years of battling on Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn’s Fulton Street. With two solo and one Junior M.A.F.I.A. studio albums in his brief career, Biggie has the sales to match his over-arching influence on the culture and the craft of rapping.
Although his verses employed humor, depravity, embarrassment, braggadocio, and more—the main theme is sincerity. Whether he was in the mindset of an ostracized youth, a stressed-out corner-boy, or a Frank White-like mafioso, Christopher Wallace was a master of method-acting-rapping, ’cause he’d seemingly lived it all. He stood at the zeitgeist for what a generation wanted, grew up with, and the hurdles they were up against. Whether rapping alongside Sadat X, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, or R.A. The Rugged Man, Big Poppa got in where he fit in—and the likable underdog with the over-achieving rhyme patterns and straight-forward street wisdom remains loved by all.
Other Notable Tracks:
Within the Wu-Tang Clan, GZA has been the senior, supreme swordsman. With the Brooklyn, New York MC being the first signed artist of the collective, The Genius has never failed to live up to his initial name. GZA’s catalog spans back to 1991’s Words From The Genius, a testament to his style’s malleability to the standards of the day. By 1993, the razor sharp raspy cadence, highly-researched rhymes of the GZA would be a focal point of the Wu-Tang Clan’s extensive armory and brandished ability. Then, by 1995, GZA achieved the feat of solidifying a solo classic, in Liquid Swords. The album served as a stripped-down clinic of hard rhymes, a purists’ extension of the Wu at their core. Throughout, although GZA came from the streets of Brooklyn at a time when they were vigilante, he was inventive with message, concept, and created a cinematic world that allowed him a unique message than his Rap peers. Throughout his career, although GZA maintained a syntax and vernacular that always exemplified his environment, the artist born Gary Grice delivered his verses as if they were polished strands of fiction, ranging from Thriller, to Sci-Fi, to Historical. Keeping his brand in check, the MC gave small, lethal doses of dope on group albums, and largely focused his attentions on six solo sets—including two gold-certified releases.
Although GZA is one of the densest stars MCs of Hip-Hop history, he has been capable of not only making radio-friendly hits, but never ducking in doing so. Whether “Cold World” or “Breaker, Breaker,” this illuminating MC stuck to his swords, and still mainstream Rap took notice.
Other Notable Tracks:
So…who you got?