Finding The GOAT (Round 2): Joe Budden vs. Jay Rock…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.

After defeating Ab-Soul in Round 1, Joe Budden will take on another Black Hippy member and TDE artist in Jay Rock for Round 2. Rock advanced against crosstown peer Nipsey Hussle in Round 1. These two MCs are both rooted in a straightforward street narrative, however gifted with the ability to go deeper, and get poetic in a concrete world. While Joe’s catalog bulk runs laps around Jay’s, the young Watts MC has a near-flawless reputation for consistency. Now, from different movements in Hip-Hop, these similar rappers with cult followings face off (click one to vote):

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

Joe Budden


Jay Rock

Joe Budden (First Round Winner, Against Ab-Soul 60% to 40%)


For an MC introduced to mainstream Hip-Hop in the last dozen years, Joe Budden defies the traditional makings of a Rap king. That is, if you haven’t met one of Joe Budden’s hardcore fans. Since the days before Slaughterhouse, the days before independent albums, the onetime Desert Storm/Def Jam artist amassed a strong, devoted following for his hardcore deliveries and heartfelt admissions. The Jersey City, New Jersey MC was talking about depression, self-doubt, and his trouble with women more than five years before Drake. “Jumpoff” was ruffling feathers, checking his peers, and vying for titles years before Kendrick Lamar’s “Control.”

With just three studio albums (plus a handful of independent releases and mixtapes), Budden has been highly prolific, and tirelessly active. A battle-bred MC, Joe’s albums often don’t embody his best work—save for his self-titled debut, which hinted at both his core and commercial sides. On television, Joe may be a spectacle—not unlike his musical persona. Breathless, courageous, and unconventional, Joey left his label home to make the seven-plus minute songs that redefined his career, after “Pump It Up” and “Fire.” It’s worked, evident in the notoriety the rapper has gained since doing what seemed to be the unthinkable during a Jay Z-run regime. From the mixtape era, to the message board era, into the blog era, Joe Budden has been that dude.

Other Notable Tracks:

“Broken Wings Freestyle” (2003)
“Who?” (2009)
“Goodbye” (with Slaughterhouse) (2012)

Jay Rock (First Round Winner, Against Nipsey Hussle 69% to 31%)


From one of the most rough and tumble places in the United States, Watts, California, Jay Rock has revived Gangsta Rap in a rather unique way. The first artist out of Top Dawg Entertainment and Black Hippy made immediate impact with his tales of treacherous living in 2000s-era South Central, California. The artist born Johnny McKinzie sat around the old Heads in his community, and was introduced with a load of wisdom, self-confidence, and restraint early in his career. With a forceful approach on the mic, Rock has an emphasized cadence, raspy voice, and pushes his bars with a strong sense of urgency.

With only 2011’s Follow Me Home on shelves, Jay Rock has sustained a career in unlikely fashion. Opposite many of his Rap peers, the Nickerson Gardens houses MC is careful with material, favoring low, high-potency output in lieu of frequent mixtapes, appearances, or videos. With his gripping accounts of survival in present day, Jay Rock feels out of step with the times, having more in common with icons like Ice Cube, MC Eiht, and Spice 1 than a lot of his generational peers. Guarded, quiet, and determined, Jay’s music complements his lifestyle. In many ways, the only method of understanding this 28 year-old’s thoughts and experiences is to press play.

Other Notable Songs:

“YOLA” (2012)
“Money Trees” (with Kendrick Lamar) (2012)
“Shot You Down (Remix)” (with Isaiah Rashad, ScHoolboy Q & Ab-Soul) (2013)

So…who you got?

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