Finding The GOAT (Round 2): Kendrick Lamar vs. Royce Da 5’9″…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.

Royce Da 5’9″ and Kendrick Lamar both hit the music world like they often hit their verses: with a ton of horsepower, barely letting up for air. Each MC carries a love of the written word and the history of Hip-Hop, with a gift for processing these things in a digestible method for the more casual ear. Both artists are gifted at making urgent, personal, and thought-provoking music that is still advanced, challenging, and for the most part, unpredictable. Both K-Dot and Nickel beat formidable Round 1 opponents (Childish Gambino and Lupe Fiasco, respectively) in what is sure to be a great debate within the search for GOAT (click one to vote).

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


Kendrick Lamar


Royce Da 5'9"

Kendrick Lamar (First Round Winner, Against Childish Gambino 76% to 24%)


When it comes to pure skills, has anybody made as much noise in the last 24 months as Kendrick Lamar? The Compton, California native released his major label debut, October 2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city to show over a million supporters what Heads had known for several years: that Compton is not all lowriders, loc’s, and bangin’ on wax.

Although he has the vantage point of a product fully aware of life’s ills, gang-infested streets, and women being exploited, Kendrick Lamar represents a bookish, thoughtful, Hip-Hop awestruck MC entering his prime. The studious rapper is a product of a strong influence by Andre 3000, DMX, and 2Pac. Along the way, Kendrick Lamar upheld an ’80s-styled level of competition, calling out his peers and using skills to play a public game of lyrical capture-the-flag. More than one year later, one could easily argue that nobody has taken the baton from the Top Dawg/Aftermath Entertainment breakout star who has Dr. Dre in his corner, without relying on his (or much other) high-profile production. In the verses, K-Dot talks Black empowerment, the do or die circumstances of the world around him, and the absence of love. Carrying what seems to be the most recent unanimous “classic album,” a platinum plaque, and one of the best live shows in Hip-Hop, Kendrick Lamar is in his prime, on paper, in stereo, and center-stage.

Other Notable Tracks:

“Hood Gone Love It” (with Jay Rock) (2011)
“HiiiPower” (2011)
“m.A.A.d city” (with MC Eiht) (2012)

Royce Da 5’9″ (First Round Winner, Against Lupe Fiasco 58% to 42%)


For more than 15 years, Royce Da 5’9″ has been a beacon of lyricism. The Detroit, Michigan MC, a longtime close friend and Bad Meets Evil partner with Eminem was a breakthrough artist of the same time. While the B.M.E recordings painted Nickel Nine as an artist capable of upholding the D’s reputation and creativity for Horror-core, his solo materials played like anabolic updates in the Lord Finesse or Big L wheel-house. Cocky, skillful, and rapping with an unmovable sincerity, Royce’s street records such as “Boom” and “My Friend” firmly established him of his own accord.

With a halted Columbia Records stint, Royce returned to the underground that made him, where he stayed for the better part of a decade. There, Nickel maintained the blend of highly personal journal entry-like songs, highly-showcased bravado, and brilliant wordplay. It would not be until 2011’s high-profile reunion with Em’ that Royce would score a plaque, however, many Heads argue that from his Bar Exam mixtape series to his sophomore, Death Is Certain, that Ryan Montgomery is at his best when he’s got the least, in the way of resources. Since co-founding Slaughterhouse, Royce Da 5’9″ has heightened from independent Hip-Hop mainstay to a high-profile lethal lyricist within the Shady arsenal. With the industry now at his fingertips, Nickel Nine still seems to make music with his core in mind first. A distinct voice, with a massive catalog of messages, proves constantly that slow and steady wins the race.

Other Notable Songs:

“Boom” (1999)
“Life” (with Amerie) (2000)
“Shake This” (2009)

So…who you got?

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