Finding The GOAT (Round 2): Phife Dawg vs. Posdnuos…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.

Two stars from within the Native Tongues movement beat some heavyweights in Round 1, only to square off in Round 2. A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg edged another Native, Queen Latifah by a large margin, while De La Soul’s Posdnuos beat out CL Smooth by a groundswell of his own. Now, these two illustrious MCs from Queens and Long Island, respectively, compare their skills. Each have touted verses, classic albums, and a supreme dedication to their groups above all else. With well over 50 combined years of music, this is one of the hardest picks yet (click one to vote):

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

Phife Dawg



Phife Dawg (First Round Winner, Against Queen Latifah, 70% to 30%)

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Like some other GOAT contenders, Phife Dawg has thrived within a group that has inevitably placed him more in the shadows, despite amazing lyrical efforts. Especially on A Tribe Called Quest’s first three albums, the “five foot assassin” has been nothing short of amazing, combining wit, aspiration, humility, and skilled wordplay in his extensive raps.

A product of A.T.C.Q’s strong Jazz influence, Phife (like Q-Tip) carried a free-form approach to delivery. Throughout a verse, the altered speed, meter, and flow shifted seamlessly, which made for such an interesting listen. Additionally, Phife’s verses remain at the zeitgeist of their era—particularly on The Low End Theory. In the early ’90s, the pop culture references are spot-on, time capsules that Heads travel back to, remembering an untouchable era in music, in New York, in fashion and society. Similarly, Phife checked in with verses at the later part of the decade that suggest the many transformations, from less innocent times, to the absence of love, peace, and fellowship within Hip-Hop. By the early 2000s, before taking a lengthy hiatus from Rap, Diggy also showed a blueprint to the underground, on how to make moving, low profile Hip-Hop that upheld the standard of quality. Phife is an integral, oft-underplayed ingredient to Tribe’s status as one of the GOAT groups, so why wouldn’t he be a solo contender in his own right?

Other Notable Tracks:

“Buggin’ Out” (with A Tribe Called Quest) (1991)
“Electric Relaxation” (with A Tribe Called Quest) (1993)
“Flawless” (2000)

Posdnuos (First Round Winner, Against CL Smooth 68% to 32%)

North Coast Music Festival

Posdnuos, Posdnous, or Plug 1… however you spell it or choose to refer to him, Kelvin Mercer is one of the epitomes of MC’ing. The Long Island, New Yorker has frequently employed abstract expressions, coded language, and a high regard for his musical peers’ expressions and stylings in creating verses for De La Soul. Writing about himself and the world around him, Pos’ has built an iron-clad reputation for tellin’ it how it is, and how it might be. In his whimsical beginnings heard on 3 Feet High And Rising, to more thematic offerings on De La Soul Is Dead and Buhloone Mindstate, Pos is down for the cause, and able to constantly break new ground.

Even if the subjects were relatively simple, such as avoiding drugs, depicting a ghetto, or makeshift party songs like “Oooh,” Pos thrived. This MC has been able to weather the changes and iterations of the genre, the culture, the group, and the media with style, grace, and a deliberately low profile. If you want to get to know Pos, his lyrics are pathways much more than interviews, social media, endorsements, acting, or the like. Despite more than 25 years of group material, Pos has never released a solo album, and been extremely conservative regarding guest work. Through his group albums, the MC has functioned (alongside lyrical partner Dave/Trugoy) as well as any in Hip-Hop history. Through devotion and managing the message, this MC only speaks when he has something to say, and now in his forties, is among the genre’s most ageless and timeless voices.

Noteworthy Tracks:

“Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)” (with De La Soul) (1991)
“Ego Trippin’ (Part Two)” (with De La Soul) (1993)
“Stakes is High” (with De La Soul) (1996)

So…who you got?

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