Finding The GOAT (Round 3): DMX vs. Joe Budden…Who You Got?

We have reached the third round in the ultimate battle for the title of the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time). With 42 MCs remaining, 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. In a twist, the MC to win by the biggest margin in Round 3 will receive a bye for Round 4.

Round 3 brings a face-off in DMX and Joe Budden. Def Jam Records label-mates for a stint in the early 2000s, these two artists have thrived on emotional, stress-inspired, and highly personal verses. They each boast bags full of aggressive deliveries. Lastly, both artists have been carried on the shoulders of devoted fan bases, through personal and professional struggles. For DMX, this has translated into a 14-times-platinum discography, five #1 albums, and a 25-year career built around endurance and patience. For Budden, arguably still on an upward trajectory, it’s been one Top 10 solo effort (his first), a frenzy of mixtapes, and a high profile union with Slaughterhouse. If numbers tell the truth, Budden is the least of X’s concerns after knocking out 50 Cent and Fabolous. But as Joey jumped off after X’s popularity started to wane, the self-made star may be a brutal reminder that numbers are deceiving. After waving off Black Hippy’s Ab-Soul and Jay Rock, Jersey City’s finest may be able to topple an artist who helped pave his way. What’s it gon’ be? (click to one vote)

Voting For Round 3 is now closed. Stay up to date with the latest Finding The GOAT brackets



Joe Budden



(Second Round Winner, Against Fabolous 75% to 25%)
(First Round Winner, Against 50 Cent 67% to 33%)

In the days following the tragic murders of 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G., while Nas, Jay Z, AZ, and others vied for the crown of East Coast Hip-Hop, no relative newcomer made a harder, faster, and more ferocious fight for the throne than DMX. Not a rookie at all, the Yonkers, New Yorker had spent the decade rhyming, a previous battle-tested beneficiary of major label deals, seemingly treated every track like a battle, even if with himself.

DMX was the perfect late ’90s vessel to suggest a rawness “up top” on the Rap map, while his backdrop played into “down bottom.” Moreover, X’s message inspired others. Although the artist’s legal issues, and unmovable chip on his shoulder towards labels, peers, and the industry were stationary, DMX worked with nearly everybody, bridging a factioned, territorial climate in the genre. Clearly walking as the alpha-dog, Earl Simmons commanded his message, and helped accelerate the labels and industry to the pace of the would-be Internet culture. It was DMX who, alive, could release two #1 albums in the same year. It was DMX who could follow singles deemed too raw for radio and video with crossover tracks. With X in the lead, he opened the doors for not only friend-turned-foe Ja Rule, but also helped ONYX gain renaissance, and create diversified lanes for his crew-mates The LOX, Eve, Drag-On, and Swizz Beatz. Few artists in “the shiny suit era” (which arguably X’s success marked the end of) had the perceived authenticity, unpredictability, and tangibility as DMX.

Other Notable Tracks:

“Murdergram” (with Jay Z & Ja Rule) (1998)
“Slippin'” (1999)
“Put ‘Em Up” (2010)



Joe Budden

(Second Round Winner, Against Jay Rock 71% to 29%)
(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)

So…who you got?

Related: Check Out The Finding The GOAT Round 3 Ballots & Round 3 Results