Finding The GOAT (Round 3): Eminem vs. Talib Kweli…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.

Although the outcomes were considerably different, Eminem and Talib Kweli are two products of the late 1990s Underground Hip-Hop movement. Both MCs were active within Rawkus Records compilations like Soundbombing 2, tearing up tracks, kicking facts, and defining what would become lasting identities within Hip-Hop. While Eminem took an express lane to the mainstream through Dr. Dre’s cosign, maniacal videos, and the media machine, Kweli stayed the course with consistent beginnings, sharp lyricism, and winning supporters over one at a time. Cult championed (with landslide bracket wins), both artists have struggled with pleasing their core while growing as artists and men. However, with creativity never an issue, both MCs have found their pocket, and signaled those listening, that they never left their old ways behind. In 1998, 12″ record buyers had to choose between Em’ and Kwe’. In 2015, with two classic-inclusive catalogs to sift through, the same question is posed. (click one to vote)

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



Talib Kweli



(Second Round Winner, Against Xzibit 87% to 13%)
(First Round Bye)

Eminem may be the MC who single-handedly ended one of Hip-Hop’s laziest eras for lyrics upon his late 1990s arrival. Self-deprecating, impassioned, and wildly imaginative, Marshall Mathers came in through Rap’s screen door as an underground Hip-Hop MC running with The Outsidaz, DJ Spinna, and SKAM2?. However, it was Em’s three-ring battle performances and uncanny ability to freestyle top-quality verses that landed his tape on Dr. Dre’s desk. Once there, Slim Shady combined his hardcore Hip-Hop past with big budget videos, A-list guests, and masterful conceptual production to make him a diamond-selling icon that seemingly was the genre’s biggest superstar since 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G.

Eminem’s career touches upon all facets of Hip-Hop, from battling, to true school, to Gangsta Rap, and everything in between. Arguably, Em has the most innovative flow since the late 1980s, with the ability to rhyme fast, slow, and in between on the same track. Like a percussion instrument, Marshall’s gift of gab employs syncopation and a pinball rhyme style to complement the elaborate content. In his writing, Eminem can be brutally honest about himself and others, while also being whimsical, harshly critical of the world at large, and wildly entertaining in social commentary. He is Lenny Bruce, Mike Tyson, and Masta Ace in one modern man. With classic, cohesive albums, Academy Award-winning (and Grammy Award-winning) songs, and a style that’s the envy of all of Eminem’s Rap peers, predecessors, and pupils, how could he not be the GOAT?

Other Notable Songs:

“Role Model” (1999)
“‘Till I Collapse” (with Nate Dogg) (2002)
“Shady CXVpher” (with Yelawolf and Slaughterhouse) (2014)



Talib Kweli

(Second Round Winner, Against Immortal Technique 79% to 21%)
(First Round Winner, Against Lloyd Banks 84% to 16%)

Though he has always technically been a solo MC, for many, Brooklyn, New Yorker Talib Kweli came to prominence as a member of Black Star with Mos Def. Known for his razor sharp intelligence and cutting insight, Kweli has always been part activist and part philosopher, in the medium of MC. Through his work with Black Star, Reflection Eternal and solo, his career has served as a bridge from the Native Tongue era through the Jiggy and Trap eras to the present.

Kweli is respected amongst Hip-Hop’s purest Heads for his early work on Rawkus Records and loved by the mainstream for elevated bangers like the Kanye West-produced “Get By.” ‘Lib has gone full circle from independent artist to major label-backed MC to indie once more, having released 10 albums and several mixtapes over the course of 15 years. No matter what the status, his art and message have never been compromised, and his words never minced.

Additional Tracks:

“Respiration” (with Mos Def and Common) (1998)
“Africa Dream” (with Hi-Tek and Weldon Irvine) (2000)
“Cold Rain” (2011)

So…who you got?

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