Finding The GOAT (Round 3): Kanye West vs. Mos Def…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.

In a case of student and teacher challenging each other, Kanye West takes on not only one of his current G.O.O.D. Music artists, but also a key influence and early supporter in Mos Def. Both MCs may be rooted in the underground Hip-Hop era of the late ’90s and early 2000s, yet each has found phenomenal success in the mainstream through breakthrough crossover records, over-arching collaborations, and the gift of indifference to conventions of genre. In three previous match-ups, these two versatile talents have simply rolled over touted competition. With Yasiin Bey’s slowed musical output, and ‘Ye’s defiant and often polarizing experimentation, who walks forth? (click one to vote)

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

Kanye West


Mos Def


Kanye West

(Second Round Winner, Against Ja Rule 81% to 19%)
(First Round Bye)

In just over one decade, Kanye West has challenged the status quo of Rap, with an underdog’s story and a Great Dane-sized public persona. Once a Roc-A-Fella Records producer, ‘Ye stepped to the front with College Dropout. The 2004 album, that was initially resisted by members of the Roc family, gave them their biggest cultivated star. Eleven years later, Kanye West knows exactly how to bring all of the pockets of Hip-Hop fans to one commonplace, with a musicality and ability to churn out quoteables.

While Mr. West has never been a master of flow, the MC excels in his ability to give an amplified version of his life to records. With the braggadocio of mentor Jay Z, the relationship woes of Ghostface Killah, the album-to-album experimental progression of Nas and a raw honesty surpassed by no one, Kanye West mystified Hip-Hop. The Chicago, Illinois native was a backpacker’s renaissance in his early days, a farewell to hard-rapping at midstream, and living Pop Art as of late. Along the way, West has consistently given the genre of Rap yearly hallmark albums that vary in tone, theme, sound, and style. Like Dr. Dre, West relies heavily on ensemble in the booth and on the boards. Like no one else in contemporary Hip-Hop, Kanye albums are a collection of singles, studied, quoted, and instant-scripture within the culture.

Other Notable Songs:

“Never Let Me Down” (with Jay Z & J. Ivy) (2004)
“Homecoming” (with Chris Martin) (2007)
“All Of The Lights” (with John Legend, The-Dream, Elly Jackson, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Kid Cudi, Elton John, and Rihanna) (2010)



Mos Def

(Second Round Winner, Against Phonte 84% to 16%)
(First Round Winner, Against Pharoahe Monch 71% to 29%)

Mos Def, now preferring to be known as Yasiin Bey, has carried much of Hip-Hop’s ruling tenants since the 1970s into the new millennium. A devoted artist with two revered classic albums under his belt (1998’s Black Star collaboration with Talib Kweli, and 1999’s Black On Both Sides solo debut), the mighty Mos has made hits seemingly by accident, with a vocal style that commands audiences in verse, melody, free-form poetry, and everything in between. One of Hip-Hop’s most versatile voices, Dante Smith has built a career making exactly the music he’s wanted to make, on his terms, buyer-be-warned, and Heads adore him all the more because of it.

With a wide array of styles circulating as hits, Mos competes with superstars, and led the charge to restore Hip-Hop’s emphasis of lyricism, activism, and unpredictability. His rhymes and ideas have been controversial, from calling out cultural re-appropriation and carpet-bagging record executives to standing up for social martyrs like Amadou Diallo and Assata Shakur. This former bookstore-owner has been a beacon of principles, living his life like his music. On stage, Mos’ defiance also keeps things exciting. From set to set, the Rawkus Records alum veers into Dancehall, Soul, and Hip-Hop, depending on the crowd and his mood, never married to playing the hits. Few artists have taken ownership of their presentation as boldly as Mos.

Other Notable Tracks:

“Respiration” (with Black Star & Common) (1998)
“Mathematics” (1999)
“Casa Bey” (2009)

So…who you got?

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