Finding The GOAT (Round 3): Nas vs. Ghostface Killah…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.
Round 3 kicks off in true fashion with the biggest GOAT battle since the series launched nearly six months ago. Nas versus Ghostface Killah is a title fight in and of itself. These two New York lyricists are contemporaries, collaborators, and MCs forever attached to the same movements and evolving eras. Raised on the hardcore Hip-Hop of the 1980s, these two men carried a rawness, a focus on originality, and a total disregard for saccharine sweet radio raps into their music. Nas more than tripled the votes of a heralded, iconic, and immortalized MC in Big L to advance to Round 3, while G.F.K. bested two platinum peers in Kurupt, and Lil’ Kim, respectively. With more than one classic work in each MC’s catalog, and enough hits to fill out multiple best of discs, these longtime label mates (at Sony and later, Def Jam) become competitors, in a match-up that will inevitably have the cult fans using any computer and device they can get to stuff the ballot box (click one to vote):
Voting For Round 3 is now closed. Stay up to date with the latest Finding The GOAT brackets
(Second Round Winner, Against Big L 79% to 21%)
(First Round Bye)
From the first time his voice hit wax, Nas proved to be one of the most exciting, versatile, and skillful MCs of all time. Mentored by Large Professor and Kool G Rap, Nasty Nas possesses a rawness in his delivery, imagery, and approach to songwriting. In the earliest days of his career, the Queens, New Yorker ripped mics rapping about exploiting immigrants, brandishing guns at nuns, and tucking machine guns into his Army fatigues. Later in his career, Nas had insightful commentary about raising a young woman, unifying music with its pan-African origins, and properly honoring Coretta Scott King. In between those poles, Nasir Jones has been authentic, precise, and righteous no matter his message. The raspy-voiced MC bridged the gap between the ’80s and the 2000s as well as anybody, making him such a championed favorite.
In more than 11 albums, Nas has proven to be one of Hip-Hop’s most consistent-yet-evolutionary artists. Content-wise, Life Is Good has little in common with Illmatic, which plays to Nas’ ability to grow, and differentiate his works. However, the level of rapping, wordplay, and the dynamic lens to the world has always been steadfast. He takes risks, like 2008’s Untitled album (intended to be called “Nigger”), recording posthumous collaborations with nemesis 2Pac, and making a joint LP with Dancehall sensation Damian Marley. Along the way, Nas’ catalog is decorated with five #1s, and a hallway of gold, platinum, and multi-million selling LPs. Nas’ singles have never had the same magnitude of success, making the longtime Columbia/Sony Records artist feel like an underdog, “surviving the times” in the mainstream. Although he was once “too scared to grab the mics in the park,” Nas has risen into one of Hip-Hop’s leading GOAT contenders, touching the hearts, minds, and sound-systems everywhere.
Other Notable Songs:
Long touted as one of Hip-Hop’s most original MCs, Ghostface Killah entered the scene with Wu-Tang Clan in 1993. A Staten Island native, Ghost’ unconventionally protected his identity until after music had been released. The dynamically-voiced MC shunned the spotlight, one of his most unique qualities. On the microphone though, the longtime friend of RZA was unafraid—whether admitting the poverty on his youth, his emotions surrounding unrequited love, or breaking rhythms (and plenty of conventions) in kicking a verse.
After being one of Clan’s many great role-players, Ghost played a “co-star” on 1995’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… album, before moving into his own 1996 LP, Ironman. Throughout his first three albums, Killah offered a homogenous blend of Gangsta Rap, relationship songs, and brutally honest reflections about race, childhood, and the bygone New York City in the Giuliani Era. A true slang specialist, Ghostface Killah is an abstract MC, who specifically deals in reality. Although he’s become a reality TV personality in recent years, the star of Stapleton projects has been unwavering in giving Heads the Hip-Hop he wants, with no sugar or compromise.
So…who you got?