Finding The GOAT (Round 3): The Notorious B.I.G. vs. Big Pun…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.

A heavyweight bout in every possible meaning, Round 3 sees two late Rap icons compete, in a sure-shot nail-biter for the cult followings of each. The Notorious B.I.G. was murdered just as Big Pun was coming into his own. However, both of these New York MCs challenged music industry conventions, selling skills above image, and becoming icons of cool in doing so. Both Biggie and Pun beat Wu-Tang Clan master generals to arrive in Round 3. These careers are eerily similar, with a collection of hardcore/underground works, a classic debut, a crew album, and untimely deaths just days before their mainstream-tinged sophomore efforts released. Whether for their boroughs, their heritages, or simply for lovers of lyricism, these two men are as beloved as any in Hip-Hop. Perhaps the most difficult, highest-profile, and unpredictable match-up to date, this one beckons full participation (click one to vote):

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

Biggie Smalls


Big Pun


The Notorious B.I.G.

(Second Round Winner, Against GZA 61% to 39%)
(First Round Bye)

Biggie Smalls (a/k/a The Notorious B.I.G.) redefined what a Hip-Hop star looked like and sounded like, when he released his classic 1994 debut, Ready To Die. In one place, B.I.G. combined fully-executed concept, lyricism, storytelling, and Pop-minded sensibilities. At the height of the music video era, Biggie became a superstar without ever tucking in his supreme MC abilities, that he chiseled from five years of battling on Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn’s Fulton Street. With two solo and one Junior M.A.F.I.A. studio albums in his brief career, Biggie has the sales to match his over-arching influence on the culture and the craft of rapping.

Although his verses employed humor, depravity, embarrassment, braggadocio, and more—the main theme is sincerity. Whether he was in the mindset of an ostracized youth, a stressed-out corner-boy, or a Frank White-like mafioso, Christopher Wallace was a master of method-acting-rapping, ’cause he’d seemingly lived it all. He stood at the zeitgeist for what a generation wanted, grew up with, and the hurdles they were up against. Whether rapping alongside Sadat X, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, or R.A. The Rugged Man, Big Poppa got in where he fit in—and the likable underdog with the over-achieving rhyme patterns and straight-forward street wisdom remains loved by all.

Other Notable Tracks:

“Juicy” (1994)
“Unbelievable” (1994)
“4 My Peeps (Remix)” (with Red Hot Lover Tone, M.O.P., and Organized Konfusion) (1995)



Big Pun

(Second Round Winner, Against RZA 59% to 41%)
(First Round Bye)

In essentially less than three years, Big Pun made a giant-sized impact on Hip-Hop. Beyond the racial implications of Rap’s first Latino soloist to garner a platinum plaque, Christopher Rios may be the genre’s most skilled MC. On the microphone, for an MC who weighed 698 pounds at the time of his 2000 death, Punisher rhymed with speed and agility. Although he would find himself breathless in speech, when delivering obliterating, intense verses, Pun seemed to avoid the need to breathe. Instead, the Bronx, New Yorker simply fired off clever nouns, verbs, and compound rhymes like a Thompson machine gun.

The original Terror Squad front man had crossover appeal, given his ability to bring precise, witty lyricism to polished, mainstream-tinged production. However, at heart, and before his Loud Records days, Big Punisher was a Horrorcore MC, who enjoyed occult imagery, dark themes, and grimy subject matters. Pun’s adaptable style made him distinguished in his ability to rhyme alongside Big L, Mr. Serv-On, Cam’ron, and KRS-One with style and grace. An artist with a lot of grit, Pun was an Everyman—who at the pinnacle of the shiny suit era—may have dressed flashy, but rhymed true-school, with a classic, dynamic debut in Capital Punishment. When the 28 year-old died from a heart-attack, he not only left a void in the hearts and ears of Heads, he left a massive emptiness in a culture excited by his skill, drive, and joy in presenting his verses.

Other Notable Songs:

“Off The Books” (with The Beatnuts and Cuban Link) (1997)
“Beware” (with Fat Joe) (1998)
“Tres Leches” (with Prodigy and Inspectah Deck) (1998)

So…who you got?

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