Finding The GOAT (Round 3): Tupac vs. Ice Cube…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.

The final Round 3 match-up may be the toughest yet. The two MCs forever associated with throwing up W’s with their fingers are always out for the win. 2Pac and Ice Cube are each First Round Byes, who demolished fellow legendary lyricists with massive wins in Round 2—in Big Boi and Too Short, respectively. Tupac Shakur’s life and career were abruptly halted after less than five years. For Cube, the impact began five years before 2Pac’s career was established, and has continued throughout the 1990s, well into the 2000s. It is hard to imagine a Final Four without these two MCs, but only one can even reach the Top 20. You decide who gets there. (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 Boi 76% to 24%)
(First Round Bye)

In just five short years making albums, 2Pac changed Hip-Hop. Like his background, and his young life, Tupac Shakur’s music is filled with passion, soul, and conviction—amidst contradiction. His albums (and many of his songs) were conscious and Gangsta Rap at once, taking on police, society, and industry foes within the same confines. At times, ‘Pac was a pepped-up lyricist who was inspired by the greats, displaying metaphor, alliteration, flow, and cadence. In other places, Shakur rapped conversationally, coming from a place of sincere urgency, more about the content than the method. This duality has made 2Pac one of Hip-Hop’s most enduring superstars, with sales and critical acclaim that have far outlasted his tragic 1996 murder.

2Pac’s versatility may be his greatest attribute, from the socially-narrative (“Brenda’s Got A Baby”) to the anthematic (“California Love”) to the revengeful (“Picture Me Rollin'”). From the top and the bottom, Tupac was gifted in making highly-specific songs that listeners could relate to. He cemented classic LPs such as Me Against The World, and the Death Row follow-up All Eyez On Me double-album. Moreover, ‘Pac’s messages and collaborations spanned the Hip-Hop map long before Rap ever lived on the Internet. Known for fast writing, and often limited takes in the studio, ‘Pac’s urgency may be one of his flaws, but he maintained to get the words out while the thoughts were real, and the ink was wet—and that’s just what he did.

Other Notable Tracks:

“Pain” (with Stretch) (1994)
“Temptations” (1994)
“Until The End Of Time” (with R.L.) (2001)



Ice Cube
(Second Round Winner, Against Too Short 87% to 13%)
(First Round Bye)

With a furrowed eyebrow, Ice Cube was an immediate force in Hip-Hop, and one of the first lyricists from west of the Mississippi River that had MCs in the east revising their rhyme books. O’Shea Jackson came into the underground, and later the mainstream in the talent hotbed of N.W.A. Going solo, with a world of skeptics, Cube parlayed his flashy role in the group into a cohesive, socially-informed Gangsta Rap classic, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. Crossing the coasts for production, jackin’ for beats, and taking the diss song to that whole other level, Cube’s pioneering accolades are an extensive rap sheet.

Cube’s authenticity, whether as a low-ridin’ neighborhood tough or as an Everyman with a Friday to himself has translated onto screen, after he cemented these roles on wax. Don Mega has been able to make hits out of low-key days, survival, and complex narratives. Moreover, from Da Lench Mob, to Westside Connection, to helping a host of artists, Cube has been a critical juggernaut in helping the fellow man. The sounds have changed, but Ice Cube has remained a fearless creator in the studio. His anger, his conviction, and his ability to take a specific experience and make it universally cinematic is why he has more than 29 years of staying “true to the game.”

Other Notable Songs:

“Jackin’ For Beats” (1990)
“My Summer Vacation” (1991)
“Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It” (2008)

So…who you got?

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