Finding The GOAT (Round 3): Slick Rick vs. Rakim…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.

Since their days rockin’ shows in historic New York City venues, Slick Rick and Rakim are contemporaries. Both MCs hit the mid-1980s with tremendous style, charisma, and love of the spoken word. For MC Ricky D, his whimsical, often humorous and raunchy notes played like Rap nursery rhymes. The effortless flow, the dynamic cadence, and the love of the story made for great listening, whether as a Get Fresh Crew affiliate, or as a Def Jam soloist. Rakim carries many of those same traits, though with unwavering confidence, lower vocal tones, and a flow that bends and turns with the greatest of ease and bar symmetry. The God MC has performed miracles on the microphone with much more proliferation than his challenger, accumulating several classic albums with Eric B., in addition to his own 18th Letter breakaway. Rick won a tight race against Beastie Boys’ MCA, while Rakim scored a nearly unanimous (95%) win against Kool Moe Dee. These two men have made Hip-Hop more advanced, more linguistic in the ’80s, ’90s, and into the 2000s. Only one goes forth in “Finding The GOAT,” though. (click one to vote)

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

Slick Rick




Slick Rick
(Second Round Winner, Against The Beastie Boys’ MCA 58% to 42%)
(First Round Winner, Against Digital Underground’s Shock G 85% to 15%)

One of Hip-Hop’s foremost storytellers, Slick Rick’s output has been much more J.D. Salinger than Mark Twain. Born in England, the Bronx-native was the breakout complement to Doug E. Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew. With an unmistakeable voice, effortless delivery, and conversational approach to rapping, Rick could take seemingly nonsensical routines like “La Di Da Di,” and spin them into Rap folklore. After making a classic debut in 1988’s The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick, one of Hip-Hop’s most innovative, three-dimensional stars of the day was among the genre’s first to sacrifice his career to the judicial system. Accused of attempted murder, the Def Jam Records sensation would spend the better part of the next five years “behind bars.” Even still, MC Ricky D’s carryover material, such as 1994’s Behind Bars still had glimmering moments, despite being made by an artist who was hamstrung by wildly changing musical times since before his bid.

With just four albums, Rick has risen to the ranks of legends. In recent years, through appearances with his pupils (Outkast, Mos Def, Raekwon, Chamillionaire), “the eye-patch” is ageless. Never a gangsta rapper, Rick was able to combine the innocence of mid-’80s Hip-Hop with a mischievous side. Like any continental star, Rick has been inventive with story lines—from pizza parlor romances, to the mind of soldiers in the War On Terror. Now known as “The Ruler” (likely to avoid legal/label troubles), Rick is a Hip-Hop mystic, and like The D.O.C., a reminder that through hardship, tragedy, and limited output, icons are immortal.

Other Notable Tracks:

“Children’s Story” (1988)
“It’s A Boy” (1991)
“Auditorium” (with Mos Def) (2009)



(Second Round Winner, Against Kool Moe Dee 95% to 5%)
(First Round Bye)

Rakim Allah is revered as one of the “most high” among MCs. A Long Island, New York native, Rakim made noise as a high school lyrical phenom, that had the five boroughs abuzz in the mid-1980s. By ’86, he would cross paths with an aspiring record executive, Eric Barrier, and form the heralded duo, Eric B. & Rakim. On funky tracks (many Rakim alleges he produced), the MC displayed a flow that was deeply progressive in the era of the boom-bap. From his earliest singles, William Griffin, Jr. had a malleable cadence that allowed him to break into multi-syllabic rhyming bars, and a style that was presented more as conversation than an onslaught of statements. Within that delivery, Rakim’s writing was founded upon pride, B-boy style, and the desire to be “paid in a full.”

In the next 30 years, Rakim has won over the masses time and time again. On four albums within Eric B. & Rakim, the MC grabbed platinum and gold plaques, served the people with quoteable hit singles, and maintained a supreme stage show. On his own by the early ’90s, the MC became a rare commodity, only sporadically releasing songs and albums over the last 20 years. Whether alongside Jay Z, Kanye West, or Nas, Rakim has proven that he cannot be eclipsed or overshadowed, on the mic or in the history books. Along the way, Rakim rarely relied on cursing, controversy, or crudeness to take something from “in the ghetto” and help make it truly universal.

Other Notable Tracks:

“Microphone Fiend” (with Eric B. & Rakim) (1988)
“Don’t Sweat The Technique” (with Eric B. & Rakim) (1992)
“Waiting For The World To End” (1999)

So…who you got?

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