Finding The GOAT (Round 4): Nas vs. Black Thought…Who You Got?

We have now reached the critical Round 4 in the ultimate battle for the title of the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time). With 21 MCs remaining (with the largest winning margin, Rakim receives a bye for the round), things are really coming down to 10 match-ups, leading AFH’s bracket-style series towards its closing rounds. With more than 35 years of MCs taken into consideration, parsed into generational brackets, Round 4 will mark the last series of peer-based battles. In this elite class, only 10 rappers will go on to join Rakim in Round 5. Also, as with Round 3, the winner by the biggest margin in Round 4 will receive a bye in Round 5. Each battle in Round 4 will include full mixes showcasing the enormous talents of each MC. Who stays, and goes on? Only you can decide.

Black Thought and Nas are elite contemporaries. Both MCs stem from the early 1990s crop that studied the masters carefully, yet still clawed to be original. While Nas has twice attempted to blend with a group—to lukewarm results, Black Thought’s successes are often split among a group that his vocals have largely carried for more than 20 years. While Nas’ discography is bedazzled with plaques and five #1 efforts, The Roots’ line of releases (true to their sequential tracklisting) is arguably far more consistent, although well below the sales figures. Nas carries a stream of Grammy nominations, having never won. The Roots are three-time winners as a unit. Nas vs. Black Thought is a clash of two cult-crowned MCs, with a lot of artistic overlap, and tons of discrepancies in just about everything else. In other words, this one is a true GOAT debate. Your vote speaks volumes (Black Thought won Round 3 by a margin of less than 30 votes), whether the mic is cordless or not. (click one to vote)

Voting For Round 4 is now closed. Stay up to date with the latest Finding The GOAT brackets



Black Thought



(Third Round Winner, Against Ghostface Killah 77% to 23%)
(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 multimillion 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.

The Best Of Nas Mix by DJ J. Period (Hosted by Nas)

Other Notable Songs:

“Halftime” (1992)
“Nas Is Like” (1999)
“Made You Look” (2002)



Black Thought

(Third Round Winner, Against Method Man 50.4% to 49.6%)
(Second Round Winner, Against Beanie Sigel 79% to 21%)
(First Round Winner, Against Raekwon 57% to 43%)

In a 20-plus-year career, with songs ranging from jam band stream of consciousness to ferocious battle-style verses to introspective commentary, is anybody as diverse as Black Thought? Tariq Trotter is a ’90s MC with ’80s timing and delivery, and a 2000s-style connection with his city and emotions. Philadelphia-raised and long accepted through his work in New York City, Black Thought is totally different than the norm—and he even uses microphones unlike his peers to remind Heads. Despite grumblings and a handful of records and a mixtape, Thought has never released a solo album. Instead, The Roots’ front man (also an Okay Player and Money Making Jam Boy) has been a team player, gifted at bending genre, sharing stages, and as he does on nearly every weeknight of the year—blending his skills with anyone’s sound. With a number of heralded albums and songs, this is a purist’s MC with unfathomable endurance, on the mic and in his career.

Like so many vocalists to bands, Black Thought is tireless at making songs, conceptualizing ideas, and perhaps more than any MC in Hip-Hop history, performing. As a rapper and singer, Thought’s contributions through The Roots are deeply understated, as one of the true showmen in the genre and culture has forever kept the party moving with an approach that honors the greats.

The Roots mix by Qool DJ Marv (Presented by Okay Player)

Other Notable Tracks:

“Thought @ Work” (with The Roots) (2002)
“Cause I’m Black” (with Styles P) (2008)
“75 Bars (Black’s Reconstruction)” (with The Roots) (2007)

So…who you got?

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