Finding The GOAT (Round 5): Rakim vs. Mos Def…Who You Got?
With just 11 MCs remaining we have reached the critical Round 5 in the ultimate battle for the title of the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time). Now, only five match-up’s—all running this week—separate Round 5 from the final six MCs, including Round 4 bye winner Big Daddy Kane. Since the elimination, bracket-style tournament was launched in September of 2014, including more than 200 overall MCs, there have been four completed rounds, featuring contenders from all eras of Hip-Hop, including Wild Card series (with optional write-in’s). The 11 remaining MCs have been undefeated. Big Daddy Kane will skip Round 5, thanks to his largest winning margin in Round 4. In Round 5, MCs will also take on opponents outside of their era—a first in the series thus far. We are officially less than one month away from “Finding The GOAT,” as decided by you.
Rakim is the only MC in the Finding The GOAT series to have enjoyed the immunity of two Bye’s. After a landslide win against Slick Rick in Round 3, the vocal half of Eric B. & Rakim watched Round 4 from the bleachers, eying the competition. Mos Def certainly is among the strongest opponents Rakim has faced thus far. Mighty Mos has knocked out the very MC who dethroned Jay Z (MF DOOM), and beat his G.O.O.D. boss, Kanye West, in the previous round. In the same tournament that watched Redman bump LL Cool J, can Mos Def’s run of the last 15 years supersede Rakim’s indelible impact on MC’ing? Or, as the presumed #1 seed of the tournament, will Ra’ continue to run the table? Your opinion, and your subsequent vote says it all. (click on one to vote)
Voting For Round 5 is now closed. Stay up to date with the latest Finding The GOAT brackets
(Fourth Round Bye – Through Largest Round 2 Win Margin)
(Third Round Winner, Against Slick Rick 82% to 18%)
(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.
(Fourth Round Winner, Against MF DOOM 58% to 42%)
(Third Round Winner, Against Kanye West 78% to 22%)
(Second Round Winner, Against Phonte 84% to 16%)
(First Round Winner, Against Pharoahe Monch 71% to 29%)
Mos Def, now preferring to be known as Yasiin Bey, has carried much of Hip-Hop’s ruling tenants since the 1970s into the new millennium. A devoted artist with two revered classic albums under his belt (1998’s Black Star collaboration with Talib Kweli, and 1999’s Black On Both Sides solo debut), the mighty Mos has made hits seemingly by accident, with a vocal style that commands audiences in verse, melody, free-form poetry, and everything in between. One of Hip-Hop’s most versatile voices, Dante Smith has built a career making exactly the music he’s wanted to make, on his terms, buyer-be-warned, and Heads adore him all the more because of it.
With a wide array of styles circulating as hits, Mos competes with superstars, and led the charge to restore Hip-Hop’s emphasis of lyricism, activism, and unpredictability. His rhymes and ideas have been controversial, from calling out cultural re-appropriation and carpet-bagging record executives to standing up for social martyrs like Amadou Diallo and Assata Shakur. This former bookstore-owner has been a beacon of principles, living his life like his music. On stage, Mos’ defiance also keeps things exciting. From set to set, the Rawkus Records alum veers into Dancehall, Soul, and Hip-Hop, depending on the crowd and his mood, never married to playing the hits. Few artists have taken ownership of their presentation as boldly as Mos.
So…who you got?