Finding The GOAT (Round 5): Tupac vs. Kendrick Lamar…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.

In a serendipitous development, the two men having a virtual conversation in the closing moments of To Pimp A Butterfly square off in Round 5. Kendrick Lamar is massively influenced by Tupac Shakur. Both MCs have a love of poetry, externalized songwriting, and a desire to inject the ghettos of America with mental fiber to go with the Gangsta Rap. Both are affiliates of Dr. Dre, staunch supporters of Compton, California, and seemingly find their happiness in recording studios. K-Dot even looked on 20 years ago, in the flesh, as ‘Pac and Dre shot a sequence of “California Love” in Compton. Today, he is the one—like Shakur—to bring attention to the message in West Coast Hip-Hop. In “Finding The GOAT,” both MCs have pounced on their peers, legendary contemporaries at that. Can an artist who is arguably at the top of the pack now (more-so thanks to an acclaimed mid-tournament release) defeat an immortal icon who has been gone for 20 years? This round gets deep. (click one to vote)

Voting For Round 5 is now closed. Stay up to date with the latest Finding The GOAT brackets



Kendrick Lamar

Tupac Shakur (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage) Tupac Shakur (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)[/caption]


(Fourth Round Winner, Against Scarface 72% to 28%)
(Third Round Winner, Against Ice Cube, 64% to 36%)
(Second Round Winner, Against Big Boi 76% to 24%)
(First Round Bye)

In just five short years making albums, Tupac 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.

2Pac – The Underground Railroad mixtape by DJ Fatal


Kendrick Lamar visits AOL Music on June 4, 2012 in New York. Photos by Gino DePinto, AOL

Kendrick Lamar

(Fourth Round Winner, Against Big K.R.I.T. 67% to 33%)
(Third Round Winner, Against Drake 81% to 19%)
(Second Round Winner, Against Royce Da 5’9″ 56% to 44%)
(Kendrick Lamar (First Round Winner, Against Childish Gambino 76% to 24%)

When it comes to pure skills, has anybody made as much noise in the last 24 months as Kendrick Lamar? The Compton, California native released his major label debut, October 2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city to show over a million supporters what Heads had known for several years: that Compton is not all lowriders, loc’s, and bangin’ on wax.

Although he has the vantage point of a product fully aware of life’s ills, gang-infested streets, and women being exploited, Kendrick Lamar represents a bookish, thoughtful, Hip-Hop awestruck MC entering his prime. The studious rapper is a product of a strong influence by Andre 3000, DMX, and 2Pac. Along the way, Kendrick Lamar upheld an ’80s-styled level of competition, calling out his peers and using skills to play a public game of lyrical capture-the-flag. More than one year later, one could easily argue that nobody has taken the baton from the Top Dawg/Aftermath Entertainment breakout star who has Dr. Dre in his corner, without relying on his (or much other) high-profile production. In the verses, K-Dot talks Black empowerment, the do or die circumstances of the world around him, and the absence of love. Carrying what seems to be the most recent unanimous “classic album,” a platinum plaque, and one of the best live shows in Hip-Hop, Kendrick Lamar is in his prime, on paper, in stereo, and center-stage.

Kendrick Lamar EP by Kendrick Lamar

So…who you got?

Related: Check Out The Finding The GOAT Round 4 Ballots & Round 4 Results