Finding The GOAT (Round 6): Nas vs. Tupac…Who You Got?
With now only 5 MCs remaining, Round 6 is well under-way in the ultimate battle for the title of the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time). The second of this week’s two match-up’s will lead the competition to its Final 4. Since the elimination, bracket-style tournament was launched in September of 2014, including more than 200 overall MCs, there have been five completed rounds, featuring contenders from all eras of Hip-Hop, including Wild Card series (with optional write-in’s). The 5 remaining MCs have been undefeated, and have been ranked according to their average margins of victory over the past rounds. The MC with the greatest average margin of victory is seeded at #1, the one with the narrowest average margin of victory is seeded at #6 (The Notorious B.I.G, who was defeated by #5 Tupac), and so on. The temperature’s rising, and the debates are getting hot.
Earlier this week, Tupac Shakur defeated The Notorious B.I.G. 56% to 44%. Pac bested his real-life friend-turned-foe in a match-up that had dynamic results, and no shortage of lead-changes. Moving from one poetic storyline to another, ‘Pac now faces #4 seed Nas. Nearly 19 years removed from Shakur’s murder, these men also had a complicated real-life relationship, with diss records and run-ins. As legend has it, the beef was squashed in Central Park, New York City, just days before Tupac would be gunned down in Las Vegas. Notably, Nas has moved from the target of some of ‘Pac’s vitriolic lyrics, to one of the purveyors of the Shakur’s legacy. In life, these two thug poets did not record together. In death, their words have been combined for explosive impact, and great awakening to the dynamic talents of each. On paper, both artists are beautiful contradictions, making deeply personal reflections about their lives and times, sometimes producing violent glorification, and other times, guiding the innocent through the treachery. Each MC has revered albums, timeless hit songs, and tremendous range in their extensive catalogs. That makes this #5 vs. #4 match-up all the more complicated, as it will undoubtedly have Heads running to their music libraries, wracking their brains. Polls close at 7pm EST on 5/10. (click one to vote)
(Fifth Round Winner, Against KRS-One 62% to 38%)
(Fourth Round Winner, Against Black Thought 75% to 25%)
(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)
(Sixth Round Winner, Against The Notorious B.I.G. 56% to 44%)
(Fifth Round Winner, Against Kendrick Lamar 72% to 28%)
(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
So…who you got?