Finding The GOAT (The Final Battle): Eminem vs. Tupac…Who You Got?
The championship round of “Finding The GOAT” has arrived. After eight months, 200-plus MCs, and plenty of down-to-the-wire races, the two finalists meet at last. Both Eminem and Tupac have been undefeated in “Finding The GOAT.” For Tupac, twice those triumphs came down to a single percent. For Em’, those wins were not such close calls. Since there were six finalists, The MC with the greatest average margin of victory over the previous rounds was seeded at #1, the one with the narrowest average margin of victory was seeded at #6. Eminem was ranked at #2 (and subsequently defeated #3 Big Daddy Kane). Tupac was ranked at #5 (before defeating #6 The Notorious B.I.G., #4 Nas, and #1 Rakim).
In their careers, Tupac Shakur and Marshall Mathers were not contemporaries. Eminem’s 1996 debut album, Infinite, released more than two months after Shakur’s death. Stylistically, the two artists also are vastly different. Eminem has been known for verbal gymnastics, often rhyming entire sentences together, while Tupac’s style was comparatively more simplistic, propelled by the power of his voice and words. However both of these MCs are deeply similar in many ways.
For starters, ‘Em and ‘Pac are just over one year apart in age—a testament to Tupac’s meteoric rise to super-stardom, as well as Eminem’s late twenties explosion as a “new artist.” Both artists also worked with Dr. Dre to achieve new levels of popularity. While ‘Pac and Dre intersected briefly at Death Row Records (and prior, in the Murder Was The Case short film), they made an indelible, year-defining hit (truly two, considering the videos/mixes) in “California Love.” Meanwhile, Dre was at the helm of Eminem’s most successful and acclaimed albums. Both artists also had complicated and deeply affecting relationships with their mother’s, as documented by songs like “Dear Mama” and “Cleanin’ Out My Closet.”
More than that however, in a genre filled with false prophets and fake gangsters, Tupac and Eminem represent an authenticity that transcends music and taps into a core level of humanity. Both men have channeled their inner rage to speak for entire generations and vast segments of the disenfranchised. They have used their microphones as platforms for the masses, making powerful commentary about their mothers, their absentee fathers, their enemies, and their fallen comrades. These men trusted their audiences with their personal issues, knowing that we all have grappled with many of the themes with which they struggled. While both MCs moved the crowd with carefree party records, it is their deeper, more reflective work that’s landed them in the “Finding The GOAT” finale. So, who is YOUR GOAT? (Click on one, then click Vote. Polls close at 5pm EST on 5/29.)
(Sixth Round Winner, Against Big Daddy Kane 71% to 29%)
(Fifth Round Winner, Against Busta Rhymes 81% to 19%)
(Fourth Round Winner, Against DMX 79% to 21%)
(Third Round Winner, Against Talib Kweli 71% to 29%)
(Second Round Winner, Against Xzibit 87% to 13%)
(First Round Bye)
Eminem may be the MC who single-handedly ended one of Hip-Hop’s laziest eras for lyrics upon his late 1990s arrival. Self-deprecating, impassioned, and wildly imaginative, Marshall Mathers came in through Rap’s screen door as an underground Hip-Hop MC running with The Outsidaz, DJ Spinna, and Thirstin Howl III. However, it was Em’s three-ring battle performances and uncanny ability to freestyle top-quality verses that landed his tape on Dr. Dre’s desk. Once there, Slim Shady combined his hardcore Hip-Hop past with big budget videos, A-list guests, and masterful conceptual production to make him a diamond-selling icon that seemingly was the genre’s biggest superstar since Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G.
Eminem’s career touches upon all facets of Hip-Hop, from battling, to true school, to Gangsta Rap, and everything in between. Arguably, Em has the most innovative flow since the late 1980s, with the ability to rhyme fast, slow, and in between on the same track. Like a percussion instrument, Marshall’s gift of gab employs syncopation and a pinball rhyme style to complement the elaborate content. In his writing, Eminem can be brutally honest about himself and others, while also being whimsical, harshly critical of the world at large, and wildly entertaining in social commentary. He is Lenny Bruce, Mike Tyson, and Masta Ace in one modern man. With classic, cohesive albums, Academy Award-winning (and Grammy Award-winning) songs, and a style that’s the envy of all of Eminem’s Rap peers, predecessors, and pupils, how could he not be the GOAT?
(Eighth Round Winner, Against Rakim 49.56% to 49.44%)
(Seventh Round Winner, Against Nas 50.3% to 49.7%)
(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 the artist also known by 2Pac one of Hip-Hop’s most enduring superstars, with sales and critical acclaim that have far outlasted his tragic 1996 murder.
Tupac’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?