Run-D.M.C.’s Run-D.M.C. vs. Ultramagnetic MC’s Critical Beatdown. Which Album is Better?

One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?

“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click. Click one album then click vote.

Voting For This Poll Has Closed. Visit the “Finding The GOAT” page for current ballots.

The next two albums are two of Hip-Hop’s biggest game-changers. One snatched Rap music from its Disco relatives, only to end up in the cross-hairs of the other LP. Run-D.M.C. and Ultramagetic MC’s are two of Hip-Hop’s biggest innovators, and there the commonalities seem to stop. While Run-D.M.C. (the album) would be a gold-certified, crossover album that bugled Rap’s mainstream arrival, MC Ultra’s Critical Beatdown endured by refusing to fit in. Kool Keith’s 1986 “Ego Trippin'” introduction tried to make “Hard Times” for “riddle”-rhymers like Run and D.M.C. And without this competitive jab, would the fellow Big Apple artists have had to later prove they were Tougher Than Leather? These albums are lines in the sand of Hip-Hop’s sound and style. After them, nothing was the same. So which LP is greater? Your vote makes the call.

Run-D.M.C. by Run-D.M.C.


In the canon of game-changing Hip-Hop albums, Run-D.M.C.’s 1984 self-titled debut is one of the first, and possibly the biggest. Run, D.M.C., and Jam Master Jay synthesized the hardness they heard in the genre’s pioneers, and adapted it into the total package. The Profile Records debut slashed and burned Rap’s Disco ties, and presented a bass-driven boom-bap sound to embrace the Orwellian future that was 1984. “Sucker M.C.’s” combined polished, studio-savvy Rap bravado with linear storytelling. The drums penetrated eardrums while the rhyming duo commanded the track. Rap was not the feature, it was the main attraction, only enhanced by JMJ’s rhythm-scratches. “Hard Times” blasted Reaganomics, and showed a group courageous enough to admit that poverty was an epidemic. Keenly aware of Rap’s smash hit singles to date such as Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5’s “The Message,” the Hollis, Queens trio studied, developed, and reconstructed.

In lieu of fly-guy Dance aesthetics, Run-D.M.C. positioned themselves as street reporters. The leather jackets and felt hats presented Run, Darryl, and Jay as of the people. “It’s Like That” carried a boisterous delivery unheard by most smooth and fast-talking MC’s, as “Rock Box” showed the masses that Hip-Hop could be just as much Van Halen as it was Van McCoy. In this thinking, the group made the turntable a weapon-like instrument, through scratching. Grandwizard Theodore’s scratch innovation became a side-show, like a Hendrix or Clapton guitar solo—the perfect break-out. Moreover, the rhymes were digestible, arrogant, and yet accessible beyond New York City, or Black America. Run-D.M.C. is not the group’s most successful effort. However, without it, the next 30-plus years of Hip-Hop are forever changed. These nine songs in the infancy stages of Rap’s full-length format are a keystone to the rhyme-style, sound, and attitude that declared its staying power.

Album Number: 1
Released: March 24, 1984
Label: Profile Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #53 (certified gold, December 1984)
Song Guests: Eddie Martinez (guitar)
Song Producers: Larry Smith, Russell Simmons, Rod Hui, Orange Krush

Critical Beatdown by Ultramagnetic MC’s


Although Hip-Hop has clearly evolved since the late 1970s, growth spurts were small and steady. Kool Keith and his Ultramagnetic MC’s cohorts proved to be the genre’s answer to Jack & The Beanstalk. Debut album Critical Beatdown uprooted the status quo. As Keith slashed the face of monosyllabic rhymes and cadences, Ced Gee (and his dynamic crates) squeezed every bit of capacity from the primitive samplers. “Traveling At The Speed Of Thought” was a rhyme rodeo, proving that the Bronx, New Yorkers could effortlessly soar into the genre’s future at warp speed. Without pretension, the album ran the gauntlet of figurative language and literary tools. Meanwhile, the work challenged conventions, without perfect rhyme-symmetry in some places, and extensive compound-rhymes (in groundbreaking patterns) for others. From a technical standpoint, MC’s Ultra are best equated to filmmaker Orson Welles: Not everybody noticed, but with many things we now take for granted—they did it first. With that, Critical Beatdown may as well be Rap’s Citizen Kane.

This album is one of Hip-Hop’s first abstract works of art. Yet behind the coded language of Keith, and quirky drum rhythms of Ced, Ultramag was saying the same thing as their forefathers: they’re better. From the remix version of “Funky” to “Ease Back,” “Feelin’ It” and “Critical Beatdown,” innovation and supreme status is the message. The standoffish attitudes (see: “Ego Trippin'”) of New York’s Latin Quarter and Harlem World venues were pressed to wax on this Next Plateau Records effort—for all to experience. The result was a combative, at times deliberately cacophonous, and deeply original album. The free-form, Punk-like approaches of Cold Crush Brothers and Rammellzee were the only pre-existing artists even close. A stone sober Moe Luv, TR-Love, Ced Gee, and Kool Keith may have given Hip-Hop its first acid test in Critical Beatdown. In the album’s wake, the simple would no longer be safe.

Album Number: 1
Released: October 4, 1988
Label: Next Plateau Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): N/A
Song Guests: N/A
Song Producers: (self), Paul C.

So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.

Related: Eric B. & Rakim’s Follow The Leader vs. EPMD’s Unfinished Business. What’s Better?