N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton vs. Run-D.M.C.’s Run-D.M.C. Which 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.

Round 2 of the 1980s Rap albums starts incredibly strong. The full-length debuts from two of Hip-Hop’s all-time juggernauts square off. Both N.W.A. and Run-D.M.C. remain close and immortalized through films, while both acts have never been the same following the deaths of Eazy-E and Jam Master Jay, respectively. While Straight Outta Compton expressed itself against Geto Boys’ Grip It! On That Other Level nine votes to one in Round 1, Run-D.M.C. had the third closest Round 1 margin against Kool Keith, Ced Gee and Ultramag’s Critical Beatdown, winning by just 7%. Facing off against each other, will the highly-topical Straight Outta Compton crush the groove of Run-D.M.C.’s game-changing debut? Or, will Hip-Hop’s most famous trio tell the California contemporaries, “it’s like that, and that’s the way it is”? Your vote determines which of these two albums reaches the final Top 10 from the ’80s, so choose wisely (click one then click “vote”).


Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A.

Round 1 Winner (against Grip It! On That Other Level by the Geto Boys, 90% to 10%)

“The World’s Most Dangerous Group” took Gangsta Rap to a new plateau with 1988’s Straight Outta Compton. N.W.A. (the working name for Niggaz Wit’ Attitude) accomplished plenty with their group debut. Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and MC Ren spoke out against systematic oppression—in their lexicon with “Fuck Tha Police.” Meanwhile, the sextet (counting DJ Yella and Arabian Prince, as on the album cover) urged First Amendment rights too on “Express Yourself.” But not everything on the Ruthless Records debut had deeper meaning. N.W.A. celebrated simply pissing off the moral majority on “Gangsta, Gangsta” and gave a firsthand account of a drug dealer’s perspective on “Dopeman (Remix).” The world (read: Compton) seemed to have a different set of circumstances and codes than much of election year America. Straight Outta Compton became a subversive op-ed to those living comfortably numb to the ghetto reality.

Straight Outta Compton endures not just because of what it said, but how it said it. N.W.A. was an arsenal of talent on the microphone, with Cube’s between-the-ribs jabs of hard truth, Ren’s ability to flip words in an unbreakable stride, and Eazy’s constant playing to the audience of taking it over the top. Dre was far from a slouch on the mic himself, though he and Yella arranged sounds in an unrivaled complexity for Hip-Hop. For as brash as N.W.A. may have seemed, the group showed a perfectionist dedication to their art. For those who related to N.W.A.’s world, Straight Outta Compton was a cathartic investigative report. For those who found the album to be thrilling awakening, the group packed the substance of Bob Dylan, with the “F.U.” flare of Guns N’ Roses. This album (the title song of which recently reached a pinnacle chart position after the biopic of the same name) put five men, a city, and a way of life through music on the map.

Album Number: 1 (2 as group)
Released: August 9, 1988
Label: Ruthless/Priority Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #4 (certified gold, April 1989; certified platinum, July 1989; certified 2x platinum, March 1992)
Song Guests: The D.O.C.
Song Producers: (self)


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

– Round 1 Winner (against Critical Beatdown by the Ultramagnetic MC’s, 57% to 43%)

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

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

Related: Ambrosia For Heads’ Finding The GOAT: The Albums