Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter II vs. Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music 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.
Well into their careers, Lil Wayne and Killer Mike made giant artistic leaps in single albums. Tha Carter II separated the Hot Boys alum from his mentor-producer, Mannie Fresh. With a new ensemble cast of producers and guests, Wayne campaigned as “The Best Rapper Alive” and ascended into a five-year Rap reign. Understated by the mainstream, TC2 is the album where it began. Meanwhile, Killer Mike, years removed from his major label deal, Outkast ties, and Grammy awards, would remind the world what R.A.P. Music truly is. Teaming with an unlikely producer in El-P, a fledgling label, and back-to-the-futuristic sound, Mike Bigga set the table for major career renaissance. Although these works differ greatly in commercial magnitude, they are prime examples of Southern Hip-Hop that garnered global attention. Your vote affirms the greater of the two (click one then click “vote”).
Tha Carter II by Lil Wayne
In late 2005, Lil Wayne followed up Tha Carter from the year prior. Much had changed between those two solo albums, Weezy’s fourth and fifth, respectively. With the Hot Boys already disbanded through label turmoil and financial disputes, Wayne would now watch his career-long producer and mentor exit, in the case of Mannie Fresh. Cash Money Records’ prominence since the late 1990s also was giving way to new movements, especially in the South. Bounce’s appeal was yielding to a year heavily influenced by Houston’s Screwed Up elements, with Atlanta’s Trap, and Miami’s Bass cultures pushing through. With his own stock in question, Lil Wayne did what he’d done since he was 17 years old: he pushed product. When core fans heard Tha Carter II, they heard a 23 year-old MC embracing his “Jordan Year” with style. When new fans and Weezy F. Baby skeptics heard the New Jack City-inspired sequel, suddenly Wayne’s confidence and his abilities were strikingly in tune. This album, made devoid of fanfare, queued a lyrical and mainstream reign in Rap as dominant as any in the 2000s. Dwayne Carter, Jr. was dunking from the free-throw line, effortlessly and brilliantly at once.
“Best Rapper Alive” was just how serious Lil Wayne took his status in 2005. As eyebrows arched, Weezy may not have convinced his harshest critics, but he successfully amassed a new crowd of lyric lovers with C2. As that moment bombarded beat with cocky stream of consciousness, Wayne showed his ability to make a different kind of song on “Shooter.” With the Robin Thicke-produced beat paying homage to Gang Starr’s “Mass Appeal,” Wayne bobbed his shoulders and let his braids fly—with his liquid-like flow. The single was more structured than much of the album. Wayne’s ability to be profound without being preachy, and skilled without being pretentious set him apart. Few veteran MCs of a platinum level have ever shifted gears upward as definitively as Wayne. While the Hot Boy’s songwriting had elevated, his subject matters were still “down bottom.” Songs like “I’m A Dboy,” “Mo Fire,” and “Hustler Musik” were very in line with what Wayne had done since the ’90s. Moreover, for an MC/producer battery bust with Mannie’s departure, a crop of relative unknowns and regional mainstays not only held the door, they expanded Wayne’s range. In makeshift needs, Lil Wayne scratched out of the Bounce pocket, and employed Chipmunk Soul, West Coast Gangsta Rap, and intricate sample music on his fifth LP. Lil Wayne approached Tha Carter II seemingly eclipsed by Juvenile and Mystikal as the biggest (let alone best) rapper in New Orleans. This album would escalate him to the eventual (and literal) company of Jay Z, Eminem, and Nas.
Album Number: 5 (as solo)
Released: December 6, 2005
Label: Cash Money/Universal Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #2 (certified gold, January 2006; certified platinum, March 2006)
Song Guests: Birdman, Curren$y, Kurupt, Robin Thicke, Nikki, David Karmiol, Cool & Dre
Song Producers: Cool & Dre, The Heatmakerz, Robin Thicke, Deezle, T-Mix, Batman, The Runners, DJ Nasty & LVM, Young Yonny, Doe Boys, Bigg D, Matlock
R.A.P. Music by Killer Mike
Nine years removed from his Top 10 debut, Killer Mike made incredible artistic strides by his fifth studio album. Signed to Cartoon Network’s Williams Street record label for a one-off, the former Purple Ribbon star pupil made one animated album in R.A.P. Music. Standing for Rebellious African People, the LP revamped Killer Kill’s sound, replacing the Trap elements with El-P’s apocalyptic-meets-Golden-Era glory. With the new backdrop, Mike Bigga focused his efforts and boiled down the fat to his most cohesive, poignant effort to date. The chemistry that would ultimately pivot to Run The Jewels began on this take-by-force, heavy mental album of its own. The Killer Mike that today dines with politicians, promotes discourse on cable news channels, and stands up for issues far beyond music was delivered on this Top 100 charting LP. Those traits were always there, but for the audience that had not properly considered Mike since the Outkast days realized that his message, boisterous sound, and captivating charm were just as dominant as his stature.
With El-P on the boards and (Eyedea’s onetime partner) DJ Abilities on the tables, Killer Mike created an album to subversively show his love of the Hip-Hop genre. “Big Beast” was boom-bap gone brutal, as Mike, Bun B, and T.I. orchestrated a heist of the sound. “Go!” postulated what would happen if Mantronix spent a night at Magic City, and Rick Rubin set up shop at Stankonia. The hard 808 drums of this album were the body shots to Mike’s onslaught of verbal upper-cuts. The album dealt with encouraging masculinity and traditional core values in Hip-Hop. “Reagan” played like a Chuck D and Bomb Squad indictment. This time, Mike and El challenged the notions that the 40th US President was—as the Discovery Channel polls touted, “The greatest American.” Mike retraced the troubled America’s steps to free markets, and the most explosive days of crack cocaine. The record was ruthless in its defamation of the Neo-Conservative icon, and a fiery wake-up call to babies born during his Presidency. Similarly, “Anywhere But Here” was a dismal ride-along through three different cities as Mike looked at the decline of modern civilization, and the unchanged inadequacies between race, class, and the 1%. R.A.P. Music bridged the music of Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, and Above The Law with the elements that made Grind Time Rap Gang and Company Flow so lethal in the 2000s. Once deemed a ringtone artist upon his Columbia Records arrival, Killer Mike had gone underground to go over the top. R.A.P. was B-boys gone berzerk.
Album Number: 5 (as solo)
Released: May 15, 2012
Label: Williams Street Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #77
Song Guests: El-P, Bun B, T.I., Scar, Trouble, Emily Panic, DJ Abilities, Torbitt Schwartz
Song Producers: El-P, Wilder Zoby
So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.
Related: Finding The GOAT: The Albums