So . . . my title. I don’t give away my opinion, because I honestly don’t have one person who I think is the GOAT, and seeing as I won’t make any more of these this year, I would like to explore a bunch of different rappers who I think could be the GOAT. I think they are all GOAT contenders, and most of them are not well-known by casual hip-hop listeners.
Rakim is honestly the most underrated rapper of all time. He has directly or indirectly influenced every rapper after him. Rakim was one of the first rappers to use internal rhymes (rhymes within lines, not just at the end) and was more poetic than other rappers before him, using things like metaphors, similes, etc. Below is an example of Rakim’s lyrical skills in the beginning of the song “I Ain’t No Joke.”
I ain’t no joke, I used to let the mic smoke
Now I slam it when I’m done and make sure it’s broke
When I’m gone no one gets on cause I won’t let
Nobody press up and mess up the scene I set
This song was released in 1987. For comparison, lyrics from the popular Run-DMC song Mary, Mary:
This girl Mary I knew so well
I met her on the road in a fly hotel
High on the heels and never failed
(Clubs and the pubs is where she dwelled)
This song was released in 1988. The point is that Rakim was well ahead of his competition. When looking at the lyrics of “I Ain’t No Joke” I found countless examples of internal and complex rhyming, where “Mary, Mary” had simplistic rhyming with few internal examples. I am not comparing the two to make Run-DMC look bad; Rakim simply blew all other 80s rappers out of the water. Rakim’s major downfall is that he didn’t rap about anything profound; he just rapped about how good he was at rapping. Which is why, despite all of his skill and influence on future rappers, he is not a definitive rap GOAT.
Nas was a great 90s rapper who has inspired modern rappers, most notably J. Cole. He was an amazing lyricist, in terms of the gravity of what he was saying and his flow in saying it. He had the flow of Rakim with deep topics to match. His best work is in his album Illmatic. This album has amazing songs, such as “NY State of Mind,” where Nas raps about the crime in the city of New York and how awful it is. It also has the songs “The World is Yours” and “Life’s a B****.” The problem with Nas, though, is that he never matched Illmatic. None of his later albums were close to being as great. Where other rappers such as Rakim grew as their careers went on, Nas didn’t have any other great albums.
Andre 3000 was one half of the group OutKast, one of the first Southern rap groups and pretty much the first rappers to put the South on the hip-hop map. They had many great songs and two great albums: ATLiens and Aquemini. Andre was a skilled lyricist, and rapped about some pretty deep things, but he never had a solo album. This is the biggest hole in the argument that Andre 3000 is the GOAT. You might logically think that, to be the rap GOAT, you need a solo album.
I disagree. First of all, you don’t need to have a solo album to be the greatest rapper. Plenty of the greatest rock singers didn’t have a solo album, so why should he? Second, Andre 3000 wrote all of OutKast’s greatest songs and rapped extremely well in them. However, you could make the argument that because Andre 3000 was in a rap group, he wasn’t pressured into writing every song, so he could take his time to make the ones he did write better; as a solo rapper, he wouldn’t have had the time to make some of his greatest songs. Either argument is valid.
I just mentioned a few rappers as something for the reader (reader being singular) to think about, or you can comment on how i’m wrong about all my candidates and 2Pac is the GOAT… your choice.