March Madness stops for no one, even when your March Madness is an imaginary rapper tournament.
By now I just have to assume you know the deal - if not, hit some of those links below to recap all the Selection Sunday and 1st Round action. With no shortage of people pissed that their favorite rapper got knocked out in the first round, once again the team got together to debate the winners of the second-round action. This time around it got pretty personal, a couple times you'll see one of us go on the recording dissenting, but as they say, ball mic don't lie.
The road to crown a champion in the DJBooth March Madness Rapper Tournament continues....
The Game Breakdowns
Kanye vs. Ludacris: We did that thing where we paused for a moment to recognize just how ill Ludacris was, but emphasis on the was. If this was still '07 I'd actually hand Luda the victory here, but he's been coasting on those Fast & Furious checks for too long, he's gotten soft. Kanye wins.
Bun B vs. J. Cole: The epitome of a veteran vs. young gun match-up. Before Forest Hills Drive dropped I don't know if Cole manages to squeak by here, but the last album was good enough to put him over the Trill OG. For the record, I personally had to vote for Bun - that man's the closest thing hip-hop has to a president, he has to be the most widely respected rapper in the game, period. This shit's a democracy though and I got outvoted by the young guys. J. Cole wins. [Note: Shea Serrano's going to be furious if he finds out about this.]
KRS-One vs. Pusha T: The "how many points does legendary status get you?" question really became an issue in this round. On one hand, most of the guys here aren't rapping without KRS-One, period, so on that alone we should just put KRS and Rakim automatically in the Final Four. On the other hand, this tournament is weighted towards who the better rapper is right now. I don't think there's a clear answer there, and if this was a weaker emcee KRS might still have advanced, but Pusha T does...not...fuck...around. He's a true emcee, even if he uses those emcee skills to rap about moving dope. Pusha wins.
Andre 3000 vs. T.I.: This one got tight. At some point it feels like we're going to have to admit that Andre 3000 just hasn't released enough solo material to stay in this tournament, especially when matched up against someone as heavyweight as T.I., but 3 Stacks verses, no matter how sparse they are, as so transcendent, so extra-extra-extraordinary that he still managed to take out TIP. Andre 3000 wins.
Drake vs. Jay Electronica: I think Lucas is still furious that his pick, Jay Elec, didn't win here. Like Andre 3000, Elec's capable of dropping truly extraordinary verses, music that makes you expand your idea of what hip-hop can do, something Drake's never done. On the other hand, unlike 3 Stacks, Jay's never even managed to drop an album. Shit, even if we're good with him never dropping an album, he still needs to drop songs more consistently. I'm no big believer in Drake as an elite emcee, and quality matters more than quantity, but as some point you just have to actually accumulate a minimum amount of raps to win a rapper tournament. Drake wins.
Big K.R.I.T. vs. Ghostface Killah: Just a brutal match-up, one of those games where both teams are completely exhausted, even the winner can barely stand. Personally, I almost had a nervous breakdown here. Ghostface is literally one of the biggest reasons I fell in love with hip-hop in the first place, a man of the word. Big K.R.I.T. is obviously newer, but I've connected with Krizza on a deep, personal level the way I have with only very few rappers, and I know I'm not alone. In the end Big K.R.I.T. wins, but Ghost is still my personal favorite rapper of all-time, if that makes any sense.
Nas vs. Tech N9ne: A respect due game, Tech just had the bad luck of running into Nas early or he had a real shot at making it deep in the tourney. We're talking Nas here, someone who gets major legend points and is still actively making new, great music. God's son wins.
Rakim vs. ScHoolboy Q: Just a bizarre match-up, it's hard to even begin to imagine how they match up. Rakim's the godfather of lyrical rap, Q's the epitome of an emcee who relies more on style and delivery than strict lyricism (which is it's own skill). If Rakim had put out an album even in the last five years it might have been enough to carry his legendary points into 2015, but right here right now, Q's just too powerful. ScHoolboy wins.
JAY Z vs. Childish Gambino: Come on now. The only landslide victory of the second round. JAY Z wins.
Killer Mike vs. Big Boi: Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. How is anyone supposed to decide a winner here. We went in circles for minutes trying to figure this out. Big Boi's half of Outkast - not too shabby - and has been killing it solo and gave Killer Mike his first big look. Conversely, especially in the Run the Jewels era, Killer Mike has emerged as not just a vicious emcee but a transcendent emcee, someone who's come to represent hip-hop at its best. There's really no right answer here, they could play each other four times and they'd each win two games. I hate that it had to come to this Andre Patton, but Killer Mike wins.
Common vs. Lauryn Hill: The Score is a classic, Miseducation is a classic. If Lauryn had gone against half the other rappers here I think she's still standing, but Common's also a veteran's veteran. He might not still be at his absolute peak, but Common Sense is still a beast on the mic in 2015. Even one more album from Lauryn in the last few years could have made this closer, but Common wins.
Mos Def vs. Snoop Dogg: Like Rakim vs. ScHoolboy Q, this is a really strange match-up, a battle of contrasting styles. Let's not forget that Snoop is an absolute legend, someone who put the west coast on and has at least two top-shelf classic albums in the Chronic and Doggstyle, even if he has sometimes become a parody of himself in recent years. Similarly, Mos Def just hasn't put out much music in the last few years, although projects like Blackstar and Black on Both Sides are impeachable classics. All respect due to Snoop, but Mos Def wins.
Kendrick Lamar vs. Lil Wayne: I'm going to predict this as the most controversial pick of the tourney so far. Yes, Lil Wayne is standing on a small mountain of material that says he's capable of absolute greatness, even if his lows have been pretty low. Wayne never made music like "Sing About Me" though, music that's capable of shifting something inside you. So yes, Kendrick is still young, and yes, I'm aware that he might be overhyped in some ways, but I'm still confident in giving K. Dot the victory here. For the record though, Yoh disagrees vehemently.
Lupe Fiasco vs. Talib Kweli: This was a tough one. In the end it came down to brilliance vs. consistency. Lupe's highs as a rapper have been higher than Kweli's, but Lupe's lows have also been lower. Almost no one in hip-hop has turned out high quality product for the balance of their career, starting in the Lyricist Lounge days and continuing into his last album, as Kweli. For the record, Yoh is protesting this one - he couldn't stop screaming about how amazing "Murals" is. It was a close vote for Lucas and I too, but in the end Kweli wins.
Eminem vs. Scarface: Just a classic respect due game. All praise due to Scarface, I'm glad to see him make it to the second round and rep for Houston, but Eminem is Eminem. I don't know if/when Em is going to get taken out, but it's not today. Eminem wins.
Black Thought vs. Big Daddy Kane: Almost the exact same situation as the Eminem vs. Scarface game. I could make a case that Big Daddy Kane is one of hip-hop's best yet most overlooked emcees, period. Still, Black Thought is a fucking beast, the kind of rapper even other rappers are amazed by. Black Thought wins.
Holy Moses - looking ahead this is going to get pretty intense. We have yet to see a true number one seed lose, right now Killer Mike and Big K.R.I.T. are emerging as the dark horse favorites and I personally can't wait to see what happens with that Eminem vs. Black Thought match-up, I feel like that could be the big upset of the tournament.
We'll be back on Friday with the Sweet 16 winners. Until then, feel free to scream at us because we busted your bracket, it wouldn't be March Madness without at least a little screaming.