I'm willing to admit I'm losing touch with reality.
This weekend, when Wisconsin beat Kentucky, I was estatic. Not because I particularly cared about either team, but because in my warped, twisted brain I saw it as proof that the number one seed, the heavy favorite, doesn't always win. We've been blasted for Eminem's loss in the Sweet 16, and fair enough, but while on paper it seems like the Kentuckys Eminems of the world should always win, sometimes it doesn't shake out that way. That's why it's March Madness, not March Predictable Outcomes, and why we decided to set this tournament up as actual, round-by-round "games" between each artist, not votes or polls, so the unpredictable might actually happen.
So yes, I'm aware that I've insanely started treating this imaginary rapper tournament as the "real" tournament; the basketball games are now mostly just evidence to support my decisions about rappers, not the other way around. And yes, I know that won't stop people from being mad Em (or whoever they're favorite rapper is) lost. That's fine, but them's the breaks. Sometimes your bracket gets busted.
And with that in mind, let's move onto the Final Four results!
Kanye vs. Nas: Here's the thing. Your gut instinct is that Nas should win here, right? But you can't just go on gut instinct, you have to really think things through. Is Nas really a better rapper than Kanye? It's actually a pretty hard question. While Nas is a relatively easy guy to figure out, as always talking about 'Ye is a nightmare. First, you have to try to remove all the personal issues, everything outside the music. Then, you have to try to remove the production and all the other artistry and just focus on the music. Only then can you really get a sense of how good of a rapper Kanye is, and the answer is an extraordinary rapper. He might literally be the most versatile rapper in hip-hop history: He can sound aggressive over trap beats, provide social commentary over acoustic guitar beats and genuinely make you laugh. I don't know about best, but he's certainly the most entertaining rapper alive, and that counts for a lot.
But even after we really thought it over, reached to give 'Ye every concievable credit we could, we still couldn't go with him over Nas. I mean come on; if I've learned anything doing this tournament, it's that Nas is actually somehow often underrated, even by people like me who constantly proclaim our love for his greatness. He really is one of the best rappers alive, and he really will be fighting for a championship. Nas wins.
Common vs. Kendrick Lamar: The debate here is essentially the same debate that's come up time and time again this tournament; how much does an artist's legacy matter? We're weighing these games towards the right now, you're getting "Pound Cake" Jay Z, not Reasonable Doubt Jay Z, but it's still insane to completely forget about an artist's history. Common's both still making great music and has an absolutely historic impact, although he's not the same huge force he once was. By the same token, Kendrick's no rookie, he's got at least* three very well done albums under his belt now, and he's certainly the most powerful rapper at this exact second. We don't want to be a prisoner of the moment, but we also don't want to be a prisoner of the past. Common's an incredible emcee, but Kendrick's also an incredible emcee.
Ultimately it was unanimous, K. Dot's standing on the shoulder of giants like Common, but right here and right now he edges out Common Sense. Kendrick wins.
Goddamn. I can't lie, this obviously wasn't pre-determined, but I'm pretty happy about a Kendrick Lamar vs. Nas finals. This is a match-up between two exceptional emcees, and it has the additional component of being a sort of new school vs. old school match up. The finals will be announced on Wednesday.
Also, I know I just did that rant in the beginning about how I like that this isn't a popularity contest, it's why I didn't allow any public voting...until now. A lot of DJBooth Nation has made it clear that they want in on the action, and someone made a good suggestion that next year public voting should count for one-third of the final decision. So while this won't affect the final results (this year this is a dictatorship, not a democracy) I thought it'd be worth it to try out some public voting, see how it works, if we should include it next year. Enjoy.