This entire procress is really making me appreciate what it's like to play in the March Madness tournament. I mean sure, the actual atheletes are actually playing games and spraining ankles and what not, but for three weeks now I've been sitting in a chair debating rappers and it's fucking exhausting. March Madness really is a war of attrition, whether you're talking about basketball or rappers.
We've reached the holy land, the Sweet 16. As always, Yoh, Lucas and I got on the phone, argued for a while, threatened each other's lives and emerged with winners. (If you're just joining us, you should start with the selection round for the full explaination.)
This round finally saw the tournament's first real upsets. Cue Gus Johnson screaming.
Kanye vs. J. Cole: This one was personally a little closer for me than I thought it would be. Two years ago this wouldn't even really have been much of a contest. I didn't think Yeezus was particularly good and I've really grown to love Forest Hills Drive, that was the album that truly made me respect Cole as an emcee. ALSO, it's almost impossible to talk about Kanye as a rapper without talking about Kanye as the person/personna/producer etc. But....Kanye's just got too much experience, and he's still too good, for Cole to handle. I know Dreamville's going to be rioting over this one, but Kanye wins.
Pusha T vs. Andre 3000: As amazingly transcendent as he is as an emcee, at some point the fact that Andre's never put out a solo album is going to be his downfall, and Pusha definitely challenged him here, but Andre might actually be the most purely talented rapper in hip-hop history. I don't think talent will be enough to take him to a championship, but it is enough to get him by King Push. Andre 3000 wins.
Drake vs. Big K.R.I.T.: This ended up being an unexpectedly intense battle. Really, it came down to how much Drake's popularity counts. Every time Drake comes out with a new verse there are literally millions of people repeating his lines, and that matters. It does. For years now he's been hip-hop's most quoted emcee, no one can take that away from him. Drizzy's downfall though is that he only ever raps about himself, while Big K.R.I.T. can both rap hard enough to murder someone and drop some very real social commentary. Yoh is the dissenting vote, but K.R.I.T. wins.
Nas vs. ScHoolboy Q: We all love Q, but come on now, it's Nas. Nas wins.
Jay Z vs. Killer Mike: OH MY GOD, WHAT AN UPSET!!! THEY'RE STORMING THE COURT!!! In my heart of hearts I wanted Killer to win, but I just didn't think he had any shot. Jay's got platinum albums, classic albums, multiple empires. He's a business, mannnn. What it ended up coming down to was that, purely as an emcee, Jay is on the decline (cough, "Pound Cake," cough) while Killer Mike has really hit his stride as an absolutely vicious emcee with Run the Jewels. If Jay and Mike got on a track together, Mike's not afraid at all, while Jay's on some "I really need to bring it so I don't get murdered shit. It doesn't make logical sense, but that's what makes March Madness so special. Kille Mike is the underdog, but he fights, he scraps, he nails some seemingly impossible threes and holy shit I don't believe it, Killer Mike wins.
Common vs. Mos Def: If this was 2000 this match-up would have essentially been a dead tie. But while we all love Mos, like Andre at some point his lack of output was going to catch up with him, and Common's pedigree paired with his impressively consistent album puts him over the top. Common wins.
Kendrick Lamar vs. Talib Kweli: In previous rounds we've talked about respect due games, match-ups where you want to say, "All respect due, but..." This is definitely one of those games. Kweli raised me, he made me first fall in love with hip-hop, and even through 2015 he's still right in the thick of things. Also, we don't want to be a prisoner of the moment and vote for Kendrick because he just dropped a new album. With all that said though, Kendrick is increasingly becoming one of those transcendent emcees like Andre 3000 who are just that next-level talented. I'm gonna go play Reflection Eternal right now, but Kendrick wins.
Eminem vs. Black Thought: ANOTHER HUGE UPSET!!! This one got relatively heated. Yes, Black Thought is fucking amazing, and when you think about the incredible diversity of his catalog he really is extraordinary. Still though, we're talking about Eminem here, one of those transcendent emcees I was talking about earlier, someone who's long been consider either the GOAT or close to it. Although...maybe if Black Thought made more popular music he'd be more widely thought about as the GOAT too. Ultimately, it came down to this cypher, and we decided Black Thought had the better verse. I kind of don't fucking believe it, but Black Thought wins.
March Madness doesn't stop for anyone. We'll be back again for the Elite 8 later this week. I'm exhausted, and these debates are only going to get more tiring, but this is where champions are made. Let's do it...