The Round of 64 for Sound of the City’s own version of March Madness—in which you, the Sound of the City voting public, help determine the quintessential New York musician—continues, and you get to vote on who makes it to Round Two. We’ll have some first-round results later today, but for now, it’s a battle of rhymes, as the eminent rapper Rakim takes on the duo of Mos Def and Talib Kweli, who are teamed up in the tournament under the Black Star moniker. Check out our arguments in favor of each, and vote at Facebook.
Rakim is the greatest rapper of all time. Discounting those who overplay the idea of relevance and would anoint Jay-Z just because he’s still capable of making a few hits here and there, Long Island’s Rakim Allah puts words together better than anyone—and his peak came during hip-hop’s golden era, where standards were not just higher, but were created. With a calm baritone voice, The R rapped with an effortlessly cool intellect; a song like “Follow The Leader” sums up his talent in a spellbinding flight of fantasy. The greatest rapper rockin’ mics in the world’s greatest city—this one’s a no-brainer.
For people of a certain age, Black Star’s Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star was the record handed to you when it had come high time to learn something about “real hip-hop.” As nebulous a qualifier as that is, Mos and Talib were crucial antidotes to the blingy late ’90s, solidifying themselves as one of the most crucial forward-thinking hip-hop duos to ever come out of Brooklyn. Despite having only one full-length release under the Black Star banner, Mos Def’s Black On Both Sides and Kweli and Hi-Tek’s Train of Thought both make for crucial appendices. All of it amounts to the fact that, for a brief period of time, “realness” was a tangible thing thanks to these two. Best alliance in hip-hop? You be the judge.