By BRIAN GORDON & HARRISON OKIN
Tis’ the season for brackets. Inspired by March Madness, we’ve compiled a tournament of American rappers, region by region to determine who, in 2014, is the finest wordsmith around. We’ll see which rapper “spits” the “dopest” “bars” and which “drops” the “firmest” “jawns.” Who moves on and who goes home is determined by science as we’ve gone through the first round below. This tournament is an interactive experience, so mail your brackets along with $20 to 401 College Ave. Apt. 3.
1. Outkast vs. 8. Killer Mike
If you just know Outkast as “that band who sang Hey Ya in middle school,” stop reading now. The duo, set to reunite in 2014, is the Colonel Sanders of southern fried rap … and Killer Mike is the free range chicken farmer hippy who still holds a grudge against Reagan.
2. 2 Chainz vs. 7. Big KRIT
I’m a bigger fan of the cookbook that came with 2 Chainz’s album than I am of the actual album. “Put on your Versace apron” — Salmon Teriyaki, Step One.
3. Pusha T vs. 6. Lil Wayne
Long in the featured role, Pusha stepped center stage with last year’s “My Name is My Name.” The album is all things awesome and solidifies Pusha’s legacy as something beyond supporting roles in G.O.O.D Music. Lil Wayne hit his apex in the summer of 2008. The Carter III was the soundtrack to Jewish summer camp. Then he went to prison and got real defensive about the contents of his cup. Hasn’t been too relevant since.
4. Rick Ross vs. 5. Ludacris
“Get Back,” “Move B*tch,” “Get the F*** Back.” Slope Day’s 2014 headliner doesn’t like people getting in his way. The 300-pound Rick Ross has likely spent much of his life getting in people’s way. Something’s got to give. “Devil is a Lie” might be the jam of the year so far, but Ludacris had a supporting role in Fred Claus, securing that key Paul Giamatti bump.
NIT: Wiz Khalifa, Future, Missy Elliot, Lil Jon (Turn down for what? This bracket).
1. Kendrick Lamar vs. 8. Macklemore
Macklemore texted us saying Kendrick should move on. K.Dot should be Poet Laureate.
2. Earl Sweatshirt vs. 7. Tyga
Earl’s mom didn’t like her son cursing, so she shipped him to Samoan boarding school for a couple years. Imagine what Tyga’s mom did when she found her son’s “Make it Nasty” music video was actually just a porno?
3. Schoolboy Q vs. 6. Tyler, The Creator
Q is the prince to Kendrick’s throne, with a bucket hat for a crown. And Tyler’s voice kind of scares us.
Soulo can teach a class with his brain full of thesaurus vocabulary, but there are plenty of new age philoso-rappers in this bracket. Game is just far more west coast, embodying the spirit of NWA and 90’s rivalries.
NIT: Jay Rock, E-40, Casey Veggies
1. Chuck Corners 1. Jay Z vs. 8. Talib Kweli
In “Moment of Clarity” Jay raps, “If skills sold, truth be told, I’d probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli … But I did 5 mil — I ain’t been rhyming like Common since.” Maybe Jay could do conscious rap better than anyone too, but he follows the money. No shame in that. Kweli raps lyrics the world should hear; Hova raps lyrics the world wants to hear.
2. Joey Badass vs. 7. Action Bronson
Joey is the most remarkable 19 year-old phenom since I enrolled at Cornell. But overseeing a crew of 47 Pro Era members is exhausting, which is why Joey has hardly put any new music out. Action is the prolific rapper/fine wine connoisseur that New York needs right now. He also knows how to handle himself at an old folk’s home (YouTube it).
3. A$AP Rocky vs. 6. A$AP Ferg
The East Region is for Cinderellas. This intra-Mob matchup ends in an upset. Imagine if Garfunkel overtook Simon or if Casey Affleck were a better actor than Ben (he is but that’s for another column). Fergenstein absolutely refuses to take himself seriously, and this boldness and spontaneity keeps drawing us back for more.
4. Nas vs. 5. Nicki Minaj
Minaj is more funky, fresh, hip and now. Nas is amongst the GOATs, but his most recent album was his second “Best of” compilation. Minaj is still going Platinum with new material. Also Nicki reps the major female rappers well, a category that’s unfortunately quite small.
NIT: J Cole, Underachievers, CJ Fly
1. Kanye West vs. 8. Freddie Gibbs
Freddie makes a strong case for an upset with his excellent new album, Piñata, in which he shares revealing stories of a rough upbringing. But Kanye is Kanye, who keeps challenging the boundaries of a sonic experience. Plus, word on the street is he’s not too fond of journalists who criticize him.
2. Eminem vs. 7. Jon Connor
We have “Rap God” on Spotify and click play. Up to the 4:26 mark it’s a bit stale. What does Eminem still have to be angry about? Maybe his shtick is getting old. The early aughts were his time. Jon Connor, signed to Eminem’s label, is the future. Then the fast part comes in and by 4:42 we realize how silly it would be to bounce Mr. Mathers in the first round.
3. Chance the Rapper vs. 6. Chief Keef
Perhaps the cruelest Round One matchup. That one of these rising rappers has to get knocked out this early is just a by-product of the Midwest being stacked. Chief knows how to start a banger party, but Chance epitomizes the quarter-life crisis type of contemplation that too many college kids are trudging through. Like we did with Andy from Toy Story, Chance is the rapper we want to grow up with.
Danny Brown got head on stage in concert. That’s not why he’s moving on, but its a fact more interesting than anything Big Sean raps about. Brown’s latest album, Old, is fire too.
NIT: Lupe Fiasco, Kid Cudi, Tech N9ne, Mac Miller, Machine Gun Kelly