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1520 Sedgwick Avenue: The BRA Tournament, 2Pac Bracket, First Round Thursday, July 24, 2008

Posted by Andy Hutchins in 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, Rockabye, The BRA Tournament.

It’s a time-honored tradition in hip-hop to spend more time squawking about who the “G.O.A.T.” (Greatest of All Time, for the uninitiated) is, or squabbling over who the “Best Rapper Alive” is, than actually listening to their music and reacting to it at a personal, critical level.

Still, the idea of settling it all still fires passions and drives page views, so VIBE is doing a month-long, pale imitation of what could be a great idea. Here’s your bracket. Let’s hop in.

So I’m picking who I want to advance, who I’m voting for, and, counting the Internet’s and humanity’s proclivitites for stupidity, picking who I think will advance. (And some cases, one person will fit both.)

We’ll resume with the 2Pac Bracket. Only half of it makes sense.

1) Eminem vs. 16) Soulja Boy

Prepare for the apocalypse.

Part of my problem with this is that Em should probably be flipped with the #2 seed in this bracket; the other half is that he’s been off the grid for about four years and tired of his talent since “Lose Yourself,” which is, bar none, one of the ten best raps ever written.

And yet, though Em’s probably still going to destroy pretty much anyone on Earth on wax when properly motivated, that classic up there has a paltry 6.3 million views compared to DeAndre Way’s YouTube juggernaut, which has multiple double-digit million play videos on its results page.

Soulja Boy does lowest common denominator reactionary rap, answering the masses’ wants instead of creating art for himself. You like dancing and clubs? Here’s a dance I can teach you. You like superheroes? I’ll name some and do a dance. You like that derivative snap beat sound? Let’s set it all to that.

But his most important question was this: You want it to be about Internet play and something you can use as a ringtone? The answer, I’ll go master that, gave him the tools to make that song perhaps the most heard song in the history of the Internet.

The phenomenon he created was an absolutely genius series of plays from a kid who is playing “Star Trek” chess with the Interwebs while most rappers are still figuring out Chutes and Ladders, and he deserves no small amount of respect for that.

He deserves no respect at all for his rather poor music, though, and Marshall Mathers deserves all the respect in the world for breaking almost every convention of hip-hop and still being a fully realized rapper in the traditional vein as well. (“Want me to flip it?/I can kick it any style you want,” he once offered.”)

Eminem is my guy, but I fear there’s too many teens still cranking something for Soulja Boy to bow out this early in the competition.

8) Lloyd Banks vs. 9) Young Buck

I really don’t want to say I enjoy any G-Unit members’ music.

But do you remember when Lloyd Banks was floating around ESPN for a minute in 2005 when they were trying to add music to their list of Disney synergies? That song he had wasn’t half bad, and this one isn’t, either, despite 50’s attempt to ruin it with one of his forgettable post-2003 hooks. (Also, Tony Yayo? Really, you have enough money now. Go away and swallow whatever you can to fix your vocal cords.)

Young Buck, meanwhile, gets blown away on posse cuts, and doesn’t exactly impress by his lonesome. Add that to this, and Lloyd Banks is the only possible answer.

5) Nelly vs. 12) Flo Rida

I was watching MTV the other day. I didn’t see this, but I saw “Elevator.” Both suck equally; minus the very good chorus on the first one, and what approaches a double-time flow at the end of the first verse, there’s nothing redemptive in either one, and they make perfect strip club rap.

And yet, “Elevator” has 5 million YouTube views, and the four main videos for “Low,” combined, have an astonishing 43 million views.

You see why Flo Rida may actually be the favorite in this match-up, as he’s the current king of strip club rap, and the deposed one can’t get a single off the ground of late, with each one having at least a million less views than “Elevator” and one, “Party People,” having an embarrassing L to Fergie, who isn’t even a rapper, in a sped-up showdown. .

I’m voting for Nelly because I love “Country Grammar,” “Ride Wit Me,” and basically everything Nelly did before 2004, but Flo Rida has to win this on the strength of his current popularity.

4) Ghostface Killah vs. 13) Raekwon

Ghost has been more popular as the “White People’s Wu Member of Choice” of late, what with Fishscale getting critics’ laurels (and yes, that’s a Robert Christgau sighting) and reinventing him as a sort of upscale Clipse member who’s seen it all and knows the metaphors to make it all make sense outside the hood.

Here’s the problem with that rep in this context: Didn’t Rae do that first? Wasn’t that sort of the premise of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…?

Sure, it’s been 13 years since that classic dropped, but it’s in the conversation about the 10 or 20 best hip-hop albums ever, and Fishscale would be lucky to make the top 50.

Don’t we have to give Chef his props for being that great, even once, and even if he’s fallen off since? I say yes: I’ll take Raekwon, and the ‘Webs can have Ghostface Killah.

6) Big Boi vs. 11) Killer Mike

It’s really smart that VIBE picks this as the vets’ part in the Battle for The A, because I’d hate to see Li’l Jon and one of the random Eastside Boyz or someone from Dem Franchise Boyz in here. However, it’s not really fair to throw half of OutKast against a guy few who don’t buy OutKast albums really care about.

Mike a bit more political, and he’s showing it here, on something Antwan Patton would never make, but you can’t get as trippy as “B.O.B.” is without throwing in the reality of his second verse as the anchor, and he’s been the perfect counterweight to Andre 3000 in that context.

Plus, he’s basically a genius for being the impetus behind this song.

So: Big Boi.

3) 50 Cent vs. 14) Fat Joe

Actually, speaking of unfair, it’s not right for the dude who’s given us nothing better than “Lean Back” to be up against a multimedia conglomerate who used to be a top-five rapper and blew that same dude of the map with all guns possible and a killer cover.

On basic lyricism alone, I’d go with 50, but Fat Joe was never really very good and is increasingly only useful as the fifth option on whatever crap “anthem” DJ Khaled has out.

It’s not a laugher; it’s a slaughter for 50 Cent.

7) Jadakiss vs. 10) Beanie Sigel

Jada’s an interesting study in what a difference in-tune and mainstream fans think about hip-hop. (Beans, too, but less so.)

I would wager that most people know Kiss from this older cut or “Why,” where he asked “Why did Bush knock down the Towers?” So he’s a controversial guy and a halfway decent rapper to the general public.

But he comes alive as a mixtape rapper, who spits fire at whoever and asks, “When did it become cool to get shot at and not shoot back?”

Kiss’ study in contrasting perceptions can’t quite be equaled by Beanie Sigel, but not for lack of trying.

B. Sig holds such esteem in Jay-Z’s eyes that the full list of collaborators heard on American Gangster was Beyonce, Lil Wayne, Nas, and Beans (he paid Jay back with a snarled verse on one of my favorites from last year), yet has failed repeatedly to hit on his own and isn’t generally seen as much more than a crony.

Personally, I think Jada’s style’s a little grating, and neither one of these two is going to get the Internet up in arms, so I’ll go with Beanie Sigel and leave Jadakiss here.

2) Nas vs. 15) Joe Budden

Nas doesn’t care one bit about this tournament, but if it were a real competition, he’d probably be pissed to be matched up with Joe Budden.

Budden was Crooked I before Crooked I, the first “Internet rapper” and a guy who built his legend not on his one hit, but on things like this that could never be hits (if at least partly because of flippin’ obnoxious guitar solo outros. He’s also still got a legion of stans who come out for the sole purpose of putting “Joey >>>” in message boards from Baltimore to Beijing.

Problem is, Nas was that dude before the Internet, the thinking man’s rapper whose Illmatic is that same kind of densely lyrical masterpiece that Budden would love to make, and he actually won his battle with Hov, as opposed to taking shots and looking foolish when Jay ignored him.

Clearly: Nas.

Back Friday with the last bracket and a wrap-up.



1. goathair - Thursday, July 24, 2008

Comparing Fishscale to Cuban Linx is the same as comparing Immobilarity to Supreme Clientele. You have to pick the best from each. That being said CL is probably a little better than SC

2. Rockabye - Thursday, July 24, 2008

While I know that’s true, it’s also true that Rae has next to nothing recent and Ghost’s probably best known recently for Fishscale. And he’s waaay overrated as a 4 if Chef’s a 13.

But this whole tournament’s screwed beyond Black and Decker.

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