Today we explore why B.I.G. hasn’t dominated Hip Hop’s legacy conversation like Tupac.
Once upon a time in a universe far, far away, HipHopDX used to host blogs. Through Meka, Brillyance, Aliya Ewing and others, readers got unfiltered opinions on the most current topics in and beyond Hip Hop. After a few years, a couple redesigns and the collective vision of three different Editors-In-Chief, blogs are back. Well, sort of. Since our blog section went the way of two-way pagers and physical mixtapes, Twitter, Instagram and Ustream have further accelerated the pace of current events in Hip Hop. Rappers beef with each other 140 characters at a time, entire mixtapes (and their associated artwork) can be released via Instagram, and sometimes these events require a rapid reaction.
As such, we’re reserving this space for a weekly reaction to Hip Hop’s current events. Or whatever else we deem worthy. And the “we” in question is myself, Andre Grant and Ural Garrett. Collectively we serve as HipHopDX’s Features Staff. Aside from tackling stray topics, we may invite artists and other personalities in Hip Hop to join the conversation. Without further delay, here’s this week’s “Stray Shots.”
Reached A Level Of Pop Culture Relevance That Grew Higher After His Death
Ural: To this day, new details are revealed about who and what Tupac was. On the flipside, Biggie has had a specific controlled narrative that’s worked well enough for him to sound safe. Big’s history has been controlled due in part to his family and friends unanimously agreeing to a perfect representation of him. With Diddy being the success he is now, the man known for giving the world “Juicy” has been giving a golden platform. For the legacy of Tupac, that’s been a huge problem. Multiple people have multiple accounts on the man himself. Moreover, people in control of his estate can’t seem to get it together even for a movie. Till this day, there are layers to Pac that are still being discovered. That level of mystery has elevated him into a rebellious pop culture icon. Last year alone, from the stories of Pac’s last words with police before his death to videos proving his prophecies only added to his story. The amount of respect Hip Hop has for Big as an emcee won’t be eclipsed by Pac. Outside of that, things get murky.
Put Raw Emotion Over Technical Skill
Andre: “My slow flow’s remarkable,” B.I.G crooned, and it was. His lines were simple yet powerful, avoiding the tongue-twisting double time flow of a young Jigga, and the crazy metaphors of Nasir Jones. B.I.G was a storyteller, his rhymes were relational and conversational, even when he was talking about riding on his enemies or slinging crack rock. Still, he relied on pure technical ability to convey his point. Riding on a beat with a flow and lyrical acumen that was for the most part unmatched.’Pac strangled beats, rapping around them mostly, and relying on pure emotion and voice variance to convey the volcanic eruption that was awaiting each rhyme. In the end, Tupac won the zeitgeist of the age with just that. Because, as Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you say, but they will never forget how you make them feel.” This particular ability he had in spades.
Was a Revolutionary Social Icon, Not Just A Hip Hop One
Ural: There’s one scene in Notorious where Big gives an honest view of his interaction with Tupac. The description of Pac was one who had several personalities. He was the thug, poet, actor, wildchild and black nationalist along with an host of others. Let someone like Madonna tell it, he was a sex symbol; the James Dean of the hood. This meant that any and everyone could take a particular piece from for inspiration. Just like Jesus Christ ushered in Christianity and its numerous denominations, Pac did the same for Hip Hop. Game, Lil Wayne, Lil Boosie, 50 Cent all took cues from the Thug Life persona. Meanwhile, everyone from Kendrick Lamar to Dead Prez have fused extreme context socio economic themes into their works. Then there’s everyone in-between like Kanye. Biggie was the rapper’s rapper. No one in that timespan spit with his level of finesse and mechanical delivery while delivering commercial hits. Themes of being a drug dealer in Brooklyn were told with a level of articulation unheard of at the time. Unfortunately, those hood to mafioso aspirations never reached past that.
His Prolonged Death Led To Several Conspiracy Theories
Andre: After getting bombarded with shots through every which part of his body, ‘Pac lived another seven days while in a medically induced coma. His will to live was ferocious and has become legendary. So legendary in fact, that people joke (some with real seriousness) that Tupac is still alive. He’s hiding out in Cuba they’ll say or, they saw him just the other day. It doesn’t help that his status as the Che Guevera of Hip Hop makes his visage a powerful statement in how to be anti-establishment. How to be free. Just last year the CIA tweeted they didn’t know where Tupac was (shoutout to that person, we see you) and Suge Knight (tongue firmly in cheek) mused that ‘Pac was somewhere hiding out. For everything he’s done regarding the vitality and forthrightness with how he lived his life, his legacy has far outlived his work.
Had Enough Post Mortem Work To Reach Generations After His Death
Ural: How many people thought Kendrick Lamar acquired an unreleased interview with Tupac forTo Pimp A Butterfly before news broke it was actually an old interview done by Swedish journalist Mats Nileskär years before his death? Many, for one obvious reason. To this day, there are still numerous unreleased recordings that’ll probably end up on some famous rapper’s album eventually. The reason? It’s a known fact that Pac recorded vigorously before his death. That’s allowed tracks like Keyshia Cole’s “Playa Cardz Right” or the “Out In A Blaze” collaboration between Young Buck and The Outlawz. And then there’s that “Right Now” track Bun B managed to get with unrecorded Pimp C vocals as well. While Biggie’s calculated flows and album making process earned him better critical reception at the time, that didn’t leave much room for making anything less than perfection. Those decisions made Ready To Die and Life After Death instant classics but lessened the ability for future artists to have the same opportunities. Doesn’t help that outside of appealing to core Biggie fans, Born Again and Duets: The Final Chapter didn’t set the world on fire.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant that has contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Features Editor for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.
Ural Garrett is an Los Angeles-based journalist and HipHopDX’s Senior Features Writer. When not covering music, video games, films and the community at large, he’s in the kitchen baking like Anita. Follow him on Twitter @Uralg.