One of the greatest debates in hip-hop history is undoubtedly: who was the greatest rapper between Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls?
My father proclaimed that Tupac was the wisest man he had ever heard. A local DJ said to me that Biggie was the coldest: “Think about it: as big and unattractive as he was, his flows could get him any woman he wanted, plus he was the master of East Coast.” Another DJ said his father turned him on to Tupac, “Whenever I need to clear my head, I still pop in Tupac.” All parties agree that Tupac’s message yesterday is still relevant today and Biggie’s lyrical artistry still has an influence on hip-hop now. Both men had almost similar backgrounds. Both men brought change to the world of hip-hop. Both men prophesied their deaths. Both men were born on the East Coast, but died on the West Coast. So who was the greatest?
Biggie Smalls: aka The Notorious B.I.G, was born Christopher Wallace, May 21, 1972 in Brooklyn, NY. Although he portrayed himself as a thug, he was really an intelligent young man who was raised by a single working mother. He was afforded a good life and education. He made the decision, by his own choice, not out of necessity, to run with the “local crew.” Biggie was a lyrical genius. Biggie recorded two studio albums before his death. He won four Billboard Music Awards, one Billboard Music Video Award, was nominated for four Grammy Awards, and two MTV Video Music Awards nominations, winning one.
Tupac Shakur: Was born Lesane Parish Crooks, June 16, 1971 in East Harlem. Although he portrayed himself as hard-core, he was really an artistic young man born into a hard-core environment. Raised by an activist single mother that was incarcerated while pregnant with him, he lived in a hostile and impoverished climate as a child, which gave birth to his powerful lyrical messages. He was extremely mature for his age because of his family circumstances, yet very educated in the arts. He was an accomplished actor, appearing in seven major films. Tupac Shakur recorded five studio albums before his death and was nominated for two American Music Awards, winning one, six Grammy Award nomination, and three MTV Music Award nominations.
The highest certification an album can earn, as far as record sales, is Diamond. There are seven Diamond certified albums in the history of hip-hop, one belonging to Biggie and two belonging to Tupac Shakur.
Now with all that being said, here’s my take. Biggie was a great assessor of taste and taste is relevant to talent, meaning he knew what people liked to hear and how to articulate it. At that time, Biggie changed the face of hip-hop, as a matter of fact, Biggie gave hip-hop a sexy side. While Tupac was prolific, he spoke social conscience in a way that people could relate to, as well as with a transcending message. His unreleased material has given him an Elvis Presley-like folklore that is keeping him alive. Tupac has had a major influence on heavy hitters of today, such as J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar.
If both men were alive today, I don’t think that Biggie would still have the same impactful creativity on hip-hop that he had in the past. I can make a safe argument that Tupac is the Marvin Gaye of hip-hop, but I’m not so sure who I could compare Biggie to. But, more importantly, don’t you know diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and because Tupac has more, my vote goes to him.
The Tupac vs. Biggie debate will probably go down as one of the greatest debates in music – ever. So what’s your take, and who gets your vote?
Bridget is the creator of Bridget EE’s Bloghouse, a A Place Where Real Music Is Previewed and Reviewed.