Biggie died 18 years ago today.
Time fucking flies, huh? One of the greatest rappers of all time, Biggie was shot down less than one full year after Tupac was shot down, prompting classic lyrics from Mos Def and Talib Kweli in Black Star:
1, 2, 3/
it’s kind of dangerous to be an MC/
they shot Tupac and Biggie/
too much violence in hip hop/
Since Biggie’s death, there has been a marked decrease in violence in hip hop, at least at those levels of fame. Anyways, think about the fact that someone turned 18 today and has never lived in a world with Biggie. This thought has led me to this post, where I’m gonna discuss why Biggie is one of the greatest rappers of all time, heavily referencing Ready to Die (one of the greatest rap albums of all time.)
Quality, not quantity
A somewhat common response to the age-old question (Tupac or Biggie?) is that Tupac had higher highs and lower lows, but Biggie’s average track is better than Tupac’s average track. In other words, some folks think that Tupac might have had better hits, but overall Biggie’s shit was better, and I tend to agree. Now, some of y’all might be saying that Tupac could rap about the streets AND social issues though so he’s more important, and that might be true but when it comes to who’s a better rapper I still gotta say Biggie.
Tupac is STILL releasing new albums. Biggie, on the other hand, only released ONE album while he was alive (Ready to Die) and another one right after he died (Life After Death.) Ready to Die has 17 tracks, and ends with Biggie killing himself. Life After Death picks up after it with 24 tracks as if Biggie had died (which he had about 2 weeks before release), and with those 41 tracks Biggie was forever a hip hop legend.
Gimme the Loot
One of those 41 tracks (the 3rd one, to be exact) is Gimme The Loot, which is probably the dopest rap duet of all time. The 2 rappers on it are The Notorious B.I.G. and Biggie Smalls, trading off giving each other shit and rapping about getting that loot. A lot of rappers try that changing their voice shit, but no one could actually convince you that 2 different rappers are spitting like Big could. Combined with the wordplay, great writing, and perfect understanding of flow, this is one of the best hip hop tracks of all time.
The last track on Ready to Die features Diddy, but on the other end of a phone, not the end of a mic. Biggie calls him late into the night, raps about why his life sucks and eventually decides to end it. The track ends with a gunshot, Diddy yelling for Big and the operator recording playing calmly and softly. No other album affects you by the end as much as this one does, and you just gotta sit and think for a bit once it’s over. Considering what happened after this album and how Biggie died before Life After Death came out, it’s kind of funny that people sometimes call Tupad a prophet, but not Biggie.
The skits on Ready to Die are just incredible too, even without including Suicidal Thoughts. From being born to committing crimes with the music of his adolescence playing in the back to killings some suckas who tried to run up on him, Biggie really comes to life on Ready to Die. It’s an intensely personal look into his life, and honestly, Big Poppa is one of the worst tracks on the album (it’s still dope, but it just goes to show you how good the album is overall.)
Pay your respects and listen to some Biggie today to keep the legend’s spirit alive. Life After Death is fire, but Ready to Die is one of hip hop’s most important (and dopest albums.) Pick up a copy and see why folks are still mourning his death 18 years later.