Finding The GOAT (Round 6): Tupac vs. The Notorious B.I.G.…Who You Got?
With now only 6 MCs remaining, we have entered Round 6 in the ultimate battle for the title of the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time). Now, only two match-up’s—both running this week—remain until the final 4 are revealed. Since the elimination, bracket-style tournament was launched in September of 2014, including more than 200 overall MCs, there have been five completed rounds, featuring contenders from all eras of Hip-Hop, including Wild Card series (with optional write-in’s). The 6 remaining MCs have been undefeated, and have been ranked according to their average margins of victory over the past rounds. The MC with the greatest average margin of victory is seeded at #1, the one with the narrowest average margin of victory is seeded at #6, and so on. Big Daddy Kane returns for this round, following his previous bye thanks to his largest winning margin in Round 4. Things are about to get really real.
Once sharing a microphone, Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.’s stories are forever attached. These brilliant MCs began as friends, but ended as rivals, dying within 6 months of one another. The lines between Rap battles and all too real beef blurred when these two became foes, due to suspicions and a calculated music industry. While the rift ripped apart Rap consumers, rarely are these artists compared strictly in terms of skills. ‘Pac’s career began earlier, and witnessed massive commercial success across five solo albums and one group effort. For Biggie Smalls, the MC released two proper solo LPs, and a group project to his own credit. B.I.G. got two #1 singles, which ‘Pac never had. However, ‘Pac produced immensely more material. With vastly different styles, attitudes, and influences, there is one overlapping quality in the music of both of these legends: command. When ‘Pac and Big rapped, the world listened, and 16-bar verses became scripture. In a match-up that conjures up memories of some of Rap’s darkest days, celebrate the lasting legacy of both of these iconic MCs as you decide who goes forth in this Finding the GOAT competition. (click one to vote)
(Fifth Round Winner, Against Kendrick Lamar 72% to 28%)
(Fourth Round Winner, Against Scarface 72% to 28%)
(Third Round Winner, Against Ice Cube, 64% to 36%)
(Second Round Winner, Against Big Boi 76% to 24%)
(First Round Bye)
In just five short years making albums, Tupac changed Hip-Hop. Like his background, and his young life, Tupac Shakur’s music is filled with passion, soul, and conviction—amidst contradiction. His albums (and many of his songs) were conscious and Gangsta Rap at once, taking on police, society, and industry foes within the same confines. At times, ‘Pac was a pepped-up lyricist who was inspired by the greats, displaying metaphor, alliteration, flow, and cadence. In other places, Shakur rapped conversationally, coming from a place of sincere urgency, more about the content than the method. This duality has made 2Pac one of Hip-Hop’s most enduring superstars, with sales and critical acclaim that have far outlasted his tragic 1996 murder.
2Pac’s versatility may be his greatest attribute, from the socially-narrative (“Brenda’s Got A Baby”) to the anthematic (“California Love”) to the revengeful (“Picture Me Rollin'”). From the top and the bottom, Tupac was gifted in making highly-specific songs that listeners could relate to. He cemented classic LPs such as Me Against The World, and the Death Row follow-up All Eyez On Me double-album. Moreover, ‘Pac’s messages and collaborations spanned the Hip-Hop map long before Rap ever lived on the Internet. Known for fast writing, and often limited takes in the studio, ‘Pac’s urgency may be one of his flaws, but he maintained to get the words out while the thoughts were real, and the ink was wet—and that’s just what he did.
2Pac – The Underground Railroad mixtape by DJ Fatal
The Notorious B.I.G.
(Fifth Round Winner, Against Redman 64% to 36%)
(Fourth Round Winner, Against Andre 3000 50.3% to 49.7%)
(Third Round Winner, Against Big Pun 73% to 27%)
(Second Round Winner, Against GZA 61% to 39%)
(First Round Bye)
Biggie Smalls (a/k/a The Notorious B.I.G.) redefined what a Hip-Hop star looked like and sounded like, when he released his classic 1994 debut, Ready To Die. In one place, B.I.G. combined fully-executed concept, lyricism, storytelling, and Pop-minded sensibilities. At the height of the music video era, Biggie became a superstar without ever tucking in his supreme MC abilities, that he chiseled from five years of battling on Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn’s Fulton Street. With two solo and one Junior M.A.F.I.A. studio albums in his brief career, Biggie has the sales to match his over-arching influence on the culture and the craft of rapping.
Although his verses employed humor, depravity, embarrassment, braggadocio, and more—the main theme is sincerity. Whether he was in the mindset of an ostracized youth, a stressed-out corner-boy, or a Frank White-like mafioso, Christopher Wallace was a master of method-acting-rapping, ’cause he’d seemingly lived it all. He stood at the zeitgeist for what a generation wanted, grew up with, and the hurdles they were up against. Whether rapping alongside Sadat X, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, or R.A. The Rugged Man, Big Poppa got in where he fit in—and the likable underdog with the over-achieving rhyme patterns and straight-forward street wisdom remains loved by all.
So…who you got?