Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. were not the founding fathers of hip-hop, but they may as well have been.
Despite the undeniable impacts of rappers and producers who came before Pac and Biggie, those two put the genre on the map in a way that had never been seen before. Taking the East Coast/West Coast rap beef to new levels, which ultimately led to their unfortunate and much-too-early demise, Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. laid the groundwork for what hip-hop looks like today.
From the sound of the music itself, to the idea that rappers must play larger-than-life characters every time they step into the limelight, both artists revolutionized the idea of what it means to be a rapper, despite occupying two different lanes.
Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Even though both artists were more than capable of embodying different messages and different sounds, it can be said that 2Pac steered towards more conscious rap, while Biggie accumulated wealth, jewelry, cars and women and made sure to let fans know all about it. And according to another hip-hop icon, RZA, that contrast is what made Shakur more “dangerous” than The Notorious B.I.G.
Sitting down with The Art of Dialogue, the Wu-Tang Clan’s de-facto leader broke down the difference between the two rappers.
“You go to Pac, once again, immaculate voice, but what Pac had, I think, was a way of touching us in all of our emotions. Like, Pac had the power to infuse your emotional thought, like ‘Brenda Has a Baby,’ ‘Dear Mama,” but then he had the power to arouse the rebel in you. You know?” RZA said, invoking two of 2Pac’s deepest records. “He was probably more dangerous than Big. Notorious B.I.G., we could party with him to this day … but Pac … he was more going into the Malcolm X of things and society fears that.”
RZA continued on to say that, while “B.I.G. communicated love, he wasn’t starting revolutions.”
RZA’s sentiments sparked some rambunctiousness, with commenters arguing back and forth about which 90s icon had more influence, but what’s more interesting is that these debates continue to rage on. Both artists have been gone for more than two decades at this point and still, the East Coast/West Coast question of who’s better — Biggie or Pac — is still being asked.
Whether or not you agree with RZA is one thing, but more important is the fact that these two rappers who, in the grand scheme of things, had very short careers, are still looked at and spoken about with such great reverence. Trying to compare Pac to Malcolm or Biggie to anybody else will only lead to 25-year debates with no right answer at the end, but those same comparisons are what keep their legacies alive and keep their place as two of the greatest emcees to ever touch a microphone.
What do you think of RZA’s comments on 2Pac being “more dangerous” than Biggie? Let us know down below.