Throw your hands in the air, if you think you’re a player – or if B.I.G owns hip-hop

By Dan Gigliotti

Courtesy Wikipedia

Click here for the other side of Point-Counterpoint: “Tupac reminds us to “Keep Ya Head Up” years later.”

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The 1994 album “Ready to Die” was a presage to the death of the greatest hip-hop artist to ever live, and it was a dispute sparked by his counterpart which led to his demise.

His death will always be seen as a tragic event, eternally linked to the infamous East Coast versus West Coast feud that separated hip-hop culture and pit two of rap‘s iconoclasts against each other. 

Perhaps, Notorious B.I.G. meant what he said and really did feel like his life was “played out like a Jheri curl.” It could be that he is wearing black Tim’s and a black hoodie right now, shooting dice and spitting rhymes off-the-top somewhere in the afterlife with the likes of Big L and Big Pun. 

Although Biggie had suicidal thoughts, it wasn’t from his own hand that he fell fatal to a gunshot wound on March 9, 1997. It wasn’t until his former friend-turned-rival Tupac Shakur attempted to pick a petty fight. 

The term “beef” didn’t originate from the Tupac/Biggie rivalry, but it gained new meaning. The escalation of the coastal battle in the mid-90s was a realization of the severity of violence in hip-hop and its consequences. 

The defiant California rapper was the main proponent of the outward violence that was rampant in hip-hop during the 1990s and which led to the murders of both individuals. 

B.I.G. spoke about delinquency in his lyrics, but his emphasis was on the struggle to go from having very little in life to having everything he dreamed of. Songs such as “Sky is the Limit” and “Juicy” are uplifting anthems for urban slum-dwellers and suburban high school students alike. His subject matter and content is not relevant to everyone, but references to classic ‘90s video game consoles and Word Up Magazine assure that you don’t need to be in a gang or deal drugs to find wisdom in his words. 

Tupac, on the other hand simply purported the traditions and values in hip-hop and did so maliciously.  He created a thug life persona which likely accurate to his true personality and imposed the lessons of rap on mainstream society with an abrasive tone and a murderer’s determination. 

Tupac’s most valuable asset was his fearlessness and his sheer desire to challenge the establishment is admirable. Unfortunately, it did more to create a negative perception of hip-hop culture than it helped. 

His collaboration, “Hit ‘em Up” with the Outlawz, a group of third-rate rappers whom he attempted to put-on to the rap scene, was ill-advised and distasteful, even by rap’s standards. Besides, do you remember any other verses on that song or the name of one of Pac’s cohorts? 

Me neither. 

Rather than feed into the trivial argument, Biggie declared that it wasn’t his style to create a rebuttal on record. If only other rappers had that type of restraint, perhaps most of the violent acts in hip-hop wouldn’t occur. 

Would rap music be as prominent if it wasn’t for Tupac? No. Though, I would contend that the music would still maintain its attraction through the depths of its message as opposed to the militant coup d’état on pop culture of which the self-proclaimed Machiavelli chose to enact in his rap career.  

Furthermore, Shakur’s most popular and most identifiable song was released after his death. Tupac broke onto the rap scene as a roadie for the group Digital Underground, hyping up their goofy, big-nosed front-man and prancing around stage to the Humpty Dance. 

Take a minute to imagine the over-sized East Coast rapper doing the electric slide. 

Can you picture it? I can’t either. 

B.I.G. is the personification of rap music and culture, a model for lyricists to shape their approach to rhyming and helping many of today’s best to establish their names in popular culture. 

He legitimized the careers of many artists and launched the careers of executives the same. Before Biggie, there was no P. Diddy and Ma$e. Method Man’s solo career took off after his vocals in the1994 “What’s Beef.” Jay-Z was able to boast his status as one of Brooklyn’s finest only after B.I.G. appeared on his debut album Reasonable Doubt. 

As his moniker Frank White suggests, he was the king of New York City. B.I.G. is best rapper to ever reside in the mecca of hip-hop where rap music and culture had its roots and produced the greatest number of rappers of anywhere in the world. 

In sports, the award for the Most Valuable Player is usually decided by the best player on the best team. With all due respect to Big L, Biggie is the ‘Most Valuable Poet’ on the mic. 

Life after the death of Notorious B.I.G. goes on and the greatest rappers alive pay homage to him in contemporary music. Rappers have yet to reach the bar that Biggie set when he was alive as his rhymes still remain to be the most influential and it is hard to imagine that they will be. 

And if you don’t know, now you know.   

Dan Gigliotti is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].