Hey who’s a better mc, Biggie or 2Pac?” This is how the debate has gone on across the country, neighborhood to neighborhood for years. Ever since these two burst onto the scene, during hip hop’s golden era, during the early 1990’s. You can’t mention one without the other, that’s why when I tried to decide which of our icons to cover for this first blog, I debated over the two of them and settled for both. There are a lot of striking similarities in their short lives. Both lived fast and died fast. Both rose to unprecedented heights in the rap game, leaving a lasting mark all over it and they both suffered a tragic end to their lives and promising careers, as they hadn’t even reached their peak yet. Tupac Amaru Shakur was gunned down in Las Vegas, Nevada, while driving with Suge Knight, on September 7, 1996 and died six days later on September 13.  While almost six months later, on March 9, 1997, Christopher George Latore Wallace aka The Notorious B.I.G., departed the earth after being gunned down in a GMC Suburban, in Los Angeles, California. Two unsolved murders, of two high profile stars, who were making millions for their respective labels. Two Black males, who were now reduced to statistics. Sad as it was that their careers ended so abruptly, it was even sadder that the Black community had lost two more males. That another two Black mothers had to watch their sons die before them. That young children had lost their father, repeating a cycle, that’s become all too familiar in our communities. It was sadder that our generation, like generations before had lost two very powerful, influential voices. These two men were on the cusp of realizing their full potential. The legacy of The Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac. They were former best of friends, who became “perceived” bitter enemies. I say perceived because even though they had real issues, if they had of been say five years older, just maybe cooler heads prevail, they listen less to the people around them and resolve their issues. Their beef ended up become the square root of the media driven, overplayed obsession with the so called “East Coast-West Coast” beef. One of the most infamous beefs in hip hop history, it reminded some of the early era hip hop beefs such as KRS One vs MC Shan, The Roxanne Wars, L.L. Cool J vs everyone and so on. This rivalry did produce plenty of hip hop classics such as Common Sense’s 1994 “I use to love her”, Da Dogg Pound’s 1995 “New York, New York” and The Westside Connection’s 1996 “Bow Down”, to name a few. All was fun and games until-like my elders said-an eye gets taken out or worse a life gets taken. Along with the media’s irresponsible negligence in handling this situation, the deterioration of Big’s and Pac’s relationship didn’t help matters. All stemming from the 1994 shooting and robbery of Pac at Quad studios in N.Y.,-where Big and Puff Daddy were present-Pac swore that they had set him up. While this was something that Big and Puffy continuously denied, the situation just snowballed from there. Big had a song that came out not too long after the shooting called “Who shot ya?”, which Pac took as a nod at what they had done to him, in a sly, subliminal way. Biggie and Puffy maintained that this track was written months before the incident at Quad studios. Pac feeling really disrespected dropped “Hit em up”, where he and the Outlaws talked about shooting Biggie, to fucking his wife, at the time, Faith Evans. Pac continued to dog out Biggie in interviews, talking about how he put Biggie on, how he stole his style, while he was in jail and how he use to beg girls to talk to B.I.G. The Bad Boy camp, as usually took a different approach, preferring simply not to respond to the attacks, but denying any allegations. At one point, Suge Knight threw gasoline on the blazing east coast-west coast inferno with his infamous comments made at the 1995 Source awards. There he took a shot mainly at Puff Daddy, when he stated “any artist who don’t want their executive producer all in their video, all over their record, come to Death Row”. This brazen comment came in Puffy’s hometown of N.Y.C. The Bad Boy camp responded in their typical manner, just stating that they were happy for Death Row and their accomplishments. This beef however, started to take on a life of it’s own. The east coast-west coast beef and the main event, Pac vs Big. Ironically, both Big and Pac were both born and raised in the N.Y. area. Pac took up the reigns of the west coast by default, when he joined the Death Row camp. Fans and entourages starting carrying the torch of the battle for whoever they sided with. As Pac and Death Row continued with the more abrasive, in your face approach, Big and Bad Boy stayed more low key. Throughout all of this turmoil, somehow both artists stayed focused and either released or recorded some of their most groundbreaking material. 2Pac, on the heels of the great 1995 lp, “Me against the world”, alleged rape charges and subsequent jail time, went on to record his best selling original lp to date,-with nine million sold- “All eyez on me”, his first Death Row release. Also during this time, 2Pac was developing himself into quite a good actor, with the various roles that he took on. He was given accolades by Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers for his 1992 role in Juice, which the reporter called him “the film’s most magnetic figure”. Big on the other hand, was recording his “Life after death” double cd, which was the follow up to his successful 1994 debut “Ready to die”. He was also assisting his colleagues-Jr. Mafia, Lil’ Kim and Puff Daddy-with their upcoming releases. One of them-Biggie Smalls-had revitalized and reinvigorated the east coast hip hop music scene, as the hip hop scene had slowly been started to be dominated by west coast artists. He became the “King of N.Y.”. While east coast born 2Pac, had come to symbolize the “King of the west coast”, in this very high stakes battle. The fact that our generation lost not only two of our best hip hop artists but also two of our best voices or ambassadors to the world is unexplainable. Surely grammys, oscars, record labels and even political activity could have been in the future for these guys, but now there’s just silence. What ifs and what could have been. Talent overshadowed by turmoil. Brilliance like this only comes along every once in awhile and we were spoiled and maybe took it for granted with the two of them. This was the golden era of hip hop. Classic and near classic lps were dropping weekly. Yet their material is among the most memorable stuff from that time period. What is most striking about the entire situation though, is why are the two highest profile stars in the hip hop game having such a public beef with one another? Conspiracy theorists will say that the powers that be wanted them fighting as always the case in our communities. Hip Hop started to take over the world in the late eighties and early nineties. It got to the point where it was a global phenomenon and kids everywhere were rapping, or wearing hip hop gear, breaking dancing or djing. Then you have these world class mcs spitting conscious, knowledgeable stuff and gaining popularity. Entertainment is suppose to be entertainment, not edutainment. It’s just food for thought. However the crabs in a bucket mentality is always just below the surface within our communities. Or maybe you could just blame it on age, or our people’s insistence on airing our dirty laundry for all to see, but whatever it is, nothing has happened like this before, ending in two stars deaths. Did we have John Lennon and Mick Jagger threatening each other? Or Jagger talking about sleeping with Yoko Ono? Or Michael Jackson and Donny Osmond’s entourages trying to fight with one another after a concert? Do Garth Brooks and Kenny Rogers talk about how the other one isn’t anything, to the media? Or do Beyonce and Mariah Carey plan on confronting each other at award shows? Sounds stupid right?! However these are the things that were going on at the height of this feud. For all the fun and creativity this feud provided hip hop, it also revealed this ugly and immature side for all to see. It revealed the angry, upset side of our generation that grew up sometimes without direction or with one parent. Our celebrities sometimes have therapy sessions for the whole world to see. There’s no doubting Christopher Wallace and 2Pac Shakur’s greatness, their lasting legacy and impact on the hip hop game. Both excelled to great heights, despite being raised in single parent homes and impoverished backgrounds. Both were go getters; while Big was going to provide if he had to hustle and get it in the tough N.Y. streets, Pac was nonstop in his climb from drama classes in Maryland, to background roadie and dancer to rap superstar. Big’s mom worked as a teacher and Pac’s family background was rooted in the Black Panther struggle. This is rich history, of well to do families, who were both trying to make a change in this world. So next time our generation wants to play the next generation a great Pac or Big song, go a step further and explain their human mistakes and struggles. To understand their genius is also to understand their faults. There’s of course an invaluable lesson of striving and overcoming in their victories, but maybe more importantly a message of caution and care in their mishaps. Christopher Wallace aka The Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac Shakur, thank you for your struggles, insights, talent, music and contributions to our people’s struggle and your words of pain, encouragement, achievement, and perseverance will never be forgotten.

Pac’s lps

Studio lps

Year of release            LP Title                                              Charting

1991                         2Pacalypse Now                                  Gold

1993                         Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z                      Platinum

1994                         Thug Life(Vol 1) with Thug Life               Gold 

1995                         Me against the world                             Double Platinum

1996                         All Eyez on Me                                    9X Platinum

1996                         The Don Killuminati:                             4X Platinum   

                                The 7 Day Theory

Posthumous lps

Year of release                         LP Title                                   Charting

1997                                R U Still Down(Remember me)         4X Platinum

1998                                        Greatest Hits                          Diamond

1999                                 Still I rise with the Outlawz              Platinum

2001                                         End of time                            3X Platinum

2002                                         Better Dayz                           2X Platinum

2003                                         Tupac Resurrection                Platinum

2004                                          Loyal to the game                 Platinum

2006                                          Pac’s Life                               ________                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The Notorious B.I.G.’s lps                                                                                                                                                                    Studio lps


 Year of release                            LP Title                               Charting

1994                                            Ready to Die                      4X Platinum

1997                                            Life after Death                   Diamond

Collaboration lps

Year of release                            LP Title                                Charting

1995                                 Conspiracy with JR Mafia                Gold

Posthumous lps

Year of release                           LP Title                                Charting

1999                                           Born Again                          Double Platinum

2005                                     Duets: The Final Chapter            Platinum

2007                                           Greatest Hits                       Gold

2009                                            Notorious soundtrack       ___________


 

Pac’s filmography

Year of release                          Movie                                  Role

1991                                         Nothing But Trouble              Himself

1992                                          Juice                                  Bishop

1993                         Drexell’s Class:Season 1-“Cruisin’”        Himself

1993                        A Different World:Season 6-                   Piccolo          

                                      “Homie don’t you know me”

1993                                           Poetic Justice                    Lucky

1993      In Living Color-Season 5:”Ike Turner & Hooch”            Himself        

1994                                           Above the Rim                   Birdie

1995                            Murder was the case: The Movie        Himself

1996                                            Bullet                               Tank

1997                                            Gridlock’d                         Ezekiel ‘Spoon’ Whitmore

1997                                            Gang Related                    Detective Rodriguez

2003                                            Tupac: Resurrection           Himself(documentary)

2009                                             Notorious                         Himself(archive footage)         

2Pac Documentaries

Year of release                               Title

      1997                                        Tupac Shakur: Thug Immortal

1997                                                                                Tupac Shakur: Words Never Die(TV)  

2001                                                                                Tupac Shakur: Before I Wake…

2001                                                                                Welcome to Death Row

2002                                                                                Tupac Shakur: Thug Angel

2002                                        Biggie & Tupac

2002                                        Tha Westside              

2003                                                                                2Pac 4 Ever          

2003                                        Tupac: Resurrection

2004                                                                                Tupac vs

2004                                        Tupac: The Hip Hop Genuis(TV)

      2004                                        2Pac/Notorious B.I.G.- Unauthorized Legends of Rap

2006                                        So Many Years, So Many Tears

2007                                        Tupac: Assassination

2009                                                                                Tupac: Assassination II: Reckoning


 

 The Notorious B.I.G.’s Documentaries

 Year of release                               Title

2003                                         Legend

2004                                         2Pac/Notorious B.I.G.- Unauthorized Legends of Rap

2005                                         Unauthorized: Bigga than Life

2006                                         The Legend Lives On

2007                                         Life after Death: The Movie Ten Years Later

2007                                         Bigger than Life

      2008                                        Unauthorized Business Instead of Game