Wednesday, March 9, 2011
The Greatest Rapper of All Time Died on March 9th?
What I'm going to say may hurt people, it might be seen as bordering on blasphemy (particularly coming from a Brooklyn guy).Let me preface what I'm about to say by first letting it be known that I love Biggie. I grew up listening to him, he was a ridiculously talented and charismatic dude, I love that he represented Brooklyn at all times, and he definitely cemented his place in music history as one of the greatest rappers of all time. But I wouldn't say he is THE greatest of all time.
Before you all x out PTU and go straight to ESPN.com or leave comments saying how I'm an idiot who knows nothing about rap, consider what it takes to be called the greatest at anything. Let's compare it to a sports career (as I do so often with music). A hall of fame career (never mind being called the greatest of all time) would require at least 9 or 10 years of sustained greatness coupled with dominance at your position in each season. This is probably my biggest issue with labeling the black Frank White as the greatest. His career only lasted 4 years (really) with only 2 albums. Great, classic albums but still, only 2. While my father would tell anyone who will listen that Drazen Petrovic could shoot better than 95% of the NBA today, no one else would say he is the greatest shooter of all time. There's just not enough of a career there to support that claim. Same for Big.
If we look at Biggie from a technical standpoint, the claim of greatest of all time is also suspect. Lyrically and flow wise he could go toe to toe with any rapper, but off the top of my head I could think of at least 3 rappers who were or are probably more skilled lyricists (Nas, Kool G Rap, Eminem, I could name more).
So why do most rap fans and critics immediately place Biggie at the top? For starters, there's always the risk of over rating the dead. James Dean was a great actor, but his talent is really overshadowed by his lifestyle and untimely death. Same goes for 2pac, River Phoenix and Heath Ledger. Maybe you could throw Jimi Hendrix in that conversation too. When you lose someone before they really reached their potential, people want to believe that their best work was yet to come. Who knows what would have happened had Biggie lived to 40? There was a huge backlash against the versace and jewelry flossing rappers in the late 90s and Biggie might have caught some of that had he lived to see it.
The real reason that we'll always love Big Poppa, and have crowned him king might be that he represents a time in most rap listeners' lives. The mid 90s when hip hop was in its prime (the golden age in my opinion) and it seemed like it would only get better. Biggie was this (as he said himself) fat, black and ugly dude who still got chicks and could rap circles around the competition. Then he was shot over who knows what by who knows. It doesn't seem fair. It doesn't matter that he only had 2 albums or he wasn't technically the best rapper. He did his thing for a couple years and then he was gone at the age that most of us were just moving out of our parents houses. It's not fair so we call him the greatest. And I guess if he means that much to people then he is their greatest and that's really all that counts. RIP B.I.G.