Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac, better known as the “Kings of Hip-Hop”, were easily the most influential artists in music history. Not other artists have put on imprint on music like Biggie and Tupac did. They both added competition and rawness to their music and raised the standards for other artists. They focused their time on producing music, not because of the money, but because they had a passion for it.
You do not see this passion as much in the hip hop industry today. Artists care less about the quality of music they produce, and more about how much they get paid. Rappers have grown an obsession with money. The quality of music produced has decreased because of the lack of dedication towards it.
Today, hip-hop music has gone mainstream. Artists want to produce songs that will be purchased on iTunes and play on the radio. With this being said, rappers have incorporated dub-step and auto tune into their songs. This results in the songs losing their originality and sounding like any other song played on the radio today. Kanye West recently released an album called Yeezus. Nearly every song on this album has dub-step, auto tune, or some sort electric sound added to it. One song in particular comes to my mind; “On Sight.”
The only Biggie and Tupac songs that include electric music are the songs that have been remixed and mashed up. In the Biggie and Tupac era, hip-hop music consisted of simple instrumentals and classic beats. The simple instrumentals directed the listeners’ attention towards the lyrics. With the loud, obnoxious instrumentals used today, the rappers lyrics get drowned out by the overpowering music in the background.
A question to think about: Where would rappers be today if Tupac and Biggie never existed?
Tupac and Biggie influenced several rappers throughout their lives. Jay-Z was somewhat involved in the feud between Biggie and Tupac. Biggie and Jay-Z were both from Brooklyn, and used to rap battle as kids. Thus being said, Jay-Z was good friends with Biggie and was seen as part of B.I.G.’s crew. Obviously, during the rap feud, Jay-Z often found himself in the middle of it. Tupac made digs at Jay-Z on several occassions, but Jay-Z never really had any beef with Tupac. He saw them both as icons in rap music. In an interview, Jay-Z describes his relationship with Biggie and Pac, and how he tries to keep their legacy alive.
Tupac also influenced several artists. In an interview, 50 Cent said, “Every rapper who grew up in the nineties owes something to Tupac” (Rolling Stone). Snoop Dogg was also a party of Death Row Records for a period of time and got close to Tupac. However, after Tupac was shot and was in the hospital, he asked Snoop Dogg how he felt about B.I.G. and Diddy. At the time, Snoop was friends with both Biggie and P. Diddy, so he responded, “They my homeboys, I love ’em” (hiphopdx.com). Tupac obviously wasn’t very happy about this. Snoop and Tupac didn’t end on a very good note.
Biggie and Tupac aren’t just remembered by their feud. They are remembered by their passion for competition and raising the standards for all artists. Their feud may have ended in their tragic deaths, but both artists produced tracks that were known around the world.
In music today, there is no competition. Instead of getting into competition, they get into drama. Drama does not produce legendary music, it is just annoying. There was a small sign of hope, when Kendrick Lamar released a verse that shocked the world. He was featured in a song with Big Sean called, “Control.” Listen to the specific lyric that Kendrick includes that stirs up competition and a good old fashioned rap feud. But, unlike attacking just one specific artist, Kendrick attacks all of the new up and coming popular rap artists.
Notice how Kendrick not only calls out numerous artists, but he also refers to himself as the “King of New York.” That verse definitely stirred up some drama because that was Biggie’s nick name, and it was almost disrespectful of Kendrick to call himself that (Lang 12). Of course the song got a lot of attention; both praise and critique. Many artists responded via twitter, like Tyga.
Clearly Kendrick’s verse sparked competition and some rappers even applauded him for bringing back the rap culture.
Since artists are spending less time on their music, they have ventured into different industries to make even more money. Jay-Z and Kanye West own clothing lines, Dr. Dre created Beats By Dre headphones, and P. Diddy came out with his Ciroc vodka. As if these artists don’t already make enough money, they have to dip their toes into advertising, fashion, and products to increase their income. Jay-Z had a deal with Samsung to release his recent album Magna Carta Holy Grail to Samsung Galaxy X users, before the rest of the world. He also made a commercial with Samsung to advertise the deal. Overall, Jay-Z made $5 million from Samsung (Business Insider).
Money over Music?
With these alternate incentives, artists are not producing music like they used to. Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac had a relationship and rivalry like we will never see again in history. They continue to influence rappers and the whole music industry long after their deaths. Their legacy may live on, but hip hop will not. Hip-hop was buried with Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace in the 90’s.
Cooper, Roman. “Tupac Reveals Last Conversation With Tupac Wasn’t A Pleasant One.” 29 April 2013. Web. 20 November 2013.
“Jay-Z’s $5 Million Samsung Deal Will Change Music Forever.” Business Insider. N.p. 4 July 2013. Web. 01 Dec. 2013.
Lang, Holly. The Notorious B.I.G.: A Biography. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2007. Print.
“Notorious B.I.G. Biography.” The Rolling Stone. Jann Wenner, 2001. Web. 25 Nov. 2013
Shakur, Tupac. “Something 2 Die 4.” Rec. June 1992. Interscope Records, 1993. CD.