I can’t recall the amount of time a simple discussion turned into a heated argument when Biggie’s place in Hip Hop is brought up. Some say he’s the greatest, others will argue he’s not, but he’s top 5, me, uh, he was pretty decent.
To put if frankly, he is not the greatest. It’s not hating or bad mouthing the dead, but it is what it is. The question you must ask yourself when talking about Big is this– what defines greatness in Hip Hop? Big had two albums, and I admit they were both great but when did two albums define greatness in a category that has spanned decades? What if Jordan only played two seasons in the NBA would you still consider him the G.O.A.T?
Ready To Die was a classic and Life After Death was great, no classic but it sure cemented him as one of the best to ever do it. The reason I can’t put Biggie as the greatest is due to his subject matter and wordplay, it was limited. Life After Death was just like listening to an extended version of Ready to Die. I get that in the ’90s it was all about drug dealing and violence, but NAS took a different approach, letting folks know that there was another angle that could be taken. Lyrically, NAS is better, hell lyrically Big Pun was better than Big but when the Source dropped that cover of Big and said King of New York, the title just stuck with him. The Source was the Bible of Hip Hop back then and what they said went. They labeled Biggie the King and the everyone just went with the flow.
As for flow, his was timeless, the way he rode the beat and for being overweight you could never tell unless you saw him in person. He was witty, clever and funny but at the same time, he was rather limited in his approach. For instance, take Big Pun, he hit the same subject matter that Big did but his whole delivery and wordplay were light years ahead. It wasn’t the songs like Still Not A Player; Big had One More Chance in his catalog, but it seems that Pun had a different hunger than Big did. Pac was his nemesis, but lyrically there was no contest as Biggie easily outshined Pac.
Then you have Jay, who over the years has dropped classics, and while he will always pay homage to Big, he knows that he was better than him even when he was alive. Big did plenty for Hip Hop with two albums but for someone to place him as the greatest like Hip Hop stood still for the past 20 years is mind-boggling.
What he accomplished in his time here can never be taken away, but neither can what others after he have done either. NAS and Jay are still one of the best lyricists around, hell after Pac died The 7 Day Theory dropped, and that may have been better than Life After Death. To say Biggie is the greatest is saying that Nas, Jay, Eminem, Rakim, KRS-One and others never existed.
Let’s just say Biggie was the greatest in his era.