Black Public Scholars

February 8, 2011

Worshipping Biggie and Pac: Why We Need to Let That Go

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Staff @ 8:43 pm

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University 

As the son of a preacher, I know how to avoid sacrilegious statements when I see them. I don’t use God’s name in vain, and I don’t make nasty jokes about Jesus. But if hip-hop had a bible, it would start with the commandment that "Thou shalt not compare any living rapper to the great Biggie and Pac."

If you even briefly mention that any artist in America comes close to "the great ones," you are quickly slapped with a "shut yo mouth" by hip-hop heads who tell you that you’re out of your damn mind. There is no living artist, at least not under the age of 30, who dares compare himself to Biggie and Pac, who’ve effectively become the God and Jesus of the hip-hop world.

Let’s be clear: these artists were legendary in their talent level and deserve massive amounts of respect. But the idea that they are better than every hip-hop artist since is likely due to our stunning capacity to practically worship dead artists rather than a truly fair comparison of musical impact. Since Tupac Shakur died, he has been transformed into a visionary and a saint, when the truth is that he could be just as trifling as Lil Wayne, TI and the other artists who are living today. I was a huge fan of both Biggie and Pac when they were alive. I listened to Pac every morning before heading to campus, and I bumped Biggie when I rolled in my hooptie. They were like Burger King and McDonalds or Coke and Pepsi: two dominant versions of virtually the same product (gangsta rap). I never chose one over the other, because both of them were great.

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