A recent email I received:
"You have to explain your belief that Tupac was better than Biggie just so everyone in their right mind can write a counter smashing every one of your arguments ... " -- Michael J.
Well I'll bite. First, it's not a knock on Biggie -- I've recently come to the conclusion that "Ready to Die" is quite simply the most remarkable rap album ever made. Biggie's probably the greatest rap lyricist to ever live, but he's still not the greatest rapper. The same way there may have been a better technical fighter than Muhammad Ali (then again, maybe not -- I'm no Bert Sugar when it comes to boxing), but there will never be a greater boxer.
Tupac was larger than life. He was the first rapper to bring a widespread social awareness to the scene, and his unmatched charisma illuminated everything he did. He could write the most viciously scathing track of all-time ("Hit 'em Up" -- this is closed from debate), and just as easily put out a tender and highly personal ode to his mother ("Dear Mama"). He was a self-proclaimed thug who immersed himself in poetry. I challenge anyone to find someone of more intriguing dichotomy.
Just like Ali's unique charisma and timely presence will forever be tied to his performances in the ring, Tupac's similar traits will forever be tied to his music; there's no avoiding that. So even if Biggie had a distinct flow that will never be matched, Tupac took it so far beyond the lyrics and the beats (which he nailed in his own right), to a point that there really is no comparing the two. The best argument I can make for this is actually myself -- a middle-class white kid who knows essentially nothing of what Tupac stood for, at least on its face. But he's one of my favorite musical artists ever, and not because I thought listening to him was edgy and would make me seem cool, but because his music genuinely resonated with me. Even if I didn't know a thing about seeing the oppression of poverty firsthand or the justifications for drug dealing, I could identify with him on a larger level -- basically, his unabashed collision course through life. I always admired his "jump on board if you're with me and who cares if you aren't" mentality, maybe because I wished that I was more like that myself. For all his faults, he spent twenty-five years (my exact age) living life with the kind of thirst that most of us can only dream of.
Anyways, if you had zero interest in this rant and could care less about Tupac, rap, or even music in general, blame Michael J. for shamelessly provoking me.
nytimes.com (Greg M. from Mamaroneck, NY; registration required) -- Cool write-up on Hubba's (from Simmons' food pantheon). Unfortunately, I now have a full-fledged inferiority complex about my late night escapades to Waffle House.
fuzzandzapper.com -- Heartbreaking tale on the downfall of Lil' Penny. As reader David W. writes, "the irony is that Isiah Thomas was about to use the mid-level exception on him." Also, how can there be no mention of "Thirst," Sprite's backstabbing rip-off of Lil' Penny? Watching Thirst on primetime television is like seeing Tito suddenly assume "King of Pop" status now that Michael's out of the way.