As old as Kangols and dookie braids, Adidas shell toes and fat laces, or even almost as old as hip hop itself is the debate of who is the Greatest Rapper of All Time (hint: it’s not Lil’ Wayne). Check any list, and the longstanding 2Pac vs Biggie argument is amongst the top ten, but which of the two is actually G.O.A.T.?
You can measure both rappers pound for pound, comparing them in categories like lyricism, charisma, flow and lyrical content, but both rappers still end up in a tie. And then you look at legacy and influence. 2Pac comes out swinging.
Tupac was so much more than a rapper. While Biggie rhymed about street stories he never actually lived coming from a “normal” middle class suburban family household, or about fantasies of living Scarface’s dream (which quite possibly ushered in this era of commercial rap most of us are all too sick of) Tupac personified the essence of hip-hop.
Fifteen years after his unsolved murder or assassination—depending on who you ask, Tupac’s face and music are still everywhere. From Canada to India, to the hallowed halls of Harvard and Berkley (where students and professors deconstruct his image, message and symbolism) the legend of Tupac Shakur lives on.
His music transcends race, gender, socioeconomic class, time, religion and even language. His passion, charisma, political philosophies, personality and genuine love for his people are characteristics that many people continue to relate to and gravitate towards. He was and continues to be the voice of the voiceless, of a generation that continues to be silenced by poverty, disenfranchisement, failed education systems, police brutality and racism. His passion is infectious, his anger and frustration palatable and his many contradictions continue to intrigue. His catalogue of music and his personal history represent a progression of thought. And it is these contradictions, that add to the complexity of this street soldier. No topic was taboo to him whether it be rape, incest, misogyny, crime, political corruption or the lasting effects of drugs on the Black community.
Tupac died when he was only 25-years-old. It is surprising that someone so young could have such a lasting effect on people but this impact is a testament to the greatness of his gift. And his place in Hip Hop.
So when considering ALL factors of what surmises an artist to be the Greatest Of All Time, one really has to sit down and contemplate all these things thoroughly. Concerning hip hop debates, all too often we emphatically (more times blindly) defend what or who we are impartial too. But considering all things hip hop and what it is to truly be G.O.A.T., Tupac Shakur is greater than the sum of his parts. He wasn’t just a rapper. He was poet, actor, musician, griot, activist. Most importantly, he was not only the voice of a generation but also the voice of generations to come. Fifteen years after his passing and his legacy lives on.
Author: Septembre Anderson, journalist & fashion blogger
Septembre Anderson is a Toronto-based journalist and blogger. Her work has appeared on FASHIONMagazine.com, FILLERMagazine.com, HuffingtonPost.ca, Slice.ca and in Sway magazine. For all things Fashion, check her fashion blog J’adore (https://jadorefashionblog.wordpress.com/) or on Twitter at @SeptembreA