I’m going to be skewered for this. I already know it. But the best fucking part of it all is that I don’t care. The fact of the matter is someone has to say what a shit ton of people out there are already thinking and have been thinking since the very first GOAT nominations have been unofficially handed out by Hip Hop Heads.
And that is: The Notorious B.I.G. is not a GOAT.
I preface my argument with the fact that I’m one of the biggest Biggie Smalls fans that there ever was. I fucking love him. In fact, the very first rap album I ever bought was a cassette version of the Ready To Die LP from Diana Mall in the south Chicagoland area (Note: First album I bought with my own money, not first record I owned, which was Bigger and Deffer). And trust me, I played that damn tape non-stop. I played that shit until the actual tape part of it thinned out and snapped on me in mid-verse of my improvised performance of “Unbelievable” in my bathroom.
So as this big ass fan of Christopher Wallace himself, I believe I am well within my rights to point out that BIG’s status as one greatest of all-time to ever do this is, quite frankly, undeserved. Feel free to throw your tomatoes and any other assorted fruits and veggies at me now.
This grand proclamation of mine has little to do with his ability and skill level nor does it have anything to do with his fan-base. It’s not a matter of secret hate for Big Poppa either. The reality is it’s all just a matter of Biggie’s discography being small as fuck.
That’s it. That’s what it comes down to.
If we’re keeping it all the way real, BIG has only two studio albums to his credit from when he was alive (Both all-time greats in themselves). Compared to other GOATS in the conversation, Biggie’s discography is extremely small and simply doesn’t compete with the amount of work that’s been put out by Tupac or Rakim or Jay-Z or Nas or any other favorite you’d like to toss in the ring. And if we’re being fair, we wouldn’t dare bestow the same kind of respect to a contemporary artist with the same amount of work of also an exceptional skill level.
Imagine if people were calling Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole GOATs. Heads would lose their damn mind.
The fact of the matter is that Biggie has a few things going for him that raise his visibility and therefore, raises his status in the eyes of many Hip Hop heads. And since we’re human, we can easily be affected by them. But we have to be aware of them in order to not fall for their trancing effect on our common damn sense.
For one, the nigga is dead. And I hate to say it like that because I don’t mean any kind of disrespect, but it’s true. Biggie’s life was tragically cut short thus leaving us only to ponder and appreciate the works he did create even more. Face it, there’s something about dead celebs that creates a special cult of personality – and that cult of personality definitely applies to Biggie, just as it applies to Aaliyah, Eazy-E, Tupac, and many others – which brings me to my next point.
Biggie will be forever linked with Tupac not only because of their untimely deaths happening so close to each other or perhaps even because of one another, but also because of their well-publicized beef that boiled over into a media-created “East Coast vs West Coast” rivalry that had common fans choosing sides – usually based on geographic location. It’s a major point of Hip Hop history and this urban legend also contributes to the cult of personality of not just BIG, but Tupac as well. We simply have to be privy to how it affects our fondness for either dead homie.
And what may be the most important point, Biggie is from the mythic Golden Age of Hip Hop that nobody wants to seem to let die. His death marked the end of “Boom Bap” rap.
I was a mere 18 years old back then. And now, I’m pushing 40 years old with memories of a more pure era in Hip Hop. The fact of the matter is most heads my age don’t appreciate the new kind of shit that they are hearing on the radio or what’s blaring from cars on every MLK Drive in every hood across the country. Many people of my era simply long for a time when Hip Hop was great – and Biggie represents that time – so I get it.
And though as a fan and participant of the “Boom Bap” era, I also appreciate the growth of our culture. While I can’t say that I love every new rapper that’s out now, I can say that I appreciate their contribution to what keeps Hip Hop culture alive. “Boom Bap” can’t and isn’t supposed to last forever. Though I didn’t expect it to be replaced by MFers that mumble over tracks that sound more like drunken R&B than Hip Hop joints.
And as much as we want our memories to last forever and be great, we have to think clearly and fairly. Biggie was great at that time. And in every single way, his music is timeless too. But in almost every other craft, a body of work as small as BIG’s would NEVER be considered for “Greatest of All-Time” no matter how fond the fans are of that person’s limited performance. In fact, we’ve had people with careers that were cut short and therefore, were robbed of a chance to be GOATs in their own right.
Bo Jackson suffered an injury that effectively destroyed his two-sport career. Grant Hill also fell victim to the injury bug – many speculate that he would have been Lebron before Lebron. The list goes on for politicians, singers, writers, artists, etc. The fact of the matter is you can’t judge someone for what you think their career would have become – and for some reason, that’s exactly how people measure Biggie.
It should go without saying, I love BIG. Forever. He will always get play in my stereo. But by considering him a GOAT based on two albums and a Hip Hop rivalry, I’m diminishing the works of other greats that gave a lot more to the culture. It sucks like a well-paid prostitute, but for that reason, we should stop bringing up Biggie in GOAT conversations.