I'll begin with a statement:
The Notorious B.I.G. and Rick Ross are basically the same. Biggie wasn't really much better.
If you're over the age of 30, you're probably scrambling to unfriend me now. If you know me personally, you're probably thinking “It's just D being a hater.” But hear me out.
“Greatness” is a marketing term. It's used to indicate a product's superiority over its competition. Labeling something “the greatest” immediately turns eyes (or causes them to roll); either way, there's a reaction.
In the consumerist society that we live in, we have to believe that as a product line evolves, it improves. Otherwise, nobody would have an incentive to buy a 2012 Lexus if it isn't an improvement over a 1998 Toyota Camry. We can't respect Lebron James' game if we're not inclined to believe that there's even a chance that he can eventually become the best player of all time. And when it comes to the endless sea of musicians available to us, the casual listener can only really focus on whatever artist is considered to be most worthwhile.
Those of you who are old enough to remember might recall Rakim being labeled “The Greatest Rapper Of All Time”. Followed by Nas. Followed by Biggie and Pac at the same time. Followed by Jay Z. Followed by a self-proclaimed Lil Wayne. Followed by whoever's saying it this week. My timeline might be a little off, but you get the point.
In his prime, Biggie was considered to be the “greatest of all time” by everyone east of Colorado, largely because PuffyDiddy made it a point to tell you that every chance he got, and the hype train that once rode for Nas was ferrying Biggie. For the record, I thought Biggie was very talented. Ready To Die is a classic in my eyes. But I also felt at the time that there were at least 5 or 10 rappers that I would rate above him. I know that it's a personal preference, but he wasn't the best to me. (Who the other 5 or 10 were isn't important, so don't ask.)
I was there when Biggie's 2nd album dropped. Hypnotize was a hit, but the general conse
nsus was that the album (a double album) had way too much filler, and was a step down from the first. What preserved his legacy? You already know. As tragic as his passing was, he became a martyr in his prime, and nobody got to see him endure what Nas has gone through in the last 2 decades of his career. Calling Biggie “The Greatest” at the time was premature, and still giving him the mantle after 1.3 good studio albums is still a bit ambitious. Again, I know that we're dealing with matters of taste, so I won't tell anyone that they're wrong for believing that.
Referring back to my scandalous statement at the beginning of the post, Biggie and Rick Ross have a lot in common:
1. They're both fabricated characters. Christopher Wallace was a fat, goofy kid from Brooklyn who became a sensationalized, gun-toting playboy. William Leonard Roberts II was a probation officer – turned drug kingpin.
2. They both embrace the fat / ugly dude / sex symbol persona.
3. Sales-wise, they stay at the top of their respective genres.
4. Both garnered a Universal appeal that's not really defined by regional boundaries.
5. They're talking about the same stuff. Hustling. Women. Guns. Drugs. And stuff.
From a technical standpoint, you're probably going to reach a stalemate based on your audience. My age group is going to consider it blasphemous to even compare the two. Late teens and early 20s – the target base – are probably going to lean with Rozay and say that Biggie sounds dated. Who's right? Both sides. And neither side.
This is what happens when you get sold on the “greatness” of something instead of coming to enjoy something organically. I was the biggest Run DMC fan as a kid, but I have to accept the possibility that today's hip hop artists have the benefit of 3 decades of improvements and have superseded RUN DMC on some level. I may not like to say it, but Drake is technically an improvement over MC Shan.
So when I say that Biggie is really no better than Rick Ross, I say it with the understanding that Biggie was part of the same hype machine that supports Ross. If Ross died today, he would be almost as much of a martyr. If Frank Ocean died today, he would be a saint. But he still can't sing. (Shots fired.)
This post is too long to proofread.