Two legends of vintage hip-hop, two of the biggest influences on today’s rap culture and two tragic – if kind of predictable – early deaths: it’s the ultimate East vs West coast rivalry. It’s Tupac vs The Notorious B.I.G.
The Chart Hits
Tupac: In his relatively short career, Tupac racked up an insane number of smash hits. California Love spent 8 weeks at No.1 and Dear Mama and Keep Ya Head Up weren’t far behind. Then there were the diss tracks and the later, tragically ironic anti-violence songs, including the posthumous Eminem & Elton John masterpiece that is Ghetto Gospel.
Biggie: Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems is a hip-hop anthem, and One More Chance / Stay With Me deserves it’s place on every rap caviar playlist. So what if ‘Stop the Gunfight’ featuring 2Pac seems a little… misplaced?
The Bank Account Hits
Tupac: He may have rhymed about the streets but Tupac’s lifestyle was anything but. His included a sprawling LA mansion, a diamond-encrusted pendant and a collection of motors crowned by a 1995 Rolls-Royce Corniche. Picture him rollin’.
Biggie: “Cristal forever”, “Versace wear, Moschino on my bitches”, “you seen the Jesus, dipped in H-classes”, Biggie wasn’t exactly quiet about his spending habits. You’ll even have seen his own NY mansion in the video for ‘Juicy’. Nothing though came close to the utter flamboyant extravagance of his notorious 18 carat gold crown.
The Street Hits
Tupac: The hit rather than the hitter. First was back in 1994 when Tupac was shot five times outside his studio. He suspected his at the time friend Biggie. His luck ran out the second time when he was shot dead in Vegas in 1996.
Biggie: He was (apparently) more into ordering hits than being hit as he’s generally credited with the two attempts on Tupac’s life. He didn’t fare so well himself when he was shot in a drive-by just months after his rival.
Tupac: Apparently Rolexes were the only watch in the rap game in the 90s, and Tupac had a lot to do with it. You can clearly see his full-gold Presidential on the cover of All Eyez on Me; tellingly though, the $30,000 watch was left on him when he was apparently – and fatally – robbed.
Biggie: A guy that wore a crown for most of the 90s was never going to err towards the subtle. It’s no surprise he opted for a crown on his wrist too. His Datejust, tricked out with a diamond-set bezel, indexes is a legendary hip-hop timepiece. Fun fact though: Tupac bought Biggie his first Rolex.
Tupac: While he was still alive, Tupac laid the foundation for what West Coast rap is today and through his death he shone a spotlight on gang violence.
Biggie: What Tupac did for the West Coast, Biggie did for the East. In fact, we have the Notorious B.I.G. to thank in big part for the guns, bitches and bling of modern, gangster-slanted hip-hop. For better or worse.
Tupac’s a legend, a hip-hop icon that still influences today’s artists. But then so too is Biggie. He died tragically young; again, the same with Biggie. But when it comes to extravagance, to sheer diamond-encrusted, gold-plated audacity, nobody can touch the Notorious B.I.G. All hail the king.