(1) Eminem vs. (1) Notorious B.I.G.
Alas, the Final Four is here! We’ve been waiting and watching eagerly as the competition heats up and BLADOW!! We have Biggie vs. Eminem, a rap Clash of the Titans. Both are iconic and legendary in their achievements, with superhuman powers to boot. For there to be a victor between these supreme emcees we are going to have to get at the heart of these men. Eminem’s personal shock and awe style of rap has taken a nation and a globe by the earlobe and never let go. Hip-hop heads to angst ridden teens are devoted to the man for his unflinching portrayals of his personal life and realistic depictions of places many know but few can voice so well. His hunger, work ethic, and undeniable skills are a constant inspiration and standard for up and coming storytellers. His fan base is continuing to expand as does his rap catalogue and damn the man is on another level. And, oh yeah, his Dr. Dre affiliation and making rap the hottest commodity since sliced bread again; we’ll get more into that later.
Biggie Smalls came straight out of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant and shot up the charts. His astronomical impact one could only believe was aligned in the stars. He went from hustler to savior to martyr, with certified hit after hit.
“Biggie Biggie baby baby gimme one more chance, Biggie Biggie one more chance”
His one-of-a-kind voice and smooth yet precise flow got an unrelenting hold on us all. Then he was gone almost as quick as he had appeared on the scene and many were left wondering, ‘what just happened’? The question we must now ask is who here has had the most Impact?
Eminem’s indelible mark on rap is as definitive as his beginnings were humble. Who would have thought that a scrawny dude from Detroit would blow up to put the game back on notice? The idea of a white rapper may not sound far-fetched now, but before Eminem became a fixture on popular radio and media outlets, it wasn’t much of a reality. Who would have thought that a white rapper would be regarded as one of the sickest emcees in the game?
His first album, ‘Infinite’, aside, it is truly remarkable what he has been able to achieve commercially with each successive album. The world was introduced to his alter ego Slim Shady on his major debut The Slim Shady LP. This character and material would become the foundation for what has become some of the most controversial and influential music of our time. It was quick, crude, graphic, horrific and sometimes made you question your morals, his and his marbles. His first album gave us the introduction ‘My Name Is…’ and also the hunger driven ‘If I Had’. Then he hit us with the moral bangers ”97 Bonnie & Clyde’ and ‘Guilty Conscience’ (ft. Dr. Dre). Dope songs hell yeah, but it was also readily apparent that there was depth to his dark humor. Rapping about domestic issues, violence, racism, classism, inferiority, rage, and even dependency issues, he brought a fresh, honest attitude that was unabashed and unafraid to comment on anything (you can quote ‘Renegade’ for yourself). His vivid detail and his keen, crass, often self-deprecating portrayals of his own human nature were different and captivating for a genre on its way to becoming mired in cliché.
Em’s teaming with Dr. Dre definitely ranks among the greatest pairings in hip-hop’s history. Slim received major backing and flawless production from one of the most formative and polarizing figures in rap, while Dre would see his career rejuvenated, imbued with a new sense of creativity. The game was changing and Eminem took the lane using his personal foibles and mistakes to fuel his penchant for penning greatness. The Marshall Mathers LP is a hip-hop classic, certified diamond and the top-selling hip-hop album of all time. And while it’s a general consensus that his later work is not as memorable, even bothersome in its repeated themes, his first three albums and even his fourth show his growth as an artist. His complex and dynamic flow aside, Eminem’s greatest legacy may perhaps be that he gave those inside hip-hop, hip-hop’s fans and those outside the artform something that they simply didn’t know what to do with, an underrated quality that lives at the heart of hip-hop itself. Furthermore, to impart a legacy of despicable sixteens, candid truth and an exercise in triumphs and failures with remarkable heights and achievements; few can claim a greater Impact than that.
Some people called him Biggie, some called him Big Poppa and some just called him Big. It wasn’t just Notorious’ massive stature, though, that garnered him his acclaim. Biggie was one of the livest to ever do it. The mere fact his catalogue is so small and yet filled with many of hip-hop’s greatest quotables is ridiculous. Biggie resurrected East Coast rap and made it a viable market and respected once again. Thanks to the suave ear of Puff Daddy, The Notorious B.I.G. and he went on to make Bad Boy Records the supreme team in the 90’s and king of the hip hop and R&B charts, even overtaking the almighty DeathRow Records in popularity, who were dominating due to Pac’s talent and star power and Dre’s progressive sounds.
B.I.G.’s first album Ready to Die is a hip-hop classic by all standards with his slick gangster flow, suave mastery of storytelling and imagery and his undeniable presence on the track. Energy is an intangible that you have to quantify when speaking about someone like Notorious for he had an electrifying quality to his spirit that oozed forth from each track. We were all hip and hooked on his ‘confident cool’ the minute we heard ‘Juicy’. Then he dropped ‘Big Poppa’ and ‘One More Chance’ all off the same album. Hip-hop was back and Biggie, the thug gentleman, had everyone hypnotized. In his short span he also did a great deal to help others, launching the careers of the Junior M.A.F.I.A. clique, providing classic features for his labelmates on Bad Boy, and assisting other greats on phenomenal collaborations (Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, Jay-Z). Blessed with tremendous talent, charisma, and unmistakable charm, there should have been nothing but excellence on the horizon for this true warrior of hip-hop. However, we all know this gifted soul was taken way too soon due to what we can only deem senseless violence. Unfortunately Biggie became mired in what I can only call the ‘Best and Worst’ of rap. At his highest, Biggie was a shining example of what one could dream and attain utilizing your own gifts to uplift yourself and your community through this wonderful unifier called music. Lyrics, understanding, intellect, honesty, and humor came from this brilliant mind. Yet all of these traits were greatly diminished due to severe misunderstandings, ego, and the harsh reality that became the intense East Coast West Coast rivalry. Biggie’s diamond certified posthumous release, Life After Death, only cemented his spot in his legions of fans’ hearts as hip-hop’s Hero. To quote The Lox, “We’ll always love Big Poppa” and that is one of Biggie’s greatest legacies. He was beloved by hip-hop in a way that no one else was.
In the end, it is Eminem’s explosive dominance, his unique mix of gritty realism and violent theatricality and his longevity that give him a decisive victory in our poll with 79% of the vote, advancing him to the Championship.