Tupac: The Greatest?

It’s Tupac’s birthday and of course across the Internet I’m hearing fans touting him as the greatest rapper ever, the best to ever do it, and so on and so forth.  Years after his death, Pac fans still reserve the title of “greatest” to Tupac in terms of lyrical ability, influence, and apparently just being the man in general.  I personally grew up in California at the height of Pac’s popularity and have never been as much of a fan as seemingly everyone else.  There, I said it.  However, that opinion doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge the man’s contributions to hip-hop and respect his ability…just wasn’t my cup of cognac aside from certain songs (see videos included below for two examples). 

While Pac undeniably wrote some classic joints and put out some classic albums, any hip-hop fan knows there’s a huge difference between being able to write songs to present a quality, finished product and freestyling, battling and/or writing a hot 16 bars…ask Canibus.  To me, Tupac didn’t have that “rewind factor”…there wasn’t much he said that blew me away in terms of wordplay.  There will be those who totally disagree with that, but whatever….to each his own.  In an obviously hypothetical freestyle battle situation, do I see Pac going toe to toe with a Black Thought or a Big Pun, for instance, and not getting eaten?  No, I do not.  I see a battle worth watching 100 times over, ultimately resulting in a loss on Pac’s end.  [Kanye Shrug]

A large portion of Tupac’s fanbase also consists of females who practically love the man and would fight you tooth-and-Lee-press-on-nail if you say he isn’t the greatest to ever pick up the mic, yet these are some of the same people who have never heard of Big L and haven’t even listened to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx in its entirety.  I absolutely hate when people say you have to have heard this or that to be a “true” hip-hop fan or a student of the artform, but to go out on a limb and say someone is the greatest ever is to also imply that you have a wide range listening experience, not just what mainstream urban radio has spoon-fed you.

To be fair, some of the same things can be said of Biggie, though to me Big was the full package in terms of lyrical prowess, wordplay, storytelling and even humor.  Both are legendary, both had classic albums, but it’s important that we as fans don’t romanticize the memory of deceased MCs to the point we reserve the superlatives only for those MCs, who we attribute to another time out of stubbornness and/or nostalgia.  There will always be those who mimic or draw from the influence of Pac or Big or others, but hip-hop has always built on itself, so while we can’t forget what has come before, it’s important to remember why the ones we consider great are considered great.  Pac was a star and he built a persona that was both alluring to mainstream America and was something that the Black community could get behind: an N.W.A. who just did not give a f*ck.  But he did give a f*ck, and that internal conflict is what made his work compelling.  Greatest lyricist of all time?  No, but I will hand it to Pac for giving us a body of work that will arguably hold more longevity and influence than anything else ever put out.

“2 of America’s Most Wanted” by 2Pac f/ Snoop Doggy Dogg

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIqVuvjVriM&feature=related

“Ambitionz As A Ridah” by 2Pac

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOaw6w648qM

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Drake: Thank Me Later Is So Far Gone

The buzz of the past couple days has been the early online leak of Drake’s debut album Thank Me Later.  While a few bloggers are taking a stand against the leak, vowing not to post any more downloadable tracks, this one frankly does not give a damn…no, I mean, I don’t give enough of a damn to either post a link for download (though you’ll find some videos available for a listen down bottom…these will most likely get pulled in a day or two, so enjoy while you can) or to care about Aubrey Drake Graham’s record sales as a result of the leak.  If I’m going to “take a stand” on anything, it would be to ensure people go out and buy more underappreciated artist who actually need the support…the kids will support Drake regardless.  I’m not a fan myself, but I know a jam when I hear one, so I won’t front like Drake has never made a good song, though.

This photo is more Aubrey Graham than Drake...jackin' New Kids On The Block's swag...

In the current state of the music industry, how smart is it to sit on an anticipated album like Thank Me Later for as long as he has?  People aren’t buying CDs to begin with, so to have people waiting over a year (the 2009 EP So Far Gone was a slap in the face to real Drake fans who already had a lot of those songs, so it doesn’t really count) is a little arrogant…no wonder people jumped on it the first chance they got.  If we have learned anything from the recession and decline of album sales in recent years, it’s that if people can get it for free, they will, and technology being what it is, it isn’t hard for the majority of people to download your whole album, track by track, free of charge.  Stop disappointing those that are pressed enough to find a store and actually purchase the physical copy by pushing your album back to kingdom come.  Sh*t’s corny, B.

I'm barely one to talk about thick eyebrows, but tell me Drake & Eddie Munster don't share some similarities.

And let’s be honest…it’s not like Thank Me Later was supposed to be Illmatic or Reasonable Doubt.  It’s Drake, for God’s sake, not Dr. Dre.  It’s hip-hop’s Al B. Sure.  And for the record, I don’t hate Drake, but the dude is grossly overrated, which is in a way to his detriment; if people weren’t fawning over the guy as if he was going to completely change the game (aside from basically perfecting the stardom-from-the-mixtape-grind formula), he might just fly under the radar as a decent entertainer…but people love to bandwagon and overexaggerate a person’s skill level.  Drake writes some of the simplest, rappin’-after-school-in-your-friend’s-garage-on-a-karaoke-machine bars ever, which is fine, but when people start crediting you as a formidable MC (the YouTube comments praising Drake from kids who obviously were born after 1992 are hilarious) when you’re really just marginally talented as both a singer and rapper and know how to put together a song, it becomes a problem.  There is a difference between a dope MC and those who just make good songs that suit the audience he does it for. 

I understand wanting to perfect a project, label politics, etc., but Drake’s album pushbacks have become a joke at this point.  “Drake’s album will drop when” was even a trending topic on Twitter for a while, with Twitterers speculating that Drake’s album will basically drop so late it won’t even be relevant.  Look…all anyone should really expect from a Drake album is a handful of disposable jams…for the club, the car, etc…it’s not supposed to be an artistic masterpiece, so why not drop it when it was supposed to have dropped and start working on the next one?   Accumulating a largely estrogen-fueled fan-base and letting them languish in pushback purgatory is just arrogant and asking to have your sh*t leaked.  I guarantee hotel maids all over America have been scouring his hotel rooms for months looking for anything that resembles a CD hoping to get their hands on an advanced copy.  So cry me a river on the whole leak thing, though I wish him the best.  Drake’s done something unique in acquiring the fan base he has over time (and losing a few along the way due to over-saturation and the questionable Young Money association…ugh), so that’s not to be overlooked, but artists tend to mistreat their fans by making them wait too long for a project, especially if you don’t already have an LP under your belt.  You are not Raekwon or Dr. Dre, following up one certified classic with another one.  Get over yourself.  You’re Aubrey Drake Graham…you make music for chicks to get moist to.  Pause.
Here’s a couple songs I found on YouTube from the album to give you a taste of what’s to come…or rather what you can probably get fully packaged down on Canal Street from a dude named ‘Tunde with a daishiki and Air Maxes on.
“Fall For Your Type” by Drake.  This one’s for the ladies.  I felt my chest hairs shriveling up and falling out as soon as I played it.
“Unforgettable” by Drake f/ Young Jeezy…not bad.
“Up All Night” by Drake f/ Nicki Minaj

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