Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of people claiming to be better than Tupac. Actually, I think it’s safer to say that we’ve had an increase in the coverage of these people. In truth, Pac’s name has been used so often that it’s not a surprise that the new generation of rappers have used it too. These new rappers are only following the lead of their idols. Artists like 50, Jeezy, and ‘Ye have all made the claim that they are either better or on the same level as Pac was, and they each have their reasons for it. Should we really be surprised that the likes of Troy Ave, Kodak, or XXX have thrown their hats in the ring?
For the OGs, the claim that they’re as good as (or better than) Pac is a little cringe-worthy but somewhat acceptable because of their track records. For the young-bloods, we don’t seem to be as accepting for the very same reason. So it seems like these youngins are just reaching, right? Is that a bad thing? Of course there’s the fact that Pac’s career was cut short. His influence was so powerful that we can only speculate as to what his future would’ve been had he been allowed to live as long as Nas or Snoop (for instance).
So the OGs seem to be validating their impact by comparing themselves to Pac and the youngins are trying to validate their level of skill and potential. As horrible as it feels to say, I prefer the younger generation’s comparisons over the OGs claims. In my view, comparing yourself to a 25-year-old at the age of 30/40 something is not kosher. Comparing yourself to a legend while you’re in your 20’s (or even teens) is like setting a bar. You’re telling people that you are good enough to be mentioned in the same breath as an immortal and anything you do afterward will be proof of that. I find that to be a little nobler regardless of the manner in which they go about it.
In either case, they are chasing ghosts. Trying to compare yourself with the dead is a recipe for failure. No matter how we look at it, our view of Pac is more idealistic than it is realistic. The 23rd of September turned him into an idea that has permeated the foundations of this young genre we all know and love. One cannot claim that Einstein or Hawking were greater thinkers than Newton (or even Socrates for that matter). The foundation of a house will be nothing like the roof but the house is almost useless without either. In other words, the climate in which your predecessors lived and the one you live in now is entirely different so no one can compare a roof tile to what’s beneath a floor tile.
So can anybody be better than Tupac or even Biggie? In my opinion, that’s impossible. Yeah, we can say one may have been better lyrically or the other was a better revolutionary but in all honesty, the times were completely different. A better comparison could be between Biggie and Pac but that is all down to preference. The only person you can truly compare Pac to is Pac himself. The same goes for us as the new generation of MCs. The only person I can compare myself to is my past self. Am I better than I was yesterday? If I am then how am I, and how can I keep, improving. If not then how was I, and how can I be, better. These are the questions I always try to ask myself. Influence and impact are all dependent on how the environment adapts to my presence and that cannot be controlled.
That being said, I still think that there is nothing wrong with challenging yourself to be better with the blueprints (no pun intended) that have come before us. ‘Ye once said, “Reach for the stars so if you fall you’ll land on a cloud”. Only by attempting the impossible will we achieve feats that the world had never thought plausible.
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