Some rappers happen to be thoughtful, intelligent people. Every Monday that isn't a national holiday Rocks Off will have some of them hear discussing issues relevant to their culture.
This Week's Panel: Trae, Mr. Lee, V-Zilla, Fat Tony, Candi Redd, Yung Redd, Kyle Hubbard
Not Invited: Blender
This Week's Prompt: In case you didn't know, today is the 14th anniversary of Tupac Shakur's death. Now, almost everybody seems to lump Tupac into the Greatest Rapper Ever discussion, and he's also generally regarded as one of rap's all time Top 5 MCs. But is that really the case?
Really, think about it. Jay-Z and Biggie absolutely have to be included there, which is two spots taken right there. What about Eminem? Big Daddy Kane? Nas? Rakim? Mike Jones? (Kidding.)
It seems like maybe Tupac gets thrown in there because of his sensationalized death or his personality's insane dichotomy/overpowering charm. Or is he genuinely a Top Fiver? If so, where does he rank? If not, who gets the nod?
Trae: Yeah, he's at the top, 'cause he showed true emotions and he was genuine with what he expressed. He could get on any level. And 'cause 99 percent of these other rappers ain't worried about life; they're worried about image.
Mr. Lee: He's Top Five.
V-Zilla: Honestly, I think Pac achieved an incredible amount of fame and infamy, as well as was one the most publicized artist in the history of music. However, as passionate and straight on he was with his delivery, he definitely isn't Top 5 by no stretch.
To this day, he made music for the streets and people related to him lovingly, but with the amount of love he received, his album content was extremely repetitive. For every hit single he had, he had 4-5 songs that just didn't hit home in my ears. And not to mention his beef with [Biggie] was unfounded; I think jealousy got the best of him and his ego ultimately did him in.
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It's hard to swallow the sentiments of man who would scream "keep ya head up" in one verse and switch to "you claimed to be playa but I fucked your wife" in the next. Glorified? Talented? Cursed? Indeed. Top Five? Not over Nas, Jay, Em, Big Daddy Kane or Kool G Rap.
Fat Tony: Tupac is one of the most inspiring, controversial, poetic, creative, multi-dimensional, tragic artists of the 20th century. He could play the role of the romantic, the thug, the politically charged left-wing socially conscious Black male, the party animal, the hero, the villain and more in his music, writing and films, and make it all 100 percent convincing.
He's revered as a martyr by millions and is by far the most respected hip-hop artist to ever live worldwide, in my opinion. I'd say to some he had the same positive effects through his work that other 20th-century Black leaders have had.
His impact upon rap, popular music, and pop culture is too great to be denied, unless you've got a bias you just can't let go. It's unfortunate that he is somewhat overpraised by many, especially those who try to re-enact his likeness in their own attitudes, personalities and even music.
I think that has been the most detrimental to his legacy and what brings forth people's negative opinion about Tupac Shakur. He was the first musician I saw live and die when I was young, and that feeling of seeing the news scroll along the bottom of MTV will always remain with me.
I saw an individual on Facebook recently proclaim that "2Pac could NOT rap!" I was against it, but my respect and admiration of Tupac's music won't allow me to acknowledge such a petty arrogant opinion of one of my favorite artists of all time. Listen to the album Me Against The World and tell me I'm wrong. I dare you.
And in case anyone cares, my Top FIve rappers of all time (at the moment) are Jay-Z, Biggie Smalls, Tupac Pimp C and E-40.
Candi Redd: Tupac was the best. People seem to have lost sight that hip-hop is a platform for the young generation to have their voice heard. As far as I'm concerned, he was the only one talking about something worth hearing. Nobody has picked up where he left off in the music industry.
Ain't nobody in the industry putting they life on the line to expose what's really going on behind closed doors, nobody in the music industry is telling the truth about our government. Hell, most people in the industry ain't telling the truth about they damn self, let alone what's going on in our society.
People can say what they want about him not using fancy metaphors - which I don't particularly care for - but at the end of the day, his music had substance and it was timeless. He has records that we can listen to in 2010 and still feel like it was recorded yesterday.
He was one of the very few rappers who could write a song and make you teary-eyed ("Dear Mama"). People are taking old-ass Tupac verses and putting them on their album (Bun B and more) and it sounds like Pac was right there in the studio with him them in 2010. Who the hell else died in 1996 that is still dropping music? Right!
Which means, not only was he the best, he worked harder than all these niggas also. Then nowadays when you say, "Well, X is better than Y." People will reply, "Yeah, but Y sold more records than X." Well, let's see. If you want to judge it on that scale also, when Pac was living he sold way more records than Jay Z and Biggie.
This is just my opinion. Although Jay Z, Biggie, Wayne, Eminem, Big Daddy Kane, etc were all great artists, I don't even think you can even compare any of them to Tupac. When you bring up these other rappers name to his, it just makes me think... Jay Z who? Wayne Who [laughs]? Get real.
Yung Redd: Tupac is the greatest based on these things: The art of storytelling, mass appeal, huge fan base, consistency, quality; these are the makings of a great artist.
Kyle Hubbard: When Tupac was at the peak of his career I was a little kid, too young to be aware of the impact that he was having on the world of music. Tupac was gunned down ten years before I graduated high school, so for me to say he had a huge impact on me directly would be a lie, and everyone knows it.
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With that said, I do not think Pac is Top Five. I think he was an amazing artist, but not Top Five. This is not at all an attempt to discredit what he did, and if we were having a discussion about the most important figures in rap history, he would surely be Top Five, but from a strictly musical standpoint, no.
I think he is often put in the Top Five because of the emotional connection so many people have to him, a connection that was intensified ten times over with his death. This is just my two cents, and I still love Pac. The real tragedy was the fact we didn't get to see him do all he could have with his music.
I think this is a feeling shared by the majority of heads in my age group. Houston's own adopted child Drake said it best: "I never cried when Pac died, but I probably will when Hov does." Yeah, that about sums it up. My Top Five is Jay-Z, Eminem, Lupe Fiasco, Andre 3000 and Nas.