Sunday, 31 March 2013

2Pac Vs. The Notorious B.I.G.: Which Legend Takes the Top Spot?

Hello everyone. Big topic today! I remember when I wrote about Frank Ocean and The Weeknd, I had a tough time figuring out who was better because of the close competition. I stated it was almost as hard as trying to make a decision on who is the better rapper between the revolutionary Tupac "2Pac" Shakur and the masterful storyteller Christopher "The Notorious B.I.G." Wallace. With the latest blog post by the lovely The Enigmas Asian (excellent blog filled with diverse topics, check it out here) about which rapper is better, I started formulating my own opinions and perspectives about the two rappers. First of all, there's no denying that both 2Pac and Biggie have both revolutionized Hip-Hop and the way its perceived globally. Throughout their careers, they have produced classic after classic and with their conscious lyrics have produced vivid images of topics that face the world. Both have collaborated with legends such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and P. Diddy (or whatever name he goes by) and were also successful with taking Hip-Hop and crossing it over to the commercial side. Hypnotize and California Love dominated the radio and still gain replay value to this day. Both have inspired basically every rapper to have ever emerged in the game after them such as Eminem, 50 Cent, Kanye West, and more recently Kendrick Lamar, Logic, Joey Basa$$ and J. Cole. Overtime, comparisons have been made and a spot for the best of all time between the two has been debated for years after their unfortunate deaths (R.I.P.). So which rapper is better? Who, to me personally, has more appeal and diversity to be known as the best? I will go on record to say that I consider these two rappers as the best, and the better rapper to me beats the other by a hair. I do have to confess that this wasn't hard for me because I always favored one over the other, and the rapper I favor is Tupac Shakur. 

First of all, I don't believe that this is a fair comparison between the two. Tupac recorded five albums throughout his lifetime while Biggie only recorded two. The significance of this is that Tupac released a good amount of work in his lifetime to see his progression as an artist. Tupac dropped the incredible 2Pacalypse Now in 1991 and has continued to improve until The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theoryin 1996. You can see how Tupac changed over the years, how his sound was renewed from Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. to Me Against the World and how his lyrics have changed as well. With Biggie on the other hand, we - unfortunately - never had the opportunity to see how his career would've played out after his first two albums. I mean look at what happened to Eminem after The Eminem Show. We don't know if Biggie would've fell off or dumbed down and we never saw much change (remember this is all my opinion - this is subject to debate whether he progressed). But I'm gonna forget about that and look at what I have and not what I could've had. 

I will go on record and say Biggie had the better debut album with Ready to Die. Ready to Die was raw and innovative. It placed such a big impact on Hip-Hop and quickly gained popularity. Tupac's 2Pacalypse Now had to wait a while to receive the recognition it deserves. But just because Biggie's debut was better doesn't mean anything. To me, Life After Death is a bit overrated (here comes the hate). Maybe overrated isn't the right word. I believe Life After Death took away much of what made Ready to Die so special, which was Biggie's raw lyrics. I also didn't hear Biggie rapping with the same energy. If you listen to Ready to Die, Biggie's monstrous flow and volume on songs like Juicy and Me & My Bitch was spectacular. On Life After Death, Biggie's flow was more laid back like on Big Poppa, which was hot but not as impressive to me. I wasn't too into Hypnotize and Mo Money Mo Problems. I was more into Notorious Thugz (Biggie's flow on that was one of the best flows I heard), Sky's The Limit, and I Got a Story to Tell. With Tupac on the other hand, he improved more and more on each album. 

Tupac Shakur's Me Against the World is to me the best rap album ever made (tied with Nas's Illmatic). He really showed his passion for supporting conscious topics in the world and therefore dropped some of Hip-Hop's best songs: Me Against the World, Fuck the World, Old School and the heart warming universally acclaimed Dear Mama (even though I prefer Old School by far but that's not the point). This albums showcased the realness in Tupac's lyrics and desperation to get the message out.When Tupac crossed over to All Eyez on Me, he didn't have to sacrifice his skills as an emcee. His flow actually improved, he lyrics remained as complex and incredible as always and he was able to put songs that can appeal to anyone such as California Love, I Ain't Mad at Cha and Heaven Ain't Hard to Find. For these factors, Tupac always came more compassionate to me. Not everyone loves a compassionate rapper as some people love aggressive lyrics, but that's not me. When I want to listen to something, I want to take away something from it. I want to feel the power and the impact of the lyrics presented and vibe to the production. This is were Tupac surpasses Biggie in my opinion; to me Tupac was always the more compassionate guy I can relate to.

Let's talk about the two rappers' technical aspects for a minute. Biggie has hands down the better flow, no denying that. Biggie probably has the best flow ever produced by a rapper which was so easy for him to execute he made it look easy with his signature "uh" (Better than Rick Ross' by far :P) Storytelling wise, I think they are at an equal position. Both of them can tell a story with their lyrics so perfectly you find yourself visualizing the events as they are spoken by the rappers. I Got A Story to Tell and Me & My Bitch come to mind from Biggie and Brenda's Got A Baby and Me and My Girlfriend from Tupac. (Although I gotta say Nas has huge respect from me for telling some of the best stories - Rewind, One Love, Memory Lane, I Gave You Power etc.) Sure Biggie told more stories, but Tupac was the more conscious rapper and that for me beats everything. Also, for me, Tupac had the better produced tracks and more memorable songs. Dear Mama is respected by not only every Hip-Hop head but by all music critics. He is the only rapper, besides Grandmaster Flash and Public Enemy, to be inducted into the National Recording Registry. While Biggie is universally known for his voice, I think Tupac's voice fits perfectly with the content of his songs and it matches his energy incredibly. Tupac's flow is usually overshadowed by Biggie's, but I say Tupac gives Biggie a run for his money on songs like Thugz Mansion and Old School. Yeah Biggie was probably better at freestyling, but that doesn't matter much to me. I'm not gonna go into the whole beef and each rapper's legendary diss tracks Who Shot Ya and Hit Em Up because one wasn't even eligibly a diss track (coughs-bullshit Biggie-coughs) and one was just a sign of anger and frustration (not cool Pac, not cool) while both were hot and furious! To me, Me Against the World was better then Ready to Die and All Eyez on Me was better than Life After Death.

Now just because I favor Tupac over Biggie does not mean that Biggie isn't a great rapper at all. Biggie to me is second best right after Tupac, and for the reasons I stated in this blog entry. I have eternal respect for both of them for not only putting out classics that have made my love for Hip-Hop greater but both have inspired hundreds of other rappers that put the game where it is right now. If it weren't for them, we wouldn't have the many talented rappers we have now. Even if a rapper doesn't place one of them as an influence, they owe them something for shaping Hip-Hop into a respectable art form. They have produced some of my favorite songs and albums and I can listen to them any time, any place! Rest in Peace to both rappers (yes, I don't believe Tupac is still alive somewhere in Cuba or whatever conspiracy theories are out there) and again, thanks for reading!

10 of Tupac's Best Tracks: Old School, Dear Mama, Thugz Mansion, I Ain't Mad At Cha, Trapped, Fuck The World, Keep Your Head Up, 2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted, California Love and Brenda's Got A Baby.

10 of Biggie's Best Tracks: Juicy, Big Poppa, Me & My Bitch, Machine Gun Funk, Ready to Die, Ten Crack Commandments, Notorious Thugs, I Got A Story to Tell, My Downfall and You're Nobody (Til Someone Kills You).

What do you guys think? Is Tupac or Biggie the better rapper and why? Leave a comment below and tell me what you think!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Childish Gambino's "Camp": A Wonderful Journey

Originally, I was going to post a blog about Lil B regarding his music and appeal and my point of view on that, but that has to wait for the next time because last Monday, I was exposed to something very special that had me occupied throughout the whole week. I was going through the Dead End Hip Hop Youtube channel (which is a dope channel for Hip-Hop conversations, check it out here) and I saw their review of Childish Gambino's 2011 album Camp and they gave it really positive reviews and I wondered how I never heard of this album. I looked up Childish Gambino online and I found out its the name actor/comedian Donald Glover uses as a music artists. Donald Glover is mostly know for portraying Troy in the show Community; one of my favorite shows and one of my favorite characters on the show (along side Abed)! I was very surprised to see that he actually raps as well, having released many mixtapes. That put me in an unsure position; Is he just like the other actors who try to rap but fail miserably OR is he a force to be reckoned with and uses his comedic stance to his advantage? So I decided to take a chance, got the album and listened to it and I'm so glad I did.

I have listened to a lot of Hip-Hop in  my life, with music ranging from the 80s Golden Era, the 90s that produced some of the greatest of all time, and the 2000s that gave Hip-Hop the commercial strength it has now. However, rarely have I ever felt an emotional connection to the artists as much as I did with Camp, considering the fact that its only two years old! Childish Gambino's lyrics are so moving, and his delivery is very believable because he doesn't portray himself as a hard, agressive, and "gangster" character; when you listen to Childish Gambino, you get Childish Gambino. A nerdy, young and versatile person. He admits to being who he is, and wants you to accept that. Gambino is also not afraid to sing on his songs, and in doing so leaves a powerful effect. Many have compared him to Drake for that, but Drake and Childish Gambino are very different. If you can't connect with that and are looking for something materialistic, Gambino isn't your dude. But if you want something substantial and real, I highly recommend you check him out.

So back to the album! The album opens up with Outside, possibly the strongest intro to an album in years. There is a chorus humming in the background and the instrumentation clashing together is beautifully done. Then Gambino just goes off! He starts rapping from the perspective of his younger self, how his father lost his job and his mom had to take double shifts, how his youth played out with people having high expectations for him. And the chorus... Oh my God! Imma go on record and say this album has some of the best choruses an album can have. The chorus goes "There's a world we can visit if we can go outside" over and over as the instrumentation gets stronger and stronger throughout. Its a powerful introduction to a stellar album.  Then, you have Fire Fly, a song that chronicles his success. It creates an incredible juxtaposition effect from the previous song where he rapped about the hardships in his life, while in this one he raps about the success he's achieved. It has an incredible hook (that goes: When they see me on the streets, all they wanna do is take pics and I'm like OKAAY - Hilarious) that I love and some background vocals. So once you got all the background information from the first two incredible songs and you feel ready for the rest of the album, you get Bonfire, a song that will leave you in aww.

On Bonfire, Gambino rhymes his ass off! Its one of those songs with continuous braggadocios Hip-Hop but executed perfectly. He has some of the best punchlines I've heard in a while, such as "You can fuckin' kiss my ass: Human Centipede.", "Black and white music, ni**a that's a mixtape!" and "Made the beat then murdered it: Casey Anthony". Gambino goes HAM on this track and shows his "don't fuck with me" side. Like they said on Dead End Hip Hop (DEHH), Gambino admits he's a nerd, but he knows he can rap better than you! Now I don't wanna bore you with details with the rest of the songs and make this feel like an album review, but I do want to go through them briefly. The beautiful sounding All the Shine comes next expressing his love-hate relationship with fame but appreciates how his music has helped make insecure kids feel better about themselves. The chorus is absolutely breathtaking, giving such an inspiring and positive vibe showing how the buzz surrounding Hip-Hop doesn't drown him; that he can shine all by himself. It is followed by the song Letter Home, stripped down from the instrumental of All the Shine including just the violins. Its a very touching song, resembling Marvins Room by Drake, but being a hundred times better and more effective, while being three times shorter. He sings about an ex he's still in love with and says how he writes her letters, as his mom always recommended he do to girls he loves. Its very touching and emotional and a great interlude to the album. It makes you appreciate his honesty and is very great to listen to him sing and admit his love, saying how alcohol and other substances don't effect his feelings. 

From the moving Hearbeat to the nostalgic Kids, Childish Gambino continues to hold you tight with great lyrics, beautifully sung hooks (especially L.E.S.), and his unique character. But to keep from the mushy stuff overflowing (which I don't mind but I know a lot of people do), he comes back with a banger called You See Me. This song, like Bonfire, is a lyrical assault! Gambino has excellent worldplay and on his third verse, he goes... the fuck... off... spitting faster and faster. And the beat on this thing is monstrous! Sunrise follows and is another great song but we're one away from the great conclusion that ties the entire album together. That Power is one of the strongest outros to an album I've heard in years. Gambino first off raps for about three minutes about how he feels he doesn't get the recognition he deserves because people ignore him for being another actor turned rapper. Its a very powerful starter for a great outro. When the song hits the three minute mark is when things gets serious. I honestly feel like I don't want to give anything away, but he tells a story about some experiences he went through in camp that caused him to learn a valuable lesson. When you connect all the dots together and see the deep value in his spoken word story, you can start to value him as an artist and see how much he values you as a fan. It truly is a touching finale and I love to revisit the last five minutes just to be transported into that camp bus sitting behind him telling the story. He does it so perfectly that I can talk about it on and on and it wouldn't do it justice. It truly is poetic!

So in conclusion, Camp is by far the best album released in years in my opinion. It has everything that makes an album memorable; great lyrics consisting of both emotional and punchline material, a great intro and outro, and absolutely stellar production. Childish Gambino collaborates with Ludovin, the composer of Community, which is an excellent choice because it gives the album a grander and classical feel rather than the poppy sound which clashes with the lyrics and hooks perfectly. What the album succeeds with most is creating a connection between the artist - Gambino - and the listener which is something that rarely happens these days. I cannot choose a favorite song because each is important in bringing the message of the album alive. I have praised this album enough for y'all so I highly recommend you check it out. Also, check out his EP and his previous album Culdesac, those are dope too! From now on, Camp will rank as one of my favorite albums, NOT best but favorite. I do believe there are a lot more sonically consistent and deep albums, but what this album does that the other don't is touch me personally. So what are you waiting for? Cop it! 

10/10 - Classic

What do you think about Camp and Childish Gambino? Did you love it or hate it? Keep in mind the people that didn't like this album criticized the points I and many others enjoyed, so its basically black or white; no grey area. Leave a comment and tell me what you think! Also, if there's a topic you want me to voice my opinion on, please leave it in the comment section. Also follow me on twitter: @firasdarwiche96  for updates.