I’m hesitant to extrapolate broad ideas about complex artists after watching three and a half minutes of footage originally recorded 19 years ago. But this is Biggie and Pac and I have a book coming out on them in two months, so fuck it. (Pre-order now). This is no mere idyll captured by Dream Hampton in ’94. Judging from their vests and bandannas, this was the day they shot this picture, which remains one of the greatest in hip-hop history. There is gin and juice and wow we can see the blunt that made their eyes so blood-shot. The stub should’ve been preserved in the Smithsonian for posterity. Or at least the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame.

To my knowledge, there had been no actual footage ever found of the pair actually partying and bullshitting. I’ve heard the freestyles and the mediocre song they did together, but it’s bizarre to see them interacting outside of a Dave Chappelle dream sequence. Did any rapper ever smile more than 2Pac? Was this where they got the inspiration for his collabo with Scarface. He is the talkative one, doing impressions, the actor permanently method-acting out his life. Biggie is dour and dead-panning and dropping one-liners. Then they start rapping.

This is where you remember their respective greatness that 20 years of bromides and bullshit can’t atrophy. Pac says he’s scared and then immediately starts rhyming. In one instant, he transforms from the insecure kid picked on by block bullies into the man who mastered making gangsta rap melodic. (Also, the only person ever to successfully pull off a Thug Life beanie.) Rather than brush off the fear, he embraces it and starts his freestyle by admitting it and then conquering the stage fright. If we are going to abide by Based Rules (and maybe we should because Pac is from the Bay), the freestyle opens up the subconscious. What you say off the top is what you really mean and Pac was consumed by the constant tests. Everyone wanted to see if he was like Bishop or if he was really a bitch. His decision was to embody that insanity and bring it to life. So the smile is replaced by the killer instinct. There is no 2Pac, there is only Zuul Bishop. He also disses Spike Lee because that is a rapper rite of passage.

By contrast, Biggie is willing to leave no room for error. While Pac goes off the top, Biggie is too meticulous and worried about being shown up. Of course, he never lets on because he’s rarely willing to admit to vulnerability. This is why 2Pac captured people’s hearts and Biggie appealed to the cerebral. His freestyle is obviously pre-written, fact-checked, immaculate. The syllables slant in perfect symmetry and his foghorn baritone is in effect. Then he drops something in his drink and looks away from the camera. 2Pac knows to straight into its iris.

H/T to Ego Trip for the original link.


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