A Millennial View: Looking at Biggie’s Relevancy 20 Years Later
This disconnect fuels the ever-existent arguments over the Hip-Hop’s current state. Such as, why does the Millennial musician choose the glorification of violence over promoting consciousness? Or, is an artist a melodic genius and not another “mumble rapper.” Despite heated debates, Hip-Hop fans usually concede to the generational contrast when resolving most of these conflicts. However, there is one disagreement that time does not cure.
This is the battle of the “Overrated.”
This word hangs like an opaque patrician, increasing the already present divide between Rap’s most influential age groups. This barrier was initially raised by the daring nature of Millennial rappers. The push of Rap’s status quo might be this generation’s defining moment. However, like every movement, this change is met with resistance. In an attempt to combat this, Millennial artists have begun to call into question the importance of the genre’s “verified” legends. The most famous of these incidents would be when 19-year old Atlanta sensation, Lil Yatchy, referred to the late Notorious B.I.G. as “overrated.”
This, in short, was the mumble heard around the world.
Yatchy’s comment sparked a heated debate through various mediums on whether a rapper, who only released two albums (one being posthumous), is relevant in Hip-Hop today.
To answer this question, one would have to look at the tremendous impact of Biggie’s short tenure.
His 1992 feature on the remix of Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love” was his emergence into mainstream Hip-Hop as well as the beginning of Biggie’s hostile takeover of Rap. Following the success of “Real Love,” Biggie laid countless feature verses including the legendary remix of Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear,” where Big outshined two of the hottest artists at that time, Busta Rhymes and LL Cool J. He also spurred solo success with the addition of his song “Party and Bullshit” to the Who’s the Man? soundtrack.
This set the perfect stage for the 1994 release of his major label debut, Ready to Die. This album solidified his legendary status. On this 17-track project, Biggie only enlisted the help of one feature, Method Man, on one track, “The What.” This proved his already known skill set on a projected platform. It also showcased his marketability. Ready to Die received critical acclaim while being certified platinum 4 times.
Yet even though his work was great, the skills that made Biggie an exceptional artist lay outside his musical talents. His understanding of business resonated throughout his career. While working to launch himself into stardom, Biggie was simultaneously cultivating a group of artists called Junior M.A.F.I.A., who released their debut album Conspiracy only a year after Ready to Die. This group spawned the successful solo careers of the artists Lil Cease and Lil Kim. Junior M.A.F.I.A, however, wasn’t the extent of his influence. Within the span of his short, five-year career, Biggie went on to co-sign and promote the budding careers multiple Hip-Hop icons such as C-N-N’s, Capone and Dipset ringleader, Cam’ron. Biggie even “managed” the career of his own C.E.O., urging and teaching Puff how to rap, resulting in Puff’s musical career being well… Puff’s musical career.
The transcendent nature of Biggie’s career allows for his impact to extend past the time and length of his existence. Big’s willingness to aid in the exposure of upcoming artists has shaped the current of Hip-Hop. Jigga, who’s career is a popular blueprint that Millennial rappers wish to duplicate, was put in an area to thrive partially because of Biggie’s early promotion of his music. Yet the most relevant byproduct of Biggie’s stardom is undoubtedly the popularity and marketability of drug/drug dealing culture. Yes, drug references have been present since Hip-Hop’s inception, however, Biggie took “Drug Rap” to an unprecedented height. The cleverness of his rhymes combined with skillful story-telling, allowed a drug influenced Rap song like “Juicy” to become a crossover success, peaking at 27 on Billboard’s Pop Charts. His knack for making his real-life experiences marketable carved a space for drug-influenced music, like the sub-genre of Trap that encompasses Millennial Rap, to thrive commercially.
In his five years of mainstream success, Biggie impacted the landscape of Rap in dramatic fashion. He blazed a trail of influence and marketability that resulted in a charted path of success that is still traveled today. Because of his determined innovation, Biggie holds an enormous amount of relevancy, that even 20 years after his untimely death, garners him the unrivaled title of the “Greatest of All Time.”