March 9th is one of the darkest days in hip-hop history. Fifteen years ago today, the greatest rapper of all time was gunned down in Los Angeles after attending a party in honor of the Soul Train Awards. Rap lost an icon and a talent whose influence is hard to overstate, a mere six months after rap suffered the loss of that other great icon, Tupac Shakur. TRU editor Jaap sat down with fellow BT members Zillz (ZS Music Blog) and Khal (Rock The Dub) for a roundtable discussion speculating on what could’ve been if Biggie hadn’t been shot that fateful day.
Khal: Which MCs wouldn’t be around if Biggie was still here? Where’d Hov and Nas be if Big was still making music? There’d definitely be no Shyne or Guerilla Black. I doubt Rawse would be where he was today.
Zillz: Damn, Rawse would still be a cop! Puffy would be even richer! Puffy gotta be Lex Luthor. Watch the Throne would be Hov and Big? No tight pants? Coogi stock goes super nova! Lil’ Kim would be the ultra rap bitch!
…My head just exploded from all of the possibilities.
Khal: We would’ve had the commission.
Zillz: Would Biggie have ended up leaving Bad Boy like all of the rest of Puff’s artists?
You know, I was watching Bloomberg’s ‘Game Changers‘ on Hov and they regurgitated a sentiment that I see a lot: that he took the mantle of king of NY rap after B.I.G. died. But what about Puffy? Puff’s albums did pretty well. Neither Hov nor Puff are great at being label heads but Puff ‘established’ himself as an artist, already a producer, great business man, JLo poker, mega brand, dancer, and allround super villain. Not unlike Jay-Z who did similar stuff.
Khal: True. Puff would’ve done more but who knows if he’d be who he is today if Big was still around. That’s a good-ass point.
Jaap: Honestly, BIG’s untimely death never gave him a chance to slip up either. I think he would’ve taken a couple hits to his unblemished status à la Jay-Z around ‘In My Lifetime.’ His loyalty to Puff would’ve made him do a couple R&B joints he wasn’t really feeling, which would’ve probably put a strain on their relationship, and have BIG eventually release a project with less involvement from Puff. This album would probably be seen, despite being quite good, as somewhat of a creative dud. Partly due to ridiculously bloated expectations from the audience and perhaps partly due to a slight lack of focus and diversity. When it comes to his ‘hard’ versus his ‘softer’ joints, you know Puff made him do the latter. The eventual reunion between Puff and BIG would then result in one of the greatest and best-selling hip-hop albums of all time though.
Who knows, maybe it would’ve even had a couple joints produced by this young buck from Chi-town that Hit-Men Deric ‘D-Dot’ Angelettie took under his wing around the turn of the century, a guy named Kanye West.
Khal: I’m saying though, Biggie had been doing that. ‘One More Chance’ was classic, but Biggie always said Puff made him do R&B jawns, and he did them, but Biggie was a hip-hop HEAD. He was into hip-hop like that. The question is if people would’ve been as receptive to ‘Life After Death’ if Biggie hadn’t been murdered. Would it have done as well?
I mean it’s hard to say if Jay would’ve pushed like he did through his career if Big was still around. Hov was dope, and in hindsight, looking at his progression, he definitely took the crown and eased it on his head in Big’s absence. Would that have been done if Big was still around?
Shit’s bugged to think about.
Jaap: That’s what I’m saying, and Puff making him do those joints might’ve eventually started bugging him more and more. I don’t think Biggie would’ve let the crown slip though, in my purely hypothetical extrapolation nobody would’ve been able to take it from him around the time of that reunion album with. During their ‘break’ the crown would’ve wobbled but it wouldn’t fall down.
As for Jay, I think he would’ve been just as technically proficient with BIG around, the competition might’ve even made him reach his creative peak sooner. Commercially he we would be big too, but maybe not as big as BIG. Biggie would’ve been the definite icon. I think ‘Life After Death’ might’ve sold a million or so less without his death but still would’ve been a commercial and critical triumph all around the world.
Khal: That’s interesting – Biggie was still young when he passed. Maybe the creative strain of trying to please Puff would’ve fucked them up? Interesting theory.
And where would Nas factor into all of this? how would the East Coast/West Coast rivalry played out if Big never died?
It’s just wild because there’s a lot of MCs, from Hov to Shyne, that would’ve been impacted. We never got a Big & Snoop track – that could’ve happened.
Zillz: Now that I think about it, the whole ‘Jay-Z new king of NY rap after BIG died’ stuff marginalizes Jay-Z when he is truthfully the most influential hip-hop artist to ever live. Ain’t like Biggie wrote any of Hov’s lines.
Nas still wouldn’t be able to pick beats. Perhaps instead of Nas vs. Jay-Z, there would’ve been Jay-Z vs. BIG. Because we are talking rivals right?
Jaap: Creative rivals, but their competitive friendship seemed genuine and I don’t think it would’ve deteriorated towards dissing. But you’re right, they’d probably be compared constantly. I think the east/west beef would’ve been deaded without Biggie’s death too, though it would’ve surely lingered a while longer. A Biggie/Snoop collabo would’ve almost certainly happened eventually. That would’ve been EPIC.
Khal: Well yeah, but Big and Nas had that back and forth, and it’s known that ‘Kick In The Door’ had shots at Nas. Would Nas have been going in on Biggie? Could it have been some kind of true battle for the king of New York between Big and Nas, or maybe Big vs Nas vs Jay? Even on a competitive level?
And in regard to Hov as KONY (no war criminals), I think my question is, would Jay have been as influential? I’m thinking Hov felt he had no one else above him – the mantle was there for the taking. Big L gone, Biggie gone. The BDKs and Rakims weren’t relevant. Nas wasn’t hitting. One could argue Hov seized an opportunity and grew with it.
Big and Snoop coming together could’ve ended the rivalry, I’d imagine. Over a Dre beat, possibly.
Zillz: Snoop and anything is wack though. And Snoop is wack. Snoop beyond 1995 is garbage, except that one song he made with R. Kelly back in like 2006. So I’m voting epic FAIL. How the hell this guy has survived another 12 years of being garbage, I just don’t know.
The Commission would’ve never happened. Would’ve been a bigger flop than The Firm. Biggie and Hov dump women and weedcarriers (Junior Mafia, the entire Roc roster) like the plague. And Biggie and Hov don’t keep any “first ladies of” (Lil Kim, Charlie Bmore, Blu Cantrell, Amil).
Also, back on the talk of the relevance of Biggie’s death, Queensbridge and CNN emerged right after Nas’ attempt at his own Hard Knock Life. I agree that the East/West nonsense would’ve kept lingering because Bishop died. And Suge would never ever ever shut up about it.
Or is all of this natural progression and one man doesn’t have that much influence after only 2 albums?
Jaap: Yeah, Snoop is often garbage solo, or simply on auto-pilot, but when he brings his A-game he can still knock it out the park if he wants. You gonna do a joint with Wiz Khalifa, of course you’re gonna look like the superior MC, even if you’re sleepwalking halfway through your verse. There’s no competition there. Back on that last Gang Starr album (The Ownerz) he dropped a solid verse though, and there were other moments through the years. He would’ve rocked a joint with BIG I believe.
Khal: Snoop does have his moments, even now. Thing is, I imagine – at that time (97/98?), with a dope track, Big and Snoop could’ve made a club banger. That could’ve shook the game up if that went down.