Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur are two of the most prolific rappers of all time, and fans will spend hours and hours debating who was the better lyricist. But what about hip-hop lovers who didn’t like their music?
will.i.am had a similar debate during a resurfaced interview on the “Hip Hop Confessions” podcast in June 2021. The Grammy-winning musician and vocalist explained to veteran rapper Mad Skillz that he had difficulty relating Pac and Biggie’s music.
“Like when people say Tupac and Biggie, I’m such a Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul head that I don’t like Tupac and Biggie,” said the Black Eyes Peas artist in a clip shared by The Art of Dialogue’s Instagram on Monday, July 26. “That kind of music doesn’t speak to my spirit.”
will.i.am further continued explaining that he likes other popular artists from the late ’80s and early 1990s such as KRS-One and the Boogie Down Productions. But he doesn’t hold Biggie and Pac in the same regard as the rappers that came before them.
“If it’s Tupac and Biggie, I don’t even … hold them up like that. I hold Eric B. and Rakim up like that,” he stated. “Tupac’s dope — don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I don’t think he’s dope. It’s just the music … it spoke to the projects. My escape is De La/Tribe out the projects. It took me out the projects while I was still in the projects.”
The 47-year-old said the music from A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Eric B., and Rakim inspired his childhood while growing up in low-income housing projects in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.
“It took me out the projects physically, as far as being able to reach my dreams, that was my path out,” he continued. “And it took me out of the projects as far as while I was in the projects, the worlds it painted for me. It kept me safe while I was in the projects.
He added, “Had I loved 2Pac and Biggie while I was in the projects, I probably would have been stuck in the projects still.”
Fans in the comments sections of The Art of Dialogue’s post have mixed feelings about will.i.am’s remarks. Some accused him of clout chasing while others respected his unique perspective on two of the most influential rappers.
“Fair enough, and to be all the way fair I don’t know anybody who listens or loves his music.”
“Another clout chaser… lemme find out you dudes out here dissing 2Pac. He been dead almost 25 years & his name still ring bells.”
“So ‘Dear mama/Sky is the limit don’t do nothing for yo fake intellectual mind huh boy stop l!!!!”
“To be fair, it’s probably his honest, unbiased opinion. I’d rather that than a lotta artists lyin’ about how much they loved them.”
“This man a goofy! His career was over once Fergie left the Black Eyed Peas.”
“That type of music didn’t speak to you, but you were signed to ruthless records by The Godfather of Gangsta Rap.”
In 1992, will.i.am was signed to Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records as a member of the group Atban Klann. After being dropped from the label in 1995, Will formed the socially conscious group The Black Eyed Peas with artist Taboo, Filipino-American rapper apl.de.ap, and later added singer Fergie in 2002.
Tupac died from complications after being shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas on September 6, 1996. Months later, Biggie was also shot and killed during a drive-by shooting in California on March 9, 1997. The rappers were 25 and 24 years old, respectively.
Tupac earned six Grammy nominations during his career, including “Best Rap Album” for 1995’s “Me Against The World,” and 1996’s “All Eyez On Me.” His single “Dear Mama” also received a nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance. Meanwhile, Biggie gained four Grammy nods, including for his posthumous album, “Life After Death,” and tracks like “Hypnotize” for Best Solo Rap Performance.