TONIGHT at 7 p.m., co-authors of the newly published 2pac vs. Biggie: An Illustrated History of Rap’s Greatest Battle Jeff Weiss and Evan McGarvey will be reading their book live at the Housing Works Bookstore Café. They’ll be joined by HOT 97 host + DJ Peter Rosenburg and Duck Down Music CEO Dru Ha for a lively discussion about the most controversial pair in music history. They might even talk about why 2pac loved Orange Fanta so much. We talked to co-author and friend of SOTC Jeff Weiss about the dynamic pair, the legacy they left behind and the traits they shared.
What motivated you to dissect the rivalry between 2pac and Biggie in a way that’s less focused on the conspiracy theories that surround their deaths and more about their existence as humans and artists?
Because there are only so many jokes you can make about Suge Knight before you are inadvertently summoned to a hidden bungalow at the Beverly Hills hotel and it’s only you Suge, Oliver Stone, a midget waiter holding an Alize colored phone, grainy VHS footage and the smell of stale cigar smoke. No good can come of that.
The conspiracy thing has been already done by many journalists who spent many years of their life chasing the story — many of them quite well. The murder mystery has outstripped the music in popular consciousness. See also, the Barack Obama quote on the back cover and the Chappelle show skit. In terms of 2pac, there is no musician whose legacy is more known, but catalog is rarely referenced beyond the Greatest Hits. It seemed more interesting to talk about their music, history and legacy than trying to figure out who the killer in the bow tie was (probably Michael Richards in “Problem Child”).
Many readers of your book who consider themselves well-versed in the art and rivalry of 2pac and Biggie are even surprised by some of the details you include – what was your research process like?
The research process was the same that I do for all of my articles. I call up Nardwuar and ask him to give me all the answers or else I’ll expose him for wearing fake glasses like Russell Westbrook.
Why do you think casual and radical observers of music alike have such a hard time viewing 2pac and Biggie as “neighboring constellations across an American night sky” and are inclined to still pick a side 15 years later? Do you think American pop culture can reach a place where 2pac and Biggie exist as equally appreciated artists?
They’re just natural polarities, the type of personalities who were be bound to be best friends or worst enemies. In this case, they were both.
People will always pick a side because you are either the kind of person who is averse to wearing leather or are enamored by the idea. This is halfway a joke with a punch line that may involve Buzz Bissinger, but the reality is that people gravitate to different sorts of emotion and energy. You’re either more inclined towards the Beatles or Rolling Stones, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone, CS Lewis or JRR Tolkien. You can like both but you must choose one.
What do you find to be the most interesting division between 2pac and Biggie?Look at their respective diss tracks. On “Who Shot Ya,” biggie never even mentions 2pac by name. On “Hit Em Up,” not only did 2pac make a video parodying Biggie and Puffy, he starts off the song by saying that he fucked his rival’s wife. Biggie was cautious and meticulous. 2pac not only waved his gun around at every opportunity – it had no safety.
And the most interesting thing they have in common?
They’re both Geminis. I don’t know what this means, but I know a good astrologist who might.
Do you think anyone in the rap (or music) game right now (or ever) will have the potential to influence future generations of musicians and artists with the magnitude of 2pac and Biggie?
It depends on who dies young.
Have any of your feelings or impressions of 2pac and Biggie been altered since the completion of your book?
I’ve gained a new appreciation for 2pac as a greater cultural figure beyond the dorm room hagiography. I also realized that while they are intrinsically bound figures who inspire devotion and derision, we should go beyond these simple binaries. Both were complex artists who offered different things that the other couldn’t offer. I also have acquired an extensive collection of Coogi as a result of my research.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading 2pac vs. Biggie: An Illustrated History of Rap’s Greatest Battle?
That there is such a thing as Life after Death.
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