Controversy Corner: Big Pun > Notorious B.I.G.


Words by Phlip

I posted an FB status/tweet a while back that implied that Big Pun had the best breath control of any “fat” rapper and, in such, was a better representative of most rappers – fat or not. Most people took this to be a dis of Rick Ross, but I swore those off a while back after a post on my own blog, because it was just too easy. A couple commenters came with the standard “well, what about Biggie?” response, to which I responded with “yep, better than him too!”

Among many things, I was called, some of the more humorous included:

    * Hater
    * Faggot
    * Blasphemer
    * Hip Hop know-nothing

Luckily for them, I am a middle child and therefore a big boy and the ripe old age of 33, so I did not jump in my (usually) trusty Subaru and go on a “kill ‘em in the face world tour,” I just let it roll off. I am not the type to post a provocative opinion without being prepared to develop it.

Two or so weeks later, Geechie Suede of Camp Lo – a mutual friend of a couple of my friends here in town (Ski Beatz is from here in Greensboro) – made note that he and Pun were among the only ones at that point who did that thing where they punch line after line after line without a breath in between or pausing between the second downbeat for the next bar.
[Phlip note – no, I can’t rap, I just know the ins and outs of writing them, since I have made a beat or few in my lifetime] I took advantage of that chance to repeat my sentiments from before about Pun and he actually agreed. No one called HIM a faggot, but I also do not have any records in stores or any fans.


Taken at surface value, I am still of the opinion that Big Pun was a better rapper than Biggie. I mean this SIMPLY at the value of lyrical ability from a technical standpoint. His breath control and his use of his bars to drive the stories he told when he told them, to make you feel what he felt when he took an angry tone, to elicit a hearty chuckle out of you when he felt like it. His presence was enough to make you forget the fact that those around him in his own circle were not even on his level lyrically. No, Fat Joe is not even NEAR worth mentioning as a lyricist, don’t play yourself.

Sure, sales are driven by the machine behind them, and Biggie was lucky enough to have the Puff Daddy “promote the shit out of ‘em, sell a ton of records and fuck ‘em for their publishing” mill, so he not only reached more living rooms in his very short career, he did his legacy the luxury of dying early and without a lot of extraneous product lying around to sully it, like Tupac did.
[Phlip note – yes, I went there, but that is another post]

With that in mind, in attempts to pay what people at the time called “respect” for the dead, no one would mention the elephant in the room that Big’s raps were more often than not the VERY shit that we have been critical of Diddy for doing to hip hop beginning then and continuing on ever since, and that was what made it so easily accessible. On the other hand, Pun made his way with a lyrical ability and delivery that SHOULD have belied his physical size – especially when you consider the hand that physique had in his expiration – and did so to considerable commercial success, even before passing on. He made a point of SAYING that he wanted to be held as one of the best during his tenure, something else that Biggie could not necessarily be taken as having said. We (well, me and most people I know, at least) bought Big Pun’s albums based on that raw-ass lyricism, and the fact that as many people that did actually did along with us shows that the plan was properly executed for as long as it could have been.

Don’t get it twisted, I am not saying that Biggie was NOT nice when and every single time he chose to be. Ask my friends what the first song I put on when we rode out and EACH will say “Unbelievable.” I am also not saying that Pun’s death didn’t have a hand in how people view what he was able to do in his also very short career. What I am saying is that the revision of history is WILDLY more in play with how we remember Biggie as an artist than how we do Big Pun.

Okay… Who wants to call me bad names first.

Words by Phlip


9 comments on “Controversy Corner: Big Pun > Notorious B.I.G.

  1. Phlip says:

    SHIT! I left the Kevlar from the Michelle Obama post at home today.
    Good thing I brought my lunch to work, so I don’t have to go outside or anything.


  2. ThaKemizt2012 says:

    This has to be one of the best, most intelligently well-written “rapper x > rapper y” articles I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Especially considering the fact that it’s borderline illegal here in LA to say ANYBODY was better than Pac (seriously, even THINK that shit too hard around Ese’s and you might have to leave before they smell something’s up). Good work, I gotta listen to more Pun to fully grasp what you’re saying.


  3. mtume says:

    good article…i’d agreethat pun is better technically not sure about lyrcally tho. biggie also might of had more charisma u kno? like its hard not to get completely absorbed when biggie went in even if he had more poppy sensibilities. i guess pun’s more of a rappers rapper. maybe if pun had the promotional backing of big he woulda gotten more shine n now be generally considered on the same level as big n pac but i think its hard to argue right now just cuz big changed the game so much in terms of how rap was listened to by nonrappers…shits cray


  4. Tony Grands says:

    Pun was much more technical than Biggie.


    If Puffy had signed Pun instead of BIG, we’d be having this conversatuion in reverse.

    Bad Boy’s machine & quality of hit-making pushed Biggie over the top.


    • Phlip says:

      Good point.
      Rifkind at Loud was more than cool with letting his artists doing what the fuck they wanted on record, artistic freedom if you will.
      With that in mind, I am not sure that Puff might have ever approached an artist of Pun’s ilk, at least not as a tastemaker. Perhaps in reaction to it, but not the one to break him as we knew him.


  5. Loki says:

    Philip speaking my mind again


  6. DV says:

    There was a term that is used by Dallas Penn called “polysyllables” (fuck my spelling, if its wrong) of which he uses as a factor to gauge MC’s


  7. DV says:

    Pun was more versatile. Sure he could do the radio shit but he was more of a MC’s MC (one of those rappity rap types) when it came to his rhymes (Dream Shatterer, Beware, Super Lyrical). Biggie was more of a slick talker with the machine behind him. If the 2 had ever battled im confident Pun wouldve ate BIG’s lunch. Figuratively and literally.


    • Phlip says:

      Add “Brave in the Heart” from Endangered Species to that list you got there and you have 4 of the 5 songs that made me write this post.
      I remember being on the way home from Charlotte on I-85 back in 2001 and damn near tossing my car off the road when he got to the verse where Cuban had to break in to give him a breath and then he blacked the fux out for the rest of that verse.

      “Goosebumps” moments are few and far between in hip hop nowadays, but I distinctly remember that as one.


Comments, Questions, Or Criticism?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s