More than two decades after their deaths, music fans are still buying, downloading, and streaming the music of 2Pac, aka Tupac Shakur (1971-96) and The Notorious B.I.G., aka Biggie Smalls (1972-97). And, given the quality of both rappers’ recordings, we doubt the interest will ever subside.
If you want to know which rapper had more commercial success, 2Pac wins that battle. Since he started releasing albums in the early ’90s, 2Pac records have sold over 25 million records in the U.S. (and tens of millions more overseas).
But sales tallies can only settle one part of the argument. (2Pac recorded more albums than Biggie in their short lifetimes.) Those who want to argue which rapper was better will only focus on the lyrics and vocals on record.
On a few occasions, rap fans got to hear both Biggie and Tupac on the same record. As Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap fans got on “The Symphony,” the Biggie-2Pac collaborations offer a rare head-to-head look at their mastery.
Eddie F’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ featured both Biggie and 2Pac in top form
For the first track, we go back to 1993, when Pac and Biggie teamed up with Grand Puba (of Brand Nubian) and Heavy D for “Let’s Get It On.” This track, produced by Eddie F (a co-founder of Heavy D and the Boyz), packed as many top-notch MCs on it as humanly possible.
After a manic opening verse by Heavy D, you hear Tupac glide onto the track as mellow as the sleigh bells behind him. Pac takes the understated route throughout his verse, and by the end he’s almost whispering when he gets to, “Let’s get it on.” (It’s a haunting verse either way.)
Following him, Grand Puba takes 2Pac’s cue and delivers an equally smooth and understated — and nearly as effective — verse of his own. At that point, it’s Biggie’s turn, and he takes advantage of his position as last man on the record.(“When I’m slinging in the hood I don’t fake no moves, AIGHT?”
It’s one of Biggie’s great early-career moments, and you could argue he got the best of Tupac on “Let’s Get It On.” But you get remarkable performances from everyone on the record, so we’re splitting hairs here.
The 2 legends also got together for ‘Runnin’ From tha Police’ in ’94
By ’94, 2Pac was trying something different with Thug Life, a group he formed with Big Syke and other collaborators. At that point, Biggie still had not released his debut album, Ready to Die, and he and Pac were still friends.
2Pac made it clear he wanted to work with Biggie again, as he brought the big man in to rap on “Runnin’ From tha Police,” a track planned for release on Thug Life: Volume 1. However, the song didn’t make it onto the album (which was plagued with several problems).
The following year, 2Pac had another chance to release “Runnin,’” but by that time his relationship with Biggie had become strained. Eventually, the track went out on One Million Strong, a compilation album released in late ’95.
This time out, with Biggie guesting on 2Pac’s track, Pac made sure to get the last word. Though Biggie is also in fine form (he says he’s “too fat” to run from the police at one point), 2Pac makes sure to drop a heavyweight verse that works perfectly with Easy Mo Bee’s production.
(“Don’t say you neve r heard of me / Till they murder me,” 2Pac raps late in the track. “Do thug nigg*s go to heaven?”)
As for the Biggie-2Pac collaborations, there are a few other recordings, including a ’93 freestyle at a Kane show and “House of Pain,” an unfinished track that turned up on a Junior M.A.F.I.A. mixtape. But “Let’s Get It On” and “Runnin’ From tha Police” are really the only true documents of the two legends together.