It’s been more than 15 years since 2Pac and Biggie Smalls were shot and killed in two separate moments of violence, and those grim anniversaries are the reason for the new book 2pac Vs. Biggie: An Illustrated History Of Rap’s Greatest Battle, co-penned by hip-hop writers Jeff Weiss and Evan McGarvey. The authors were on hand in New York Tuesday night (June 4) for a reading at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe. “We tried to get the hologram, but…,” said the Housing Works spokeswoman by way of introduction. So in place of a CGI Pac, Weiss and McGarvey had to suffice and took turns reading passages from the book.
McGarvey’s selection related Biggie to New York through “work, compression, obsession and material culture,” Biggie as not only a loyalist to his borough (“Where Brooklyn at?”) but a human embodiment of the city that surrounded him. Weiss delivered on his promise that his piece was about “2Pac’s love of leather,” but he used it as a gateway point into dissecting the dichotomy of Tupac Shakur’s overall aesthetic, reflected even in his body, which sported both a Nefertiti tattoo and one that read “BALLIN.”
Afterward, Hot 97′s Peter Rosenberg and Duck Down Music CEO Dru Ha joined Weiss and McGarvey for a brief panel discussion, where they swapped stories on how they came to 2Pac and Biggie. Rosenberg grew up in Washington, D.C., arriving at Biggie through “Party And Bullshit.” He remembered his city holding 2Pac in high esteem, but he confessed that he never felt an overwhelming connection with Shakur’s music. It wasn’t until he was fielding calls years later from young kids requesting 2Pac at one of his first radio gigs that he realized how deeply the rapper’s legacy ran. He said he sees that same connection to younger audiences with Lil Wayne, who caught heat after dubbing himself “the new Pac.”
Dru Ha offered a personal account of watching an unknown Biggie perform at a club and possess the crowd for 32 bars before dropping the mic and walking away. He also recounted getting invited to stay for a couple of weeks at 2Pac’s house in Los Angeles, where, to the delight of him and Duck Down’s Buckshot, he discovered that the rapper had a fridge fully stocked with orange Fanta. One night he and Buckshot saw that the seemingly endless supply of soda had been whittled down to two, and the next morning, they found that their host had pulled a classic passive aggressive roommate move—by leaving a sticky note on the remaining Fanta that read “Pac’s soda.”
To round out the talk, Weiss and McGarvey presented Rosenberg and Dru Ha with the inevitable question: What would hip-hop be like if Biggie and 2Pac were still alive today? Dru Ha thought for a minute, gazed around the Soho bookstore and smirked as he concluded, “Well, they wouldn’t have been here.”