I said I thought Tupac and Biggie would still be very prominent in the rap game today. Ross, the host of the sports show I produce, disagreed. He said he thought they’d be making mediocre music and doing any and everything they could to hold onto the fame they achieved so early in their careers.
This took me back to my conversation with Ross. It made me think about longevity. Is there a reason why these modern-day rappers are retiring early? I think I may have a theory.
Think about Tupac, Biggie, Kurt Cobain, Aaliyah, Heath Ledger, Jim Morrison, Selena, James Dean, Big L and all of the other stars that died way too soon. Why are they so beloved today? Their music or movies left such an impact but also left us wanting so much more.
Let me rephrase a previous question: what would Tupac or Biggie be doing if they were alive today? This is where I disagree with my buddy, Ross. Personally, I think Tupac or B.I.G. would be so much bigger than their music—they’d truly be modern-day moguls. Look at Jay Z. Yes, his most recent music may lack deep, introspective substance, but he co-owns a New York sports bar, the 40/40 Club, he founded the label, Roc Nation, he created his own sports agency company, Roc Nation Sports, he formerly was a minor shareholder for the Brooklyn Nets and encouraged their move to the city, he spear-headed the stream-platform war with his streaming service, Tidal and he co-owns an ultra prestigious champagne brand, Armand de Brignac. When he said, “I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man,” he wasn’t lying. Now think about Dr. Dre. The man waited 16 years to put out his third studio album, “Compton”—one that came with critical acclaim and cracked my top-10 list in 2015. He was the first rapper that reached a billion dollars with the help of an epic Beats 1 headphone deal with Apple, he played a major part in making the “Straight Outta Compton” biopic movie—one that got an 87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes--and he continues to be one of the most legendary producers in the rap game. That’s one side of the spectrum.
Here’s my point: Tupac or Biggie would still be very relevant if they were alive today. Their music may not be on the level it once was, but they’d more than likely be involved in other business, community or political ventures. Maybe Tupac would be a major contributor to Kendrick Lamar. Maybe Notorious B.I.G. would be a major contributor to Joey Bada$$. Maybe they’d be in movies or TV shows. Maybe they’d have other business endeavors. But they’d still be very relevant. And not to get super dark and cynical because I’m the most optimistic person you can think of, but maybe the best thing for Tupac and Biggie’s music was their deaths.
Maybe that’s why today’s rappers are threatening retirement so early and so often. Maybe they realize that less could mean more. Maybe they’ve figured out that the quality/quantity they put out can stand the test of time and, at the same time, leave us wanting more and more.
Let me put it this way: Outkast’s last album, “Idlewild,” came out in 2006, but we fiend for a new Outkast album. We maybe received three solo André 3000 features in 2016, but we all, as rap fans, crave a solo Three Stacks album. Less is more in this case. The hype, alone, will only add to the prestige and mystique that is André 3000, and a solo album would most likely not live up to the epically high anticipation we have put on something that hasn’t even been confirmed.
Here’s my theory: Rappers can retire once they realize the music they make will stand the test of time with their fans—if the quality is there of course—and once they figure out that less could really be more. And you know what else it leaves room for?... The return.
I have my entire life to work. I can only bust my ass, hope and pray that I can create something that will live on forever. While I have years and years to even begin to think about the end of my career, I can only hope that when I retire, people will crave my product like we as fans crave these artists music, movies and TV shows.