Tupac and Kendrick is the hip-hop duo we deserve, not need.

By Erwin M

We need Kanye & Jay. We deserve Pac & K.dot.

No questions, no bullshit. Tupac and Kendrick is what we deserve. It’s not going to happen, obviously. There’s going to be some DJ out there who will add a verse from Kendrick Lamar’s library onto Tupac’s “Changes”, but we don’t need a Frankenstein creation — that’s not the point. We deserve a duo who has levels and can come with a song and/or album that finally feels complete.

Kanye West and Jay-Z is what the people want. The people want “hip-hop” at the bar while the DJ spins 90's classics. To be clear, Kanye and Jay-Z personify the era of current hip-hop, almost mindless, leaning on a bass heavy beat to carry one through the experience. Kanye and Jay-Z combined are closer to Barack Obama than Ye’s “sensei” Farrakhan. I cannot downplay their power or that I refuse to listen to Ye and Jay. These two alone are behind some of the best music we’ve heard in the last fifteen years. I would be an idiot to NOT listen to Watch the Throne, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, or The Black Album.

But this is for the real shit. We deserve Pac & Kendrick. From the casual listener of hip-hop to the backpacker. Especially the backpacker. For one day I would love to hear backpackers to shut down their claims for one album play. The “substance” argument that which the current state of hip-hop hardly contains.

I can go along with this, because yeah there’s nothing to note in most of these songs consumed. It all sounds the same, maybe a interesting feature from Talib or Jay-Z, but there’s nothing real. Sure, Bobby Shmurda caught a body bout a week ago or Joey Bada$$ has the feds watching.

The backpack argument is flawed because it largely ignores anyone’s lyrical efforts and puts a nostalgic emphasis on hip-hop’s golden era. To the casual listener and everyone else in-between Pac & and Kendrick have bars.

But bars tho.

Kendrick is the lone rapper who could headline at Coachella, but could come at you with one of the strongest verses in hip-hop. We’ve come to know this from his rise, but look back on what Pac meant to even the casual listener of hip-hop. Pac had more (lyrical) weight & versatility than Biggie. There’s a reason why 50 Cent has this line —

They like me, I want them to love me like they love Pac.

Biggie might have songs better suited for radio play (“Hypnotize”, “Gimme One More Chance”), but credit that to Diddy taking hits from the 80's. But after 19 years of death Pac & Big, Pac’s mainstream verses are so much more profound (“Baby Don’t Cry”, “I Ain’t Mad At Cha”, “Keep Ya Head Up”). Pac’s level of lyricism and profoundness can’t be beat. Shit, even Nas’ “Thugs Mansion” with Pac still hits home.

Before To Pimp a Butterfly (TPAB) dropped, Kanye West’s “All Day” happened. And before that? Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late was the hottest shit. These are your juggernauts in 2015 everybody. At the highest point of consumption, Kanye and Drake should have announced their respective campaigns for 2016.

But — once Kendrick (or Interscope??) dropped TPAB on March 16 the conversation around hip-hop changed again. For a second time in 2 years people weren’t talking trap beats or Miguel on the hook. People were admiring the jazz/funk sounds that were laid for TPAB. For a second time in 2 years people were talking about the content of lyrics. The raw energy and the bars that he brought to the album continued to bring his storytelling to the forefront.

Remember back in 2013 when Young Guru & 9th Wonder were debating about Kendrick’s verse on Big Sean’s Control…

9th Wonder: [Kendrick] put up 50 points, [Juelz Santana] put up 30. Like on a regular night 30 is incredible, but after Jordan’s 50…
Young Guru: So who’s gonna put up 55?
9th Wonder: That’s not the point…

To sum up their conversation, you couldn’t touch or talk about Kendrick at that point. An effort to respond is futile, because Kendrick crossed your ankles before you stepped on your court. Kendrick is the king of hip-hop, and even if you disagree with that statement Kendrick is in the same collective of Jay, Nas, Andre 3000, Eminem. So fuck your argument, and bring your bars.

And to keep his banners planted, Kendrick even responded to the response to Control at the 2013 BET Awards Cypher. He is the only one to top his own 50 point night. He put up 55 when he jumped into the cypher.

With the critic and blog approved release of TPAB it’s maddening to think that when Kendrick released “i” back in 2014, people fucking hated it. Shit, the song earned Kendrick & camp a Grammy. But damn when TPAB released, “i” was put into context. A story of taking care of yourself, not looking back. Welcome back to the bandwagon.

Our senses right now are optimized for trap beats and EDM-trance-inducing sounds. It’s not the brain’s time, but Kendrick did something special to our hearts, minds, and souls with TPAB. He put blackness forward and brought his heroes into the fold while his story unfolds.

The poetry that keeps the black culture alive is what hip-hop deserves. Tupac might be dead, but his words were a legacy that were gifted to Kendrick Lamar. The soul of hip-hop is missing, and sure that’s a backpack argument. But Kendrick brought bars. Does anybody else have ‘em?

Hip-Hop deserves Pac & K.dot.

West Coast forever.