Much like in sport, comparisons in hip-hop are unavoidable. Just as a young Harold Minor was once labeled the next Michael Jordan—even though the only traits "Baby Jordan" shared with His Airness was a shaved dome and a fondness for dunking—up-and-coming rappers are often labeled the second coming of [fill in the blank].
However, whereas most professional athletes adopt comparisons that are made by their rap colleagues, the media and a team's fanbase, rap artists have a tendency to make the comparison themselves.
Case in point: For the past 20 years, since his tragic death in 1996, Tupac has been the apple comparison of many a rapper's eye. Long before Joey Bada$$, Kodak Black, Boosie BadAzz and Troy Ave (yes, that Troy Ave) were drawing comparisons to the icon, now-veterans like 50 Cent, Jeezy and T.I. all proclaimed themselves as either the second coming of Pac or a member of his exclusive company.
In a new interview with Complex, Freddie Gibbs was asked about whether or not he feels his new album, You Only Live 2wice, is "carrying on" Tupac's legacy. Given that his new album is inspired by Tupac, contains Tupac lyrics ("My ambitions as a rider, nigga / Survival off that powder, nigga") and has drawn several comparisons to the late rapper's best work, the question was fair game.
Gibbs could have easily taken the bait, but as a seasoned interviewee, he took the road less traveled:
For me to say that—I’m gonna have to let y’all writers say that. For me to say that, I think I’d be oversteppin’ my boundaries. I will say he is one of the main influences on my music. To me he’s the greatest rapper of all time, he’s my favorite rapper of all time—him and Scarface are up there neck and neck. I based a lot of my music on guys like him—Jay Z, the DMXs of the world, Pimp C.
I think that the Pac movie comin’ out and niggas just thinkin’ they’re Pac right now, that’s all, so—shit, motherfuckers dressing up like Tupac like it’s Halloween and shit. Social media shit right now, man, that’s all this shit is. Tupac is definitely an icon. There’ll never be another Tupac, so I’m not gonna ever, ever try to fill those shoes. I’m just gonna stay in my lane and be the best me that I can be.
For any rapper reading this article, please re-read Gibbs' answer again and jot down some notes. Notice how, when given the opportunity to create a headline-worthy answer, Gibbs not only refuses to make the comparison himself but goes out of his way to praise Tupac, making clear that no matter what he does musically, he'll never come close to filling his shoes.
Amusingly, out of all the rappers in history who have labeled themselves as a worthy successor to Pac—which, somehow, includes a delusional Tyga—Gibbs is actually the aptest parallel. From his passionate, intense delivery to his thoughtful lyrics, Gibbs has channeled a lot of what made Tupac special and has turned that into a decade-long career.