Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Business of Dead Rappers

While it is understood that death typically stalls a career, some artists have been able to not only live beyond their untimely deaths, but also extend their popularity. Two icons, Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, are such examples. Having been murdered when they were at the top of the hip-hop game, both continue to live on as icons. Both artists have released posthumous albums. One of Biggie’s albums, “Ready to Die,” released fifteen days after his 1997 death, sold more than 10 million copies by 2000. Tupac's management has released nine records since his death, almost double the five he released when he was alive.

Just as fans have allowed the Beatles or Elvis Presley to live on, it is no different in the hip-hop world. Both Tupac and "Big" captivated their followers. From Tupac's flow about the struggles of being a young black man in America to Biggie revitalizing New York hip-hop and bringing rap back to life on the East Coast, both artists continue to be culturally significant to many people. They spoke to the masses; their music impacted the world.

The legal and business implications that accompany posthumous success are numerous and complex. Managing the legacies of Elvis Presley and John Lennon have proven difficult, but lucrative. The same will likely be true of hip hop giants Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac.