When it comes to the age old question “Biggie vs. Tupac,” Will.i.am doesn’t really have an answer.
In a new interview with rapper Skillz on the Hip-Hop Confessions podcast, the Black Eyed Peas frontman spoke about some of his favorite rap artists and revealed he doesn’t like when people hail Biggie Smalls (aka the Notorious B.I.G.) and Tupac Shakur as the genre’s inarguable best.
“I’m gonna say something… I don’t want to say it in a disrespectful way,” Will.i.am, 47, told the host. “When people say Tupac and Biggie, I’m such [an] A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul head that I don’t like Tupac and Biggie.”
“That kind of music doesn’t speak to my spirit,” he continued. “I like Boogie Down Productions, KRS-One; if it’s like, ‘Tupac or Biggie?,’ I’m like, ‘KRS-One.’ Why those two?”
Will.i.am elaborated on his thoughts and named more artists he personally considers to be the best in the game. “If it’s Tupac and Biggie, I don’t hold them up like that,” he said. “I hold Eric B. [and] Rakim up like that.”
The “Boom Boom Pow” musician then clarified that he’s a fan of the “California Love” rapper, who died by shooting in 1996 at 25 years old. “Tupac’s dope. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I don’t think he’s dope,” explained Will.i.am.
He then spoke to the specific impact hip-hop acts like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest had on his Los Angeles upbringing. “It took me out of the projects while I was still in the projects,” said Will.i.am, noting their music sparked his imagination and “physically” allowed him to “reach” his “dreams.”
“It kept me safe while I was in the projects,” recalled Will.i.am. “Had I loved Tupac and Biggie while I was in the projects, I probably would’ve been stuck in the projects still.”
Ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Notorious B.I.G.’s death on March 9, the late rapper’s son C.J. Wallace spoke to PEOPLE about his legacy.
Born Christopher George Latore Wallace, the “Hypnotize” performer died in a drive-by shooting at age 24 in 1997, when C.J. was just five months old.
“I have no memory of my dad, but I’ve been told so many stories about him and how much we are similar,” C.J. said at the time. “Now that I’m 25, it’s really starting to sit with me that I was able to pass the age that he died. It’s a very special feeling because I’m starting to really grow into my own as a man.”
“He had a global legacy,” continued the entrepreneur. “My dad reached across every corner of this world. I see the reaction that I get when people recognize me, and the DMs I get on Instagram and on Twitter show me that even people younger than me have been inspired by my dad. It’s crazy.”
Watch the interview for yourself below.