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In Memory of Christopher “Notorious B.I.G./Biggie Smalls” Wallace
By Knowledge Born (Ka’amenta NorthstarrAllah)
On March 9, 1997, the world lost one of its most popular and prolific artists of its time. Many hail him as one of Hip Hop greatest to ever do it, while many others say he IS the greatest, PERIOD. Notwithstanding, in his short, yet none the less impacting tenure as Hip Hops King Pin many of this generation have never sat and analyzed why he is considered the Greatest Of All Time.
As P. Diddy (then known as Puff Daddy) made his less than graceful exit from Uptown Records, he got an aspiring young artist from Bedford-Stuyvesant “Bed Stuy” Brooklyn New York as his ace in the hole. B.I.G. first appeared on remixes and cameos, notably Mary J. Blidge’s break-out hit “Real Love (1992) Reggae vet Supacat “Dolly My baby” and Heavy D’s ” A Bunch of N**” where B.I.G. shined amongst then seasoned artist such as Guru (R.I.P) of Gangstarr.
As 1993 drew to a close New York was buzzing. The talented Queensbridge MC, Nas brought attention back to New York after dropping jewels such as “Halftime” and “The World is Yours”. At this time, the West coast ruled over all media outlets. Snoop Dogg had then released his debut album after signing on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic (1992). New York was in a drought. However, with Nas’s 1994 opus Illmatic, New York was back in the race. Although critically acclaimed, it did not top the charts, barely going GOLD after a year being in stores. Now enters Ready to Die. With tracks like “Juicy” (his first Single) “Big poppa” and “One More Chance” B.I.G. returned the focus back to New York, opening the doors for fellow artist such as Lil’ Kim, Junior MAFIA, Jay-Z and Foxy Brown. The record went 3X platinum following its 1994 release.
Ready to Die, to me at least, is the soundtrack to the average young Black Male in America. This is the album that set him in stone as being one of the greatest of All time. Track by track it is a dark, yet reflective album. Each chronicles not only parts of his career (Ready to Die was originally made in 1992-1993) but parts of his life pre and post fame. His lyrics are both chilling and descriptive of the inner city life. Most never stop and consider the conditions in which he described. His voice changes at least three times in the course of this album. One is a near breathless bark forceful and precise, the other introspective and calm. The last we see is a more lyrically sharp and less harsher tone. On tracks such as “Big poppa”, “Unbelievable” and “Suicidal thoughts’ this style I like because he is far more intricate and his metaphors are more plentiful. His flow (ability to stay on beat while rhyming) was impeccable EVEN when he rhymed in his slow, nasally style.
Three years would pass before the world got another Notorious B.I.G. Album. Life After Death was the marking point of his return to the airwaves. His first single “Hypnotize” was a monster smash hit. The album was a huge success and a worthy follow up to Ready To Die. Some even say it’s better than his debut. Life After Death would be yet another multi-platinum release for the Brooklyn rhymer. Unfortunately, he never got to see it, for he was gunned down in Los Angeles, CA. after a party on that late March night.
The legacy he leaves is a major one. Not one rapper enters the game without nodding to his lyrical prowess, more often than not, seek to imitate or blatantly plagiarize his works. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery as they say… However what is to really be cherished is the music he left behind, a time capsule. In 1999, a Album of unfinished music was reformatted and released as his unofficial third album, “Born Again” laden with collaborations with artists such as Mobb Deep, Method Man and a young Eminem. In 2004, a similar album was released entitled, “Biggie duets”. While it gained moderate success with the single “Spit your Game”, many fans felt it was a violation of BIG’s work. Many, including other famous artist who knew him, cited the fact that artists who were on the album Biggie would have never worked with. In 2008 eight a biopic starring Jamal “Gravy” Woolard was released. The film Notorious gained forty -three Million dollars at the box office worldwide.
I personally feel that no other artist can match him, even Jay-Z (though he may say different) his lyrics are deep and complex, yet so simple you could sing along with him on every line. He left behind a Daughter and a Son, a Mother who still seeks justice for his murder (his killer to this date has yet to be found) and an entire generation (including myself) who hails him as Big Poppa: The Undisputed Hip Hop King of New York.
Click the cover to check out Vibe Magazine’s 10 Rare Notorious B.I.G. Moments