It was March 9th and I was a sophomore in high school and I was getting unpacked from a class trip to Washington D.C.(Close-Up) and one of my boys calls me and tells me to turn to the news because The Notorious B.I.G. aka Biggie Smalls had been shot. I turned to the news and gapped in awe as news reports were rolling in about how he was fighting for his life in a Los Angeles hospital. I remember acknowledging that this would be the moment that hip hop would never be the same again. In previous posts “If Tupac Was Alive A Lot of Rappers Would Be Working at Jiffy Lube” and “Jam Master Jay: Best in the Biz Lost Forever” I talked about how these slain artists affected my love for hip hop and the murder of the Notorious B.I.G. was no different. I mean think about it my blog is title is inspired by his line “I went from Ashy to Classy”.
Biggie is considered one of the best MCs to ever touch the microphone. The impact he had in the short time he graced the hip hop scene cannot be denied. He was able to make headway in a West Coast/Death Row dominated industry. When his critically acclaimed album Ready to Die dropped in 1994 it was a culmination of the East Coast showing they still could produce quality music. Between Biggie’s debut, Nas’ Illimatic, Wu Tang Clan‘s 36 Chambers, and Black Moon’s Enta Da Stage the landscape of hip hop was beginning to regain another cycle of balance. B.I.G.’s music was so profound because he was able to speak to the average everyday hustler and person working hard to have a little of the American Dream. His delivery and wordplay was rough yet unique and somewhat ingenious. He was a big man speaking on things like he was 6’3 200 pounds instead of 6’3 and over 300 pounds. B.I.G. gave his listener a symbolization that they could go from Ashy to Classy and relate to the struggle and mental anguish to get there.
I remember when I bought Ready to Die it was Thanksgiving weekend and I was back in Chicago visiting my father and I took the bus to River Oaks Mall. I got to MusicLand and to my astonishment there were no Ready to Die tapes left. I shuffled over to one of the female clerks and inquired if there were anymore in the back.
She looked at me and asked me, “How old are you?”
I muttered “Sixteen.”
I nodded my head as she laughed. She told me to hold on for a second as she went to the back. She came back out with the tape and ushered me over to checkout. She would proceed to tell me that she knew I wasn’t 16 and not to tell anyone she sold me the album. I was too geeked that I was able to finish this coupé of purchasing a Parental Advisory album. I don’t think I even got 10 feet out of the store before I tore open the packaging and popping in the tape in my Walkman. I rode the bus back home and sat there dissecting the liner notes and trying to get into this mind of this crack dealer from Brooklyn. I thought to myself after hearing “Everyday Struggle”, “Suicide Thoughts”, and “Juicy” that this was some of the rawest stuff I had heard come from an East Coast artist in my life.
Fast forward a few years to the ill-fated East Coast vs. West Coast “Rap War” and everyone musically was picking sides especially in the Midwest where we were affected by all types of music it was a deeper battle ground. I was never allied with either side during this affair but I will admit that I did partake and enjoy in it.
I loved both 2 Pac and Biggie for different reasons and was enthralled with the Biggie and 2 Pac track posse track “Runnin” that happened to be on the Million Man March Soundtrack. When the Vibe Covers and Articles with Death Row on the cover and subsequently a few months later Biggie and Puff Daddy on the cover. I basked in all this drama and heat lyrically it was bringing from artists on both coasts. I never thought that things would escalate to the levels they did. I remember hearing 2 Pac’s “Hit’em Up” and thinking this has to be the hardest diss track I have heard in my life and then seriously wondering if 2 Pac did have sex with B.I.G.’s wife Faith Evans. Then hearing B.I.G.’s “Who Shot Ya?” on a mixtape and was like damn Biggie clowning Tupac for being shot at the studio that night.
Who would have ever known all this drama, media hoopla, and male ego would result in the death of two of the best MCs to ever touch a Mic?
When Tupac was killed in Las Vegas I didn’t know that 6 months later that we would lose another icon. Then to make it worse finding the people responsible for their murders would be like looking for a Yeti or the Loch Ness monster or something. Fourteen years doesn’t seem like it was that long ago BUT the reality is that it is. Though I have vivid memories of rockin’ to the likes of Biggie and 2 Pac it also saddens me that people who gave so much to this art form have no closure in the solving of their murders. When asking who shot Biggie? Who shot 2 Pac? In my older age I have come to realize that I and everyone else who edged on this situation are somewhat responsible for shooting both men. Yes, none of us pulled the triggered but those of us who took things from more of a level of just being music (media, fans, record labels) and being a coastal “war” have just as much to do with it. Damn, Biggie Who Shot Ya?…Sadly a bit of everybody.
- Slideshow: theGrio’s 15 favorite Notorious B.I.G. songs (thegrio.com)
- Eighties Babies and How Crack Cocaine and Dope Changed Us Forever (singleblackmale.org)
- Sometimes, Basketball and Hip Hop Shouldn’t Mix (aptheblank.com)
- Is the entire country grading on a curve? (blacknbougie.com)
- Believe Half Of What You Hear and None Of What You See? (verysmartbrothas.com)
- You Chasing Money BUT What About The Purpose? (ashy2classy.net)