DAR Legends: The Notorious B.I.G.

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-There are artists who possess the ability to thrill us with their flow and lyrical delivery. If there was ever an artist who embodied that 100%, it was The Notorious B.I.G. without question. While I wasn't the die hard fan of Biggie that many are, I was always impressed by his ability and how he put his words together. He was the complete package as an artist and that was rare. From his debut in the early 90s with "Party And Bullshit" to the iconic debut album "Ready To Die" and his final official album, the classic double album "Life After Death", Biggie left behind a legacy that very few could rival. Today, just days after his new documentary premiered on A&E, we discuss his legend and what he means to hip hop music and the culture and in general. Let's take a look at the legend of Biggie.

For some reason whenever we talk about someone as a “legend” or an “all time great”, there’s an underlying expectation that they’ve been in their field of work/talent for a long time and have a substantial portfolio under their belt to support the claim. It is as if longevity and body of work is what makes a legend a legend, but hip hop would prove otherwise. In 1992, The Notorious BIG was signed to Bad Boy and hip hop as we knew it would never be the same. He only had 5 years, two official studio releases, and a ton of drama and yet still managed to cement himself in the fabric of hip hop as one of the greatest MC’s to ever hold a mic. 

I’m very vocal about BIG being my most favorite rapper. From the very first time I heard BIG speak, through his record breaking debut and everything else, I knew he was destined to be a tremendous force in the industry. So, what makes BIG a legend and an all-time great? As weighted as that question is, the answer is simple: He was so unapologetically himself that by simply pursuing his passion in the only way he knew how, he created a standard of rhyming, of flow and intonations that made his words pop. Even the old school pioneers couldn’t rival it. The way BIG links his rhyming patterns and weaves his heart into each bar is fascinating. His very first single was “Party and Bullshit” way back in 1992, and while that song was nothing more than a “party anthem”, we got a little exposure of how well received his energy would be. Over the next two years and after signing to Bad Boy Records in 1994, hip hop got “Ready To Die” which is one album that gives “Illmatic” a run for its money!

Conceptually, his debut was near perfection. Starting the album off with a 3-minute summary of his life, like a “trailer” from birth to end, keeping the vivid imagery intact was a clever approach. Each track that followed expanded on aspects of his life and took listeners through each hurdle, thought and emotion; like the extended detailed breakdown of the intro. The coherence is undeniable and truly showed his versatility (to some degree). Big gave us bangers with “Juicy”, “Respect” and “Things Done Changed”, then slowed it down with “Big Poppa” and “One More Chance” and even dropped some profound insights with “Everyday Struggle” and “Suicidal Thoughts”.  RTD was deemed a classic almost instantly and became regarded as one of the best debuts of all time.

Shortly after the release of “Ready To Die” and at the height of his popularity a conflict arose between himself and Tupac (who was also at the height of his popularity) over an incident where Tupac got shot (Quad Studios) and Biggie seemed to be blamed for it being a set up. Of course, with media involvement and spinning stories, what was an alleged misunderstanding turned into a full blown coastal feud. 1995-1996 was a tumultuous time for hip hop, as we saw it in headlines, in diss tracks and of course the shootings of both Tupac and Biggie only 6 months apart from each other which rattled the core of hip hop (at the time) but very shortly after his passing, BIG’s double album “Life After Death” was posthumously released (it was set to release in a few weeks before he passed) and fans were given the same caliber of rhyming, flow, delivery and smooth intonations and a ton of variation which we loved from his debut. 

He left us with “Sky’s The Limit”, “Going Back To Cali”, “Ten Crack Commandments”, “Hypnotize” “Kick In The Door” and so many other gems. “Life After Death” would be considered one of the best double albums of all time with a perfect crossover track list. While some may critique him for becoming “too commercial”, he maintained the grittiness of his experiences in the streets but made sure he had material for the radio as well. He was a perfect balance of gangster and commercial appeal. He widened his audience and was received well by so many beyond hip hop while still being the essence of the genre. 

BIG's talent was not limited to music either. Through watching interviews, awards shows and the way he carried himself, there was a magnetic energy that he carried. He had presence, confidence and spoke in a manner that maintained an image of humility and assurance. BIG carried himself like an "all time great" and with that earned the respect and title from not only fans but from his peers as well. It’s been two decades since his passing and Biggie’s flow and rhythmic patterns are still used as a standard for rappers starting out and a point of comparison in many debates. His abilities were effortless and although we may have a list of criterions that makes someone a legend, BIG proved otherwise. 

With just two albums in a span of 5 years, he cemented himself as the greatest rapper the East had ever seen and will ever see IMO. I always say, and truly believe that a vital piece of hip hop went the day BIG did and as the years pass it becomes more evident. Hip hop will never have talent, charm and charisma quite like Biggie’s. Rest In Peace Playboy! 

When it comes to BIG, there's really nothing to say that most of us with hip-hop knowledge doesn't know already. It was just a special time to witness greatness in the 90s and you just had to be there to feel it. Before Big, there were your other overweight rappers like The Fat Boys, Biz Markie, Heavy D, Chubb Rock, etc and I liked their music for what it was, but when Big came along, we'd never seen anyone like him with the combination of charisma, style, swag along with that level of lyrical ability. He made his flow come across so effortlessly no matter what kind of beat he was on or what the content of the song was. When I first saw the "Juicy" video, I was not only watching but listening and also rocking to the beat. He was one of the first to do that with that level of ability to captivate. He put out two undeniable classics and it is sad because I know he had way more in the works.

It was great how the stars aligned with all this amazing music we were getting from rappers in that early 90s era. Big was cool with Nas, Hov, AZ and other NY MC's and for them to be as great as they are, they had friendly competition with Big to acknowledge how special his talent was. It took me years to listen to "We'll Always Love Big Poppa" by the LOX in its entirety.
Over the years many have tried to either be like him, sound like him or have been forced on us like Guerrilla Black, Shyne, and even some clowns tried it with Rick Ross, but I won't go there. None of them were anything close or could be mentioned in the GOAT conversation. But I guess that in itself is a indication of greatness when people want the "next" you.

The man's storytelling was compelling and his cadence over beats was unmatched. Just by watching how people loved him and watching his interviews, you could tell Big was a genuine nice guy and any beef he had, he really didn't want harm done to anyone. He was the backbone of Bad Boy, and I realized this when it all started to fall apart once he died. When I think of Big, I always picture him in versace from head to toe just being the coolest dude in the room gathering everyone together spreading love because "It's The Brooklyn Way". RIP Big.

It started from a line really:

"It was all a Dream/
I used to read Word Up 
Salt & Pepa and Heavy D all in the limousines/
Hangin' pictures on my wall/ Every saturday, Rap attack, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl/"

With that line, a legend was created. I would like to take the time to share my thoughts on a musician that was a giant and still is a giant in my view even 20 years after his death. The Notorious BIG was larger than life and is still a revered figure in the history of rap. Biggie was a genius with his wordplay and freestyles. He had a way of captivating the listener that very few could. When I saw "Life of Biggie" recently on A&E, it gave me even more of a deeper glimpse into how brilliant his IQ was as a songwriter and lyricist. During the documentary, Jay-Z and Nas talked about the song "Who Shot Ya" and how complex his vocabulary was. Nas even said that he thought about quitting after hearing that record. That is a testament to what kind of presence Biggie had. 

Biggie was a master when it came to samples and remixes. My favorite song is "One More Chance" (Remix). It was incredible to see how he got his hands on DeBarge's "Stay With Me" and put his own swagger on it. He showed what kind of smooth operator he could be and that song exemplified that aspect. He even used a sample of Mary J. Blige's "Don't Go" on that song as well. That also shows how creative he was to blend the music of different eras and build a masterpiece of his own. You could say the same for "Juicy" and "Big Poppa".
His debut "Ready to Die" was a mega album. It was like a spirit bomb from Goku. Whatever Biggie touched, he turned to gold. The same way that Biggie could be the smooth Brooklyn kingpin, he could also show how much of a savage he was coming from the streets with a song like "Gimme the Loot" or "Unbelievable". In order to succeed, you need versatility, and Biggie had it to a science. If you gave LL Cool J a song like "One More Chance", people might not receive it as well, because they would just look at that as the usual LL material. However, it became a breakout song for Biggie. I have said it many times, and LL himself would even admit it. I mention that song, because of a lyric that sticks out the most for me:

"Heartthrob never/
Black and ugly as ever/
However, I stay Coogi down to the socks/
Rings and watch filled with rocks/"

That was his way of saying, "I don't look like everybody's sex symbol, but I have style and you will love me for it". On the other hand, the most tragic part of the Biggie story is how miscommunication not only dissolved his relationship with Tupac, but it also cost them their lives. Charlamagne even tweeted this during the documentary. After Tupac was shot at the studio and robbed, Biggie even tried to reach out to Tupac to get things clarified. However, Pac didn't want to hear it, because he felt betrayed. Then, you add the elements of Suge Knight and the media and that turns this into a fireball that is out of control. This was the most painful part of the documentary. Ms. Voletta Wallace even said that she felt uncomfortable with her son going to California. Never question a mother's intuition. We all know how that story ended. Add that along with Biggie's separation from Faith Evans over infidelity (Tupac, Lil Kim, etc) and it was just unfortunate the way things turned out. Miscommunication tore him and Tupac apart, and lack of trust tore him and Faith apart. All Biggie wanted to do was bring reconciliation and he became another casualty in this war perpetuated by the media. This saga was "Game of Thrones" LONG before Jon Snow, House of Stark, the Whitewalkers, etc.
In the aftermath of this, we lose the two biggest cultural figures the rap Industry has ever seen. Biggie and Tupac made more of an impact within 25 years of life than what many people could ever make in a lifetime. Biggie has created more of a legacy within an official three-year career than what others have done in at least 25 or 30 years. In the wake of his death, "Life After Death" went Diamond. I believe it even could've gone Diamond if Biggie had survived because of the Album's quality overall.

Biggie Smalls was a figure that transcended culture. Mere words are not enough to describe his presence in not just rap culture, but pop culture collectively. You could tell what kind of void he has left whenever Diddy, Faith Evans, Lil Cease, Lil Kim, etc talk about him. That is a pain that can never go away no matter how much time passes, because of how great of an impact he had the potential to make. I am also of the mentality that if Biggie survived, Jay-Z would have to wait longer to be where he is now. Biggie's style imprint is still felt to this day. He helped to popularize Coogi sweaters. Conor McGregor even calls himself "The Notorious MMA" as a homage.

The iconic image of him wearing his crown is one of the greatest photos in rap history. It is certainly my favorite, as it has been duplicated in different variations. I have at least three shirts with that image. I have one with Biggie himself wearing the Crown. I also have other shirts with Black Panther and Thanos wearing that same Crown. With the Thanos shirt, his crown has the Infinity Stones. My Marvel Comics fans will understand. Anyway, that speaks volumes to how symbolic Biggie was and what he meant to many people.
That crown picture also represents how he was like royalty in New York. It represents how he watched over his Kingdom and looked to conquer even more.

Biggie is to New York what Magic Johnson is to Los Angeles, MJ to Chicago, even Jerry Rice in San Francisco. No other rapper carried an entire city on his back the way that Biggie carried NY while representing Brooklyn. Bad Boy was the House that Biggie built. The Brooklyn Nets even honored Biggie as they retired a special number in memory of him. There was even a Basketball Court in New York named after him. As brilliant as Jay Z has been, Biggie will always be the symbol of Brooklyn.  I am honored just to share how I feel about my personal favorite rapper. Notorious BIG was a trendsetter, trailblazer, lyrical machine and a legend in Rap. Long Live The King, Biggie. If you don't know, now you know. Biggie Smalls is the Illest.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal
-I look back on the career that Biggie has had, and I'm impressed still with the legacy he had in the short time he was here. He took over the airwaves and gave hip hop that extra boost it needed for the East after the Death Row takeover. Watching the documentary on his life showcased how hungry he was, but also how down to earth and chill Biggie was. At the end of the day, Big just wanted to help put on for Junior Mafia, his family, Bad Boy and everyone around him. While the ending of the story is unfortunate, the story itself is one of success, triumph, perseverance, and skill. Biggie is one of the greatest rappers of all time, with legendary songs, albums, moments, and videos in hip hop. Your favorite rapper is probably inspired in some way by Biggie and if he isn't, maybe you need a new favorite rapper. There aren't many names who impacted the culture and the genre quite like Biggie and there will never be another one like him. There can only be one Notorious. RIP Big, your legacy will forever live on.



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