March 9th, 2014
CHRISTOPHER WALLACE, THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING…
In the sprawling celestial crystal palaces of Heaven there is a large elegant building devoted to music studios. In Room 112 you’ll often find the smiling faces of Freaky Tah, Big L, Big Pun, Ol’ Dirty Bastard and the golden boys Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.
They’re head-nodding and rhyming ferociously into mics that look like golden ice cream cones topped with shimmering scoops of diamonds. Friendly musicians visit all the acoustically perfect rooms. Bob Marley often rolls up, Hendrix is always recording cosmic solos that even God is surprised by and Amy Winehouse is always in demand. The concept of epic jam sessions doesn’t come remotely close to describing the mind-melting sonic orchestra constantly reverberating in Paradise.
The music they make up there is so incredible you have to die before you can hear it. Jesus has exceptional taste. He’s truly seen and heard it all. When Jesus wants to pump it up he wears his heavy chain, a thick cuban link necklace made from solidified starlight with an iced-out medallion of BIG’s face. He likes to call it his Biggie Piece.
FLASHES OF GLORY ON MEMORY LANE…
Remember the first time you saw the video for “Big Poppa”? It instantly changed the room into the coolest nightclub in the world, even if it was just you watching in your sweatpants. When BIG and Method Man rip the chorus of “The What”, doesn’t it make you feel like you could easily conquer the world if you just work hard and believe in yourself? “Who Shot Ya?” always rocks hard, but do you ever feel a quick cold shiver run up your spine on those ominous piano notes?
On his debut album Ready To Die, Notorious B.I.G. had already mastered multiple sides of songwriting, swinging from edgy head-bangers to champagne drenched R&B party songs with nonchalant ease. The content is emotionally deep and vulnerable in its honesty. It also greatly benefits from Biggie’s playful sense of humor. Track 8 on Ready to Die and the “Nasty Boy” intro stand with other skits and interludes as evidence he was a funny guy. Rapping conversations with himself in slightly different character voices (“Gimme The Loot”, “Warning”) shows his cinematic creativity in full stride, like Eddie Murphy or Peter Sellers playing different parts in the same film.
Though an undeniable full-on Rap Star, Biggie seemed somehow accessible. Listening to his music means walking and hanging side by side with him. His baritone flow draws you in, hypnotizes your attention and weaves a web of dynamic intrigue. The scenes are vividly detailed right in front of you. When he’s having fun you’re at the greatest party ever, and when he suffered you felt his pain. “Suicidal Thoughts” is a threatening, terrifying recording.
Biggie was fearless about putting his life story in the spotlight. His records share all the desperation of his lowest points and the intoxicating glamour of his success. It’s a compelling and thrilling journey that winds you up like a dramatic action-adventure movie anchored by a charismatic leading man. Ready To Die and Life After Death are visionary, timeless works of art that riff on the roller-coaster ride of the human condition, told through the unique perspective of a poetic genius from New York City in the early and middle 1990’s.
EULOGY FOR A ROYAL LION…
It’s difficult to pinpoint specifically what made Christopher Wallace so magnetically attractive. His magic was the kind that comes from within. When we see someone as confident and intelligent as he was, we want to spend time with them. We all wish we were sharper and bolder. He speaks to the best versions of ourselves.
The shadow cast by the Notorious B.I.G. is long and global, the impression he left on popular music tremendous. The legend of Biggie Smalls parallels our collective memories of the Twin Towers; majestic symbols of greatness, reminders of promises forever lost.
One of the hardest parts of being American is coming to grips with how deeply our history has been stained by gun violence. John Lennon, Tupac and Biggie would’ve never been shot down on tour in Europe, Asia, Africa, or most of the world, only in America. In the future, there’ll be no debate over gun control because human beings will evolve into having no use for instruments of killing.
In a perfect world where he survived the 1997 attack in Los Angeles, Notorious B.I.G. kept making critically and commerically acclaimed albums. He nurtured a remarkable roster of talent and co-owned Bad Boy Records with Sean Combs. Biggie and Tupac made an album together capitalizing on their former rivalry called Clash of the Titans. The record was such a massive success they made a movie based on it. Biggie enjoyed more acting gigs as he got older, including memorable roles as a close ally of Tony Soprano, as Larry David’s hard-partying neighbor on Curb Your Enthusiasm and supporting parts in all of Wes Anderson’s and Spike Lee’s films. Always a man of the people, in his middle-age Wallace successfully ran for Congress and thrived as a political working class hero. Libraries, hospitals and schools throughout Brooklyn are named in his honor.
“Big influenced a generation. This whole generation took pieces and bits. Everybody took a piece out of Big that’s on the charts right now. Everybody.” – AZ
It’s hard to listen to “Juicy” and not get a little choked up. The song is so positive, so full of life and hope. It’s moving to get the rush of how it must feel to have all your dreams come true. That pure joy is captured in the music, and it hasn’t dimmed in two decades. If anything, it’s gotten brighter. Reassuring yet untouchable, it’s there in that radiant light, where Biggie is and will always be with us all.
Image sources, from top;