I shouldn’t have to write this story. Pisses me off actually. A past tense piece about an amazing microphone controller so black, fat, and far from ugly that 17 years after his depressing death on March 9, 1997, if you mention his name – The Notorious BIG – two questions generally spark an emotionally erratic yet nostalgic conversation.
The first being, where were you when Biggie died?
Most hip hop heads, past or present, seem to suddenly remember their whereabouts better than the death of a family member. Whether smoking a blunt, or chillin’ with their girl, or riding around listening to Hot 97, people can often clearly recall where they were, what they were doing, and specifically how they felt in the moment that BIG’s tragic death was first mentioned. Nearly everyone felt the same – a nauseating aching sting, stabbing the middle of the chest like one of the four bullets that punctured Biggie’s hip, liver, heart and lung. Breathing was momentarily lost when word of BIG hit. The cardiac attack silenced sentences in the same way it put Biggie to rest. The tat on his right arm, high above the hand of God, gave the first words of death, “The Lord is my salvation and light…"
When his autopsy was released, 15 years later, a report on CNN.com wrote, “His slaying has long stumped investigators.”
But for many that “stump” is bullshit, mushy and thick, sticking out like a hemorrhoid pain in the ass.
Which leads to Biggie death conversation Number 2: Why has his murder not been solved?
To me, one of millions of diehard "Notorious" fans, that so-called “stump” by law enforcement is code for difficulty in continually trying to figure out how to explain why BIG’s execution has not been solved. “Stumped” sounds like a synonym used to vaguely reference why the killers of young black men are rarely, if ever, found. No matter millionaire, or hood knucklehead, or both combined into one, being the color of dark or white chocolate melts the craving that true detectives typically have in finding the real root of murderous crimes that cover colored boys in coffins six feet deep.
Had it been Elvis gunned down on a glitzy Los Angeles Boulevard, a block away from high profile industry types flossing – someone, anyone, whether right or wrong, Blood, Crip, bow-tied Muslim or not – would have been blamed, convicted, and sentenced. This pursuit of justice would have been publicized, strategized, with a political police assault full of sketches facts and media reports, to woo world opinion and convince all of the guilty party that had taken the life of one of the most cherished entertainers of all time.
But not in Biggie’s case. Nope. After all that money made, records played, and millions sold internationally, the final scene of Christopher Wallace’s short 24-year life was like a 360 degree walk in time, ending in the exact same way he began – like a brotha on a street corner in the hood.
But thanks to Bedstuy, there is eternal life after death. Biggie’s Che Guevara inspired portrait sits prominently above the Lafayette Avenue C Train stop in Fort Green, Brooklyn. Beautiful and vibrant colors stand out, framed by realistic fluttering doves, grabbing immediate attention in the same way the microphone king did. The words beneath this picture situated on the Brooklyn Love Building are perfect: “¡Comandante Biggie!”
The blue beret painted atop BIG’s trademark intense stare – the same one that made weak-ass MCs beware – is like a stoic representation of his rebellious, successful fight to overtake hip hop. The self-proclaimed "Black Frank White" is undeniably one of the greatest MCs of all time. Top 5? Insulting. Top 3. Let it be.
His indelible ability to paint pictures drenched in ghetto jewels, and express the essence of a genuine rags-to-riches existence, is incomparably packaged with the way he effortlessly rode the beat. He smoothly maneuvered in and out of words, weaving together sentences into tales creating colorful moving images that flashed like bright “Warning” lights:
Call the coroner
there's gonna be alot of slow singin
and flower bringin
if my burglar alarm starts ringin
whatcha think all the guns is for?
all-purpose war got the rottweilers by the door
and I feed em gun powder so they can devour
the criminals tryna to drop my decimals
"Warning," BIG (1994)
BIG was a lyrical genius. And his cocky talk knew it, with a likeable playboy arrogance that wooed the ladies. But speaking to women came with ease, a skill founded in the fables he’d told his strict Jamaican mama to duck and dodge her watchful eye.
Once ya grin, I'm in, game begin.
First I talk about how I dress in this,
In diamond necklaces, stretch Lexuses
The sex is just immaculate from the back I get
Deeper and deeper – Help ya reach the
Climax that your man can't make
Call him, tell him you'll be home real late, now sing the break (Uh!)
"One More Chance," BIG (1994)
And of course, there was the unforgettable way he evoked vivid memories, with verbal melodies, full of fact-filled emotions that manifested moments from happier times.
It was all a dream
I used to read Word Up magazine
Salt'n'Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine
Hangin' pictures on my wall
Every Saturday “Rap Attack,” Mr. Magic, Marley Marl
I let my tape rock 'til my tape popped
Smokin' weed and bamboo, sippin' on private stock
Way back, when I had the red and black lumberjack
With the hat to match
Remember Rappin' Duke, duh-ha, duh-ha
You never thought that hip hop would take it this far
"Juicy," BIG (1994)
Extensive hit collection aside, the most unforgettable and defining aspect of BIG is his glorious name. It's forever written in our hearts, etched on brains, tatted across memory cells like fresh, wet, ink bleeding with passion projected from rhymes in a time that came from one of hip hop's legendary and most ground-breaking lyrical minds.
We will always love Big Poppa. #RIP