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The Greatest Rapper Of All Time Died 25 Years Ago Today

NY Post - After leaving the party at the Petersen Automotive Museum, the Notorious B.I.G., a k a Biggie Smalls, was killed at the age of 24 in a drive-by shooting while sitting in his GMC Suburban. Twenty-five years after his murder on March 9, 1997, the case remains an unsolved mystery.

“It becomes more mythic that it’s not solved, that we don’t know [who murdered him],” said Alan Light, who was editor-in-chief of Vibe at the time.

But after making just two studio albums in his career — with only one, his classic 1994 debut “Ready To Die,” released in his lifetime  — the legacy of the Notorious B.I.G. still lives large a quarter century later. In fact, he became only the second solo rapper inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2020. And anytime “Juicy,” “Hypnotize,” “One More Chance” or “Mo Money Mo Problems” comes on, Big Poppa still rocks the party.

The fact that Christopher Wallace, aka MC Kwest, aka Biggie Smalls, aka The Notorious B.I.G. died on this day TWENTY FIVE years ago just further confirms my conviction that time is absolutely flying

Last year the Netflix doc “I Got A Story To Tell” came out.

I wrote what in my opinion was one of my best, and definitely favorite, blogs I’ve ever done on it.

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A few of the many, many, standout scenes that made the doc a must watch for any Biggie fan, rap fan, or music fan in general were these -

- - The footage of him singing Jodeci - Freak'n You. Fuckin incredible. Big was the man. Constantly laughing, joking, or trying to make people laugh or not take themselves so seriously. Somebody you always wanted to be around.

-- Crazy amount of jazz and R&B influenced his works. Puffy said he was actually an "r&b writer that rapped". He didn't know what planet biggie came from with his harmonies, cadence, and rap flow. The footage of Biggie's obsession with Motown and R&B as a child and how it carried over into his writing was really fascinating. The guy was really fucking smart.

- Biggies mom didn't know what he was really doing when his first album Ready to Die came out. He tried to keep her from listening to it when her friend told her about it and how profane it was. She was a "country-western" fan because that's the only other thing you could hear on the radio besides reggae in Jamaica, so she made Biggie listen to it as a kid and it influenced him. He liked it so much that he said he couldn't fall asleep at night without listening to the country-western station on the radio.

- He grew up learning about music from his uncle Dave in Jamaica, who would take him to music clubs there when they would visit his grandma once a year. 

- The live footage from "Gimme The Loot" was fucking awesome. Here's another version of it-

-- Biggie broke down game film like fucking TB12. His boy D Roc, who filmed everything shown in the Doc, was constantly filming the crowd during shows, rather than B.I.G., because B.I.G. wanted to be able to watch after and study the crowd's reactions to certain parts of songs so that he could adjust. 

- The jazz trumpeter that taught B.I.G. the ins and outs of music theory, he was training him to become a Jazz artist… Max Roach, Clifford Brown, were just a few influences. He said Biggie could have been one of the great jazz musicians had he stayed on that path. He said that when he heard his rap songs, that he immediately noticed how he mimicked percussion with his rhyming style. The sequence they demonstrate in the film was so fuckin cool. 

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- The first song Biggie ever rapped over was Toto - Africa. No joke. And I don't think I've ever needed something in my possession more in my life.

"MC Kwest, recorded his first track, which we hear a snippet of. (It’s a Slick Rick rip-off, over a sample of Toto’s “Africa,” interestingly anticipating Puff Daddy’s later reliance on classic records as backing beats for songs by B.I.G. and others.

- Finally seeing a picture of and getting THE STORY behind "Miss U", Roland aka Olie, aka "O"…

Watching this, and reading and listening to literally everything and anything I can get my hands on related to B.I.G. through the years leaves me pretty confident in saying Christopher Wallace was the kind of unique, charismatic, talent that would have been successful in any path he’d chosen in life.

Like the amazing scene where George’s dad tells him in the movie Blow, when George is seeking some last semblance of validation from his elderly father, “I’m really great at what I do dad. I mean, I’m really really great at what I do.” And his father Fred, played by Ray Liotta, proudly, but with regret, replies, 

“Let me tell you something George, you would have been great at anything. Anything."

I feel like we all know somebody, or several people like this.

People who could and would be equally or even more successful had they chosen another path.

Maybe they went down the wrong road, in your eyes, or their own. And it cost them dearly. You think about what could have been had different choices been made. Or had a few things broke differently, diverting their journey down another road.

I feel like that was Christopher Wallace.

Raised by a saintly single mother in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Brooklyn. He was musically interested and gifted from a young age. Classically trained by a jazz trumpeter.

We could just as easily be celebrating 49 year old Christopher Wallace the jazz sensation today as we are remembering his tragic, senseless death at the age of 24. (I like to think that in an alternate universe this is true. I’m a weirdo sorry)

And that’s why his story is so sad to me.

The greatest line from one of my favorite movies ever, A Bronx Tale, goes, “the saddest thing in life is wasted talent”.

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When I first saw that movie when I was young, even though lessons and themes like those were usually over my head because of my age, that one stuck with me.

Like a curse it’s weighed on me through the years.

I’ve watched friends pass away due to totally preventable accidents. Overdoses. Suicides. People with so much to live for and give to the world.

I’ve felt helpless watching my best friend from high school go from Boston College valedictorian and Wall St. hot shot to heroin addict, incapable of holding down a job when he should be CEO of a fortune 100 company.

Wasted talent.

Biggie was anything but wasted talent.

What he achieved in his short 24 years, with a deck that was stacked against him, is something most people don’t or can’t achieve in 50. Or 70. Or 90.

His music might not have been your cup of tea, but it was the drink of choice for millions.

Not just in his time, but in the time since.

In an age where music has zero shelf life- where we’re constantly over saturated with non-stop new filler, hit songs are here today and gone tomorrow, The Notorious B.I.G.’s music is still relevant.

Not only is it relevant. It’s still popular.

It still goes off in the clubs, it’s still played before games to create energy and hype up its listeners, it’s still sung by groups when it comes on.

Can you say that for hit songs from 5 years ago? Or 10? Can you even name a hit song from 5 years ago?

Do you think any song in todays top 10 will be remembered 10 years from now?

(Sidebar- I always wonder this, (again, my brains fucked up), but you know growing up how our parents and grandparents would always have “oldies” stations on in the house and the car? Timeless songs. A lot that still get played today and will til the end of time? Well what the fuck are we gonna have? There’s gonna be like a 20 year gap I feel where it goes 80s, 90s “oldies stations” into present time and the entire 2000s will be lost. Except for Hip Hop because that first ten years was arguably the last ten of its golden era).

Biggie’s work will still be around.

Because it wasn’t artificial garbage like we here today.

He rhymed poetry, often in story form, based on first hand accounts of real life experiences.

His songs were auditory experiences just as movies are visual.

And his flow and style were and still are unmatched.

To say his life was taken too soon was the understatement of the century.

It’s an endless rabbit hole of butterfly effect hypotheticals thinking how different the music world, and rap game, would be today, if Notorious B.I.G. were still alive.

For starters, I have zero doubt in my mind Jay-Z would be nowhere near the success story he is.

Biggie not only paved the way for Jay-Z, and put him on, but his passing created a void- a “king-less New York”, that Jay-Z happily asserted himself to.

I think Biggie would be on a level similar to Snoop Dogg, but with an even greater stature. He had even more personality. People were naturally drawn to his magnetic charm. His talent was off the charts. And as Dave has shown time and time again, the world loves fat people.

Rest In Peace to the best to ever do it.

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P.s.- special Biggie “Sunday Night Sample” coming this weekend. What song do you want featured?