Today is the anniversary of Biggie’s death and I’ve never written about it, even though I regard him as highly as Prince, Sting, or Wynton Marsalis.
And I’ve just realized that Biggie is pretty much the template for the kind of guy I’m typically attracted to-ones with a sense of bravado, witty, and smart. All of this comes through in his lyricism. But I digress.
Biggie was only 22 when his debut album, Ready to Die, came out, but his talent far surpassed many rappers who were twice his age. Not to mention he could write rhymes in his head…he didn’t have to write anything down. I consider myself a wordsmith, but I’m hard pressed to rhyme anything above cat/mat/hat.
He’s widely considered as one of the best rappers ever…but why? Some credit goes to Puff Daddy and his production team (shout out to The Hitmen, by the way), certainly…I mean, who was flipping a sample of “I Put A Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (which became “Kick in the Door”) or Isaac Hayes’ “Walk on By” (which became the bassline for “Warning”)? I’ll answer for you…no one was touching Bad Boy at that point.
But Biggie had something other than a great team producing beats…he had charisma, wordplay, and a way of drawing you into the song. You’re not just going to bob your head when you hear a Biggie song, you’re actually listening to the gems he’s dropping.
“Excellence is my presence, never tense
Never hesitant, leave a n**** bent real quick
Real sick, brawl nights, I perform like Mike
Anyone, Tyson, Jordan, Jackson
action, pack guns, ridiculous”
Or how about this one…
“Woe! Oh is me – that’s what I get for trickin’
Pay my own bail, commence to ass-kickin’
Kick in the door, waving the .44
All you heard was “Poppa don’t hit me no more!”
Disrespect my clique, my shit’s imperial”
Or this one..
“My flow, detrimental to your health
Usually roll for self, I have son ridin shotgun
My mind’s my nine, my pen’s my Mac-10”
And my personal favorite (which he wrote for Lil’ Kim)…
“Check it, I write a rhyme, melt in your mouth like M&M’s
Roll with the M.A.F.I.A. remember them?
Tell em when I used to mess with gentlemen
Straight up apostles, now strictly n**** that jostle”
All of these lines represent his brilliance, his ego, his ability to choose words that are more likely to be found on a SAT test rather than in a rap song, and his flow (he was tutored by a jazz musician in his early days who taught him how to listen for the nuances in the beat)…he took an art form that he clearly loved and respected and turned it upside down. And everyone has been chasing him ever since. I mean, lyrically, he’s supposed to represent…he’s not only the client, he’s the player president.