(First — my notification list has been acting up. Check back for the last few entries, please.)
There’s something that, as a sometimes-but-forever music critic, that’s always fascinated me about Biggie Smalls — he’s rap deity, even though he’s only got one unequivocally classic record. He’s as much a mixtape god as rap superstar, but he’s also Jimi Hendrix. Like Jimi, he left an indelible mark on his artform in roughly three years.
Hendrix did it from ’66-68. Biggie did it from ’94-97. And, on a tangential point I won’t belabor, did you know Gilligan’s Island only came on for three seasons? Syndication can shape your image of the past, can’t it?
I just came across an interesting look at Biggie at Slate. I typically find the analysis of hip hop at sites like that to be dreadfully lacking, but there was a great point here — Biggie was the everyman rapper. I’d never thought of it like that, but that’s absolutely true.
Nothing about Biggie said “star” except for the fact that he said he was a star. All of us, at some point or another, have met some ugly dude that swore that he was pimpin’, swore up and down that he had girls badder than anything you’d ever seen, and told you he had pull with people and places that would blow your mind. All of us have looked at that dude and laughed in our heads.
Then, on a Friday night where we didn’t have a thing to do, we saw that dude with a chick that it made absolutely no sense for him to have. To those dudes, I have but one thing to say — salut, Don Corleone.
Biggie was that dude. Presumably, he had that pull because he was just that dude. What dude? That dude, and I mean that in what is possibly the only way in which being “that dude” carries a positive connotation.
You can’t quite put your finger on it. But it’s something.
Biggie’s rhymes aren’t that much different. I mean, I could point to brilliant lyric after brilliant lyric and blow your mind, but I’m not exactly sure I could tell you why every part works. They just do. The turns of phrase are so natural but so amazing, the metaphors spot-on, and Biggie had the best sense for when to get it done simply and when to do it complexly, even when using the former on the front end of the bar an hitting the punch with the latter. He just made rapping seem so easy, when anyone that’s every tried to do so little as record a verse knows it’s harder than penitentiary steel.
And with those easy raps, he made being The Man seem just as easy. Seriously — if that fat, ugly motherfucker could run the club, there was no reason for anyone to be at the house playing Tecmo Bowl on Friday night. I don’t care if you were having a tournament in the dorm or not.
Ask you what your interests are
who you be with?
things to make you smile
what number to dial?
you gon be here for a while?
I’m gon call my crew
you gon call your crew
we can rendezvous
at the bar around 2.
Just that easy. Sometimes it is. For some people, it’s that easy all the time. It’s a talent, and it’s one that one would have a hard time explaining.
And it sounded that easy when he was braggadocio, gangster, mackin, introspective, or anything else. Ice Cube’s word economy with Slick Rick’s gift for description, and all spit like he can’t understand why this is so hard for you to do.
Just wish he had more than one album I could play front-to-back.