My Own Story To Tell
Growing up in Northern California, aka NoCal, aka Northern Cali-foolya, the only fat rapper I knew about was E-40. You see, for me, seeing videos like, "Hurricane" and "Sprinkle Me" on BET or MTV were significant. They were life altering, because here was a man from not too far from home, with his own video on national television.
But, to this day, I could not tell you what either of those videos looked like. I remember the feeling I had, but I do not remember the treatment or certain scenes. As a matter of fact, the only video of a fat rapper I ever remember was, "Juicy" by The Notorious B.I.G.
Biggie died ten years ago today, which is making this pimp feel old as a muh'fucka. But his death at the time wasn't that significant to me. I actually remember where I was when I heard 'Pac died, but I don't remember what I was doing when Big died. Rather what I I do remember about Biggie is when he was alive, if only because it wouldn't be until years later I would realize how this story I'm about to tell, just about sums up the significance of The Notorious B.I.G.
I heard about Biggie via the video "Juicy", which was in constant rotation on BET, at a time when BET would play any video made by a black artists. And yeah, I was familiar with Wu and Nas, but I wasn't really feeling their shit, because you know, it was that East Coast boom bap, and I wasn't from the East Coast. I was (and to a degree, still am) a West Coast rap fanatic. It's not just that I prefer songs about bitches and drive-bys over shorties and bodega robberies. Musically, the G-Funk sound of Southern California rap, and the mob music of Northern California made more sense to me. The funk epitomized the environment I was living in. So, had "Juicy" been ladent with steely strings, and an old soul drum break like much of his peers were spitting over at the time, I probably would've switched the channel. But "Juicy" was banging with a sample of Mtume's "Juicy Fruit", a funky, sparse cut that reminded me so much of other music I was listening to at the time.
Then, there were the rhymes. Not only was it the flow, it was the imagery of what Biggie was saying. I mean, I grew up pretty poor, but "sardines for dinner"? Fuck that. Times were never that rough. At least mom's had the Mac 'N Cheese or the Chef Boyardee. And, I will never forget the most incredible, baller-ific line I heard at that point.
"BIRTHDAYS WAS THE WORST DAYS/NOW WE SIP CHAMPAGNE WHEN WE'RE THIRSTAY!"
Wow, I thought. I remember repeating that line to myself non-stop, over and over, just so I could have it with me the next day and recite it at middle school randomly amongst my friends. Then, in my own mind, every kid would want to know where I heard that line. The line I was going to spit was by someone they weren't up on yet. In my mind, the chances were slim anyone caught this video, especially because I was catching it on a day I was playing sick and stayed home from school.
So the next day, in gym class over a game of volleyball, I spit the line:
"BIRTHDAYS WAS THE WORST DAYS/NOW WE SIP CHAMPANGE WHEN WE'RE THIRSTAY!"
Everyone turned their head and looked at me like I was speaking Spanish, and a couple of kids said things like: "Yo, don't ever say that shit again. That shit is wack." One kid asked me who said the line, and thinking they were feeling it, I said, "The Notorious B.I.G. He's this new guy I caught on BET. You ever hear of him?" The kid said, "No, I just wanted to make sure I knew who said that so when I hear their name, I can turn them off."
This is not to say, B.I.G. is my favorite rapper of all time, because he isn't. Nor do I believe he's the greatest of all time. But consider this: Ten years after B.I.G.'s death, those words, the ones I recited in my middle school gym are recited by people all over the world on this day, if not every other day of the year. So when people do say he was the greatest of all time, I may not agree, but I can't argue that one line he spit will probably be in my head for the rest of my life.
"Juicy" - The Notorious B.I.G.