As a teenager growing up in a small town in Shropshire, without a rail link to anywhere but Kidderminster, music ruled my life. And it didn't matter what type of music it was. Rock, reggae, country, ska, punk and hip-hop. I got introduced to rap by a mate of mine who had loads of 2 Live Crew on T90 tapes, MTV showed me a tall skinny fucker with a molasses drawl called Snoop, another mate played N.W.A and Eazy-E over and over until our ears bled and my step-father, a policeman, nearly took the door off as Fuck Tha’ Police blared from my bedroom in a haze of bong smoke.
But no one rapper before or since has grabbed my ear like Christopher Wallace, AKA Biggie Smalls, AKA Big Poppa, AKA Notorious BIG, AKA The Best Fucking Rapper To pick up a mic, period. Purists will argue the case for KRS One and Rakim, idiots for Tupac and the youth of today might bang on about Jay -Z and some will even argue for 50-Cent. Sure, early Eminem is spellbinding, Nas's Illmatic is a gold from beginning to end, the first solo albums of GZA, Raekwon, Method Man, ODB and Ghost from Wu-Tang are blinding, but none of them, when all is said and done, can hold a candle to the big man from Bed-Stuy.
Jay-Z might rule hip-hop and be the unofficial chairman of the board, but ask him, truthfully, and he’d surely tell you that he'd swap it all to have the flow, wit and ability to freestyle a song in one cut like his old schoolmate.
In the 16 years since he was shot by a drive-by gunman, hundreds, thousands, of young men with attitude, heart a shady past and a story to tell have picked up the mic and gave it their all. Some it great, some of it awful and some of it dated before it is released. Play Ready to Die now, as I am, and apart from the references to the year that it was made, it is as fresh as batch of Krispy Kreme straight out of the oven. Jay-Z might rule hip-hop and be the unofficial chairman of the board, but ask him, truthfully, and he’d surely tell you that he'd swap it all to have the flow, wit and ability to freestyle a song in one cut like his old schoolmate.
I could go on here. I could talk about the lyrics, the way he bounces from vowel to consonant and back again in the blink of an eye. But nothing I can write can come close to just sitting back and watching and listening to the big fella do his work.
RIP Biggie Smalls, your still high as a motherfuckin' helicopter to me…
Biggie aged 17
Party and Bullshit 1993 video
Who Shot Ya? Audio only
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