For most rap / music aficionados, today marks the 12th anniversary of Christopher Wallace's a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G.'s shooting in Los Angeles, CA on March 9th, 1997. Of course, in New York City, people are dedicating their entire shows to showing love to the behemoth and befallen MC. Tweets and Facebook statuses (including mine) recite Biggie lyrics, and others have even went as far as changing their avatars and teaching with a Biggie instrumental in the background (OK, that last one was me in my mind, but you get the point).
However, in recent months, I encountered a few people who had dissenting opinions about the MC, and naturally I respect that. The idea of having a "top 5 greatest MCs" is purely subjective, and thus, I have to acquiesce my pulpit in that respect, even when some put Aesop Rock and RZA above BIG, for instance. Yet, if we create an imaginary rubric for how we should judge MCs, we'd see an MC of the fiercest nature who frankly has very few true equals even with the plethora of contemporaries.
1. Any Record, Any Time: Whether it was a slow jam, an R&B cut, or a hardcore joint, Biggie would bring it with every lyric. It just didn't matter what tempo or timbre the track had, you always knew he'd have something crazy to say on the joint. He had songs that would make people cry, make people dance, and make people stop and think. His first full-length contribution, Ready To Die, was an earnest journal of the pathos and turmoil of a young ghetto boy trying to make it. The second album, Life After Death, was an all-out opus of the confluences between the old and new lives he was leading.
2. The Featured Feature: No matter what anyone says, a large component of gaining notoriety is how you do on someone else's track. Some rappers made their living on that, but few actually knew how to use these moments of shine to their advantage. Biggie did, and had this awareness of the moment. It's almost as if he knew that, by condensing how much actual time he had on the mic, he had to say the freshest, flyest verse he could.
3. His Legions of Biters: Much the way we see retweets in Twitter or remastering of albums, Biggie's lyrics have been reused so many times, you get the sense that people literally have taken dibs on his verses and who'd be using what for their next hit record. His battle songs get used for any popular beef. His best lines (how could you just pick one?) get used for chorus after chorus. Some of his best quotes have become part of the rap zeitgeist, even when people aren't fully conscious of what they're saying.