No More Idols: The Notorious B.I.G.

The picture you see is of my Biggie Smalls Wall. When The Notorious B.I.G. died on March 9, 1997, I gathered all of the pictures I could find, album and magazine covers, reviews, all of it, and placed it on that wall in my bedroom. I had Ready To Die in ‘94, Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s Conspiracy in ‘95, Lil’ Kim’s Hard Core in ‘96 and Life After Death in ‘97. During the download era, I grabbed every obscure Big song I could get my hands on and I even have the O.G. edition of Ready To Die with the original production on top of purchasing the Remastered version when it first dropped. My oldest child’s birthday is the same day as his and I remember this because he says so in the song “Respect” when he spits, “then came the worst date, May 21st/ 2:19 that’s when my momma water burst.” There’s probably not a verse I’ve never heard from Christopher George LaTore Wallace or a song I didn’t know he wrote. It’s safe to say that I’ve been a fan of his for the better part of almost 30 years.

So coming to this decision to write this wasn’t easy on me but the signs are too much to ignore. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time and that means I’ve been compiling facts and knowledge about his life during 3 different decades. During this time I’ve also grown into my own man with kids and a more solidified moral center and because of this, I can no longer idolize The Greatest Rapper of All Time.

Christopher didn’t deserve to be killed at 24 years old. He didn’t get to grow up and learn from his mistakes and the world understands that the mark he left on music was so massive that he likely would’ve made more strides had he lived, notably giving Jay-Z and Nas a run for their money. Even now we do our best to try not to vilify those who were taken from us early and made so many mistakes in their younger years by trying to focus on the great things that were happening that caused them to change or looking at the circumstances that led to their deaths as stopping positive change. I want to do that here but how can you? You have to look at who these people were when they lived and while The Notorious B.I.G. was arguably one of the best to ever make rap music, he was also a problem when it came to his personal life.

We forgive lots of musicians for selling drugs before they started making money from music (that’s another story in itself) so this isn’t about that. Biggie would say himself that he was violent and an abuser of women and yet we danced all over these admissions because he was a dope rapper. I always contest that the last 8 bars of his verse from Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s “Get Money” are the most vile lyrics ever put to a club song.

Woe, oh is me, that's what I get for trickin

Pay my own bail, commence to ass kickin

Kick in the door, wavin the four-four

All you heard was, "Poppa don't hit me no more"

Disrespect my click, my shit's imperial

Fuck around and made her milkbox material

You feel me? Suckin dick, runnin your lips

'Cause of you, I'm on some real fuck a bitch shit, uhh..

He fully details getting out of jail, beating his woman while brandishing a gun and then intimating that he murdered her by making her “milk box material.” But, you know, get money. In “Me And My Bitch” he says about his woman, “you talk slick, I beat you right.” And the stories are out there that Big was like this, especially when you check his arrest for chasing down two people who wanted his autograph and smashing their windows out with a baseball bat. This was after he became famous. But the most damning thing about his legacy is the person most connected with it all these years later who keeps letting us know that, even though she’s forgiven him (no doubt through her own idol worship and Stockholm Syndrome): Lil’ Kim.

Kimberly Jones has leaked out information about their tumultuous relationship since he passed and people have never denied, only confirmed, her stories. I feel like the only reason that no one has questioned his legacy is because she’s the main champion of it. But let’s get some context into a piece of history that only became known in the last couple of years: Kim was 17 when her Hard Core album dropped in November of 1996. Big died 4 months later. Forgot just Stockholm, Big was her mentor and father figure. She lost a man who had been with her since she was at least 14 or 15 as we’ve also learned that Big used to hit her, had impregnated her (she lost the baby) and at one point even pulled a gun on her in a studio session with Jermaine Dupri. If he was brash enough to pull a gun on her in front of people, what damage did he do to a 16-year-old Kim behind closed doors?

And in this day and age...haven’t a lot of us not forgiven Chris Brown for beating up Rihanna? I still refuse to listen to his music and feel he has nothing of value to add to culture as a whole. He went on temper tantrums and destroyed property after interviews after the beat down. And yet...Big beat up a teenage Kim possibly regularly brandished guns at her in front of people. She was also on the receiving end of his ire as this line in “Friend of Mine” (about Kim) shows:

She's saying I dissed her 'cause I'm fucking her sister

A message to the fellas, that really gets them pissed, uh

As I was writing this I became aware of his nomination for the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame, no doubt a milestone achievement. But it also seems to be an even bigger achievement that we’ve sanitized the legacy of an abusive, violent man who groomed, and continued a sexual relationship with a teenager he kept as his own punching bag for several years...aren’t we still mad at R. Kelly? Biggie embodied some of the worst traits of people we’ve learned to despise in subsequent years but his biggest achievements are not having to live through the social media/information age where people would dig everything up and take him to task in real-time and Kim talking freely about his atrocities but still talking positively about him instead of like the victim she is. It’s been said that the amount of plastic surgery she’s had isn’t just because she’s out of line but because people like Big and others taunted her for her looks from a very young age to the point that she felt she needed to change everything about herself. It’s no longer funny when you understand the effect he had on her drastic change in appearance since he died.

I’ve been a Notorious B.I.G. fan for most of my life. I was 10 when I first heard him on the “Dolly My Baby” remix with Super Cat and Mary J. Blige and I’m 37 at the time of this writing. I’ve been consumed with his work for a longer period in my life than I haven’t been. But growing up and holding so many other entertainers to task, I can’t be a hypocrite and turn a blind eye to someone who did such horrendous things because I liked his music when I was 15. This is what No More Idols is about at the core. I’m not going to be going around getting mad at people for listening to him or throwing nonstop shade his way and should he get into the Hall of Fame I’m not going to be protesting. But no longer will I be saying ‘The only Christopher we acknowledge is Wallace” as there are a lot better Christophers out there.