As a preface, I’ve seen a few writers cover this topic over the years, but the sheer amount of blank stares the conversation elicits on my part suggests that revisiting it wouldn’t be such bad idea. I’ve made it no secret in the past that I’m a vinyl head. I spent many a sunny afternoon in my rip-roaring 20s digging for vinyl at my local record spots. One day, while digging in a leaky store basement through some bargain bins I came across a 12″ called “Nobody Rides For Free,” by Biggie Smallz. The Z–for whatever reason– didn’t seem weird. Being that it was from some no name record label, I assumed I’d stumbled upon some gold. I headed back to the lab, naturally excited, only to pop it on and realize this was not–in fact–the portly rapper better known as the Notorious B.I.G, but a relatively unknown white rapper from LA who shared the same name.
My first question was, how can this be? Well, apparently, he is one of three Biggies that exist. This one guy was, unbelievably, connected to the late-great prolific rap icon Tupac Shakur. The artist was working with Pac’s go-to producer Johnny J–who had produced well over 100 tracks with Pac. Johnny saw Biggie was starting to blow up, so he asked Pac if–as a favor to him–he could ask Biggie to change his name to help avoid market confusion. Unbelievably, Puff let that happen. Well, Biggie Smallz had only really released three records before he was tragically murdered in 1994 outside of a liquor store; however, there aren’t many–or rather, any–details outside of these records about his backstory, which makes him quite mysterious. Unfortunately all his seemingly closest associates are all dead.
As I mentioned, there was also ANOTHER Biggie Smalls, who also went by Big Dirk. Dirk was a member of the Live Squad, who Pac also linked with; Big Stretch was also part of this crew. Unfortunately, Dirk passed away before him and Pac could collaborate, but his death helped to spark one of the most cited pieces of audio proof that Pac’s death was seemingly faked — notably, the intro where Pac says “rest in peace to my motherfucking nigga Biggie Smalls.” It’s been noted Shock G and a few others in Pac’s circle that this was, in fact, a salute to Dirk.
Well, this rabbit hole of hip-hop knowledge is ultimately brought to you by Biggie Smallz, so I’ll leave a few of his records below. Random, amazing.
RIP Johnny J, Pac, Dirk, and Biggie Smallz.