It’s hard to fathom that today marks the 20th anniversary of Christopher Wallace’s death. I barely batted an eye when his debut turned 10, and then a decade later, 20. But somehow, him having not touched a microphone for over two-decades seems baffling. Especially, since the uttering of his name in any disparaging tone is STILL met with unanimous opposition—his influence is still that strong. Unlike a figure like 2Pac, who worked at a feverish pitch that almost suggests he knew his timeline was about to be cut short, Biggie left us with what he left us with, short of some demo and original versions that have since been unearthed, chopped and repurposed to the maximum.
His death seems like another lifetime ago. I remember in grade eight; I had a friend who loved Biggie so much that we had to ditch and walk to his home to make sure he was ok after we heard the news of his passing—he wasn’t. No hip-hop fan was. No matter how you choose to believe his death was orchestrated, it’s hard not to imagine how a simple change in the ripple of fabric may have changed the rap game. Would Cease be more respected? Would ‘The Commission’ have become the most notable group in history? Would Charlie Baltimore be super popping? Would Cam’Ron have signed to Biggie? Would Puff have been so successful as a solo artist?
His legacy, though, is undisputed—and timeless. Artists with double, triple, and quadruple the artist’s catalog are unable to come close to matching the aura, respect, and coastal influence that Biggie held. He—and the Bad Boy Family—helped shape the blueprint of what gritty New York (and worldwide) ‘street’ hip-hop should be, and how a successful crossover situation, while remaining street, should resemble.
Whether he’s the greatest rapper of all time is an argument that has no merit anymore—he’s beyond that. It’s like arguing whether Shakespeare is the greatest writer of all time, or Leonardo DiVinci the best painter, or Michael Jordan the best baller. All those examples illustrate individuals who—just as a philosophical concept alone—are bigger than the medium they practice. While not the most endearing rags to riches story ever (50 Cent’s may best his), his was a relatable hustler’s dream. Ashy to classy.
Today, we pay our respect to the Notorious B.I.G and give a special shout out to Brooklyn. If you don’t know, now you know. Pour out a little liquor [*Tupac voice].
See “What If Biggie Collbos”