March 9, 2017, will commemorate the 20th anniversary since the passing of the iconic rapper The Notorious B.I.G. The following words are a tribute from a grateful fan. I am not a hip-hop aficionado nor do I claim to be a historian of hip-hop culture of New York or elsewhere (I hadn’t set foot in NYC until few years after B.I.G’s death). I am merely showing my gratitude to Christopher Wallace who’s sobriquets included The Notorious B.I.G or Biggie Smalls or Biggie. I am thankful he shared his phenomenal talent for rhyme and flow. A musical skill and flair that attracted a far-reaching audience across the globe. Here I reminisce fondly of one of the most influential musical figures of the 90s.
I was introduced to The Notorious B.I.G’s music in the early 90s in Austin, Texas (Yes, there!). Kids, I had become friends with, while spending a year with my dad who was on sabbatical at UT Austin, played a cassette tape that contained Biggie’s recordings. Being at an impressionable age, I steadfastly absorbed the delivery of rhymes buoyed by the perfectly complimenting beats creating a poetic symphony. I had become a dedicated fan. I followed his music even after returning to my hometown of Kandy, Sri Lanka (a small island in the Indian Ocean). During the peak of Biggie’s career in the mid-90s, hip-hop music was just infiltrating into popular culture in other parts of the world. Many looked at it with phlegmatic optimism through skeptical lenses. I reveled in the exclusivity of being a hip-hop fan. Music and culture interlacing with my youth and exuberance was on full display. Sagging pants (much to the chagrin of my parents) and an assortment of baseball hats showed the influence of who and what I was listening to (the warm island climate didn’t lend itself to wearing Biggie’s vibrant Coogi jumpers).
A few years ago when I was living in Dusseldorf, Germany I was invited for a meal at a restaurant well received for its burgers named What’s Beef. The namesake of the restaurant is the title of a B.I.G song. The decor of the restaurant exhibited portraits by Shepard Fairey of OBEY fame. These pictures were of influential hip-hop figures that in common jargon alluded to as “Old School” including many of The Notorious B.I.G. There were signs hanging on the walls of the restaurant displaying quoted lines from several Biggie songs. Needless to say, the owners of this particular establishment were Biggie faithful; fans of the genre and especially of The Notorious B.I.G. Visiting What’s Beef was a reminder of the widespread, the all-embracing impact of The Notorious B.I.G.
The Notorious B.I.G was an inspiration to a generation of hip-hop artists and fans as well as instrumental in shaping the landscape of the current music industry. From Austin to Kandy to Dusseldorf and beyond I see the effects of Biggie’s musical and personal identity everywhere. As I conclude this short eulogy, I salute the late B.I.G, pardon me ya’ll THE GREAT B.I.G.