The day I really began to develop a dislike for mainstream hip-hop was the Monday after Biggie was shot. I was a senior in high school and only had been in a stable home for about five years, after considerable drama and living in a nasty housing project. Feeling the sting of being made fun of for my lack of funds and my “blaccent,” I was desperate to forget and shed off everything “hood” in me, so at the time, and for a long time after words, Biggie wasn’t my cup of tea. But on that Sunday morning when I heard the news of his death, I felt a deep sadness, a certain familiar emotional pang that so many African-Americans feel when we hear of a young life wasted over something insignificant.
The morning Biggie was on the topic of almost everyone’s minds in Curtis high school, located in University Place, a suburb of Tacoma. Almost to a person the expressions ranged from shock to astonishment to contempt. I didn’t pay much attention to them until one kid said “Oh, boy who do you think is gonna die next, snoop? Nas?” Just then the realization hit me so hard I nearly doubled over. Two talented young men had died over something painfully trivial, and to these privileged kids, it was a game, an event, something you watch for pleasure, as if BET and MTV were the roman coliseums and both rappers were the Christians and the lions. The kid was salivating over a young man’s death as if it was a punt return for a touchdown.
I went home with those conversations ringing nightmarishly in my head. I locked myself in my room and looked at all my old vibe and the source magazines and started to cry. Instead of practicing an old and strange craft called journalism, something even to this day all too foreign to hip-hop magazines, I had read article after article egging both sides on, hyping rumors, blowing events out or proportion, almost helping to orchestrate the east coast/west coast beef like kids circling around the school fight. That night I burned each and every last one of those magazines. I felt like a hunted animal and the rich kids who were hip hop fans the game wardens.
For the longest time, always thought America’s relationship with biggie has always has been a Brecht play come to life, an upper crust audience dancing to the confessions of a haunted hustler. I still think that’s a part of the story that can’t be thrown away, but to make it the whole story discounts how unbelievably charming he could be. Rest in Peace, Big.