Celebration of Life and Legacy: An Open Letter to Notorious B.I.G.


Dear Biggie,

Thank you. Almost 20 years later and your voice is still the most recognized in hip hop, your style is often imitated never duplicated but most importantly thank you for providing an indescribable push forcing MCs to get better lyrically. We went through a phase that seemed never ending where gimmicks/sales concerns were outweighing substance, appearance mattered more than content and the masses seemed unimpressed in large part by artists that actually had BARS. Luckily things are returning to how they should be in the rap world and quality is rising to the top once again. There are a couple of young artists running things right now, you would probably love to hear – Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, you’d probably like King Los too. They are a new breed of lyricists. But without your foundation – it’s hard to imagine things progressing this far.

Why? Because our generation thinks of Jay-Z, Nas and Eminem as the greatest to ever do it. As someone who thinks so as well, my appreciation for what you did grows even stronger listening to Jay-Z re-create your “All A Dream” on the Blueprint 2 or more recently “Blue” off Magna Carta Holy Grail. For a younger group of hip hop fans, he keeps your sound fresh in our ear and always made me go back to hear more. Some threw shade but I believe him when he says “Say a BIG verse; I’m only bigging up my brother”. Luckily my father knew great music and introduced me to you early on forcing me to actually listen to what artists were saying more so than the beat. It’s what makes someone who grew up in the South forever respect New York as a lyrical giant. Whether visualizing your narratives or studying how you put words together we never thought to rhyme, it’s not hard to hard to see you still living to this day. I think that is what makes Eminem one of the greatest rappers we’ve ever seen, the multis and words he strings together leave us in awe, not to mention the vivid stories he tells has a Biggie imprint just from a Slim Shady point of view. Fast forward to a younger era – Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and King Los have picked up that torch making an incredible impact doing the exact same thing but with their own flair. Even younger artists like Astro have traces of you when he visited Sway, a friend of yours, to freestyle over our 5 Fingers of Death. Whenever I hear Nas tell a story, although being one of the greatest himself, it still triggers something inside of me that says “yea Biggie lives on”.


The ability to balance lyricism and storytelling yet making records that radio masses enjoy seems to be a balance all of the greats have found, these three included. I can only imagine the internal struggle you felt creating “Juicy” or “One More Chance” when radio wasn’t your aim starting out but we thank you for stepping outside of your comfort zone. By you doing so, you gave future generations the confidence to get their radio sh*t off while staying true to their vision as an artist. I can only imagine how the Twitter world would react to a surprise release from you today. But, sometimes the dream collaborations or what ifs are what makes hip hop great. We will always wonder. That wonder makes us push the culture forward creatively, using what we’ve learned from greats like you combining our own perspectives and skill sets to leave something behind in a way that you did. Something that lives on long after we do, concepts that younger minds can build on and a hunger/drive to be considered the best. All of which you achieved. So today we don’t mourn instead we celebrate your life, legacy and timeless contribution to music.

Thank You.


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