This year marks the 19th anniversary of 911, and with NYC in our minds and hearts, we thought there's no time like now to write about our favourite NYC Rapper and big man, NOTORIOUS B.I.G.
From his early days of rapping on the corner in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood of Brooklyn, to his second and final masterpiece album Life After Death, Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls, aka Notorious B.I.G, was always a natural wordsmith.
“When I was dead broke, man, I couldn't picture this 50-inch screen, money green leather sofa, Got two rides, a limousine with a chauffeur” ~ Biggie Smalls
Despite his way with words, it was never certain the big man would go on to become considered the greatest rapper of all time. Indeed, ask those who once knew him as the young, brash neighbourhood drug dealer and they would tell you that no one had the foggiest that he was destined for great things.
''We didn't know he would be great,'' recalls Mr. Watson, 54, a scrap metal worker who said he had known Biggie as a child in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area.
In fact, it was not Biggie’s intent to ever become a rapper. It was by pure fortune that one very raw recording he and a friend made during a marijuana-fuelled session one night ended up on the desk of an editor at The Source Magazine. Somehow he made it into the “Unsigned Hype” column in the next edition. The rest, as they say, is history.
Indeed, what happened next is the stuff of legend. He was scouted by Sean “Puffy” Combs who signed him up to a record deal immediately upon hearing him rap.
Then, in just over a year, Biggie went from a small-time street hustler to getting the gong as rap artist of the year at the Billboard Awards in 1994.
By 1997, Biggie Smalls was dead.
We won’t get into the circumstances and theories surrounding his murder here (there is actually a really good podcast series that examines this in depth). Suffice it to say that at the time of his death he was living life large.
Standing 6ft 3in tall and weighing in at 170kg, Biggie certainly did cast a large physical presence.
But it wasn’t just his physical size alone that made the big man significant.
"Biggie Smalls is the illest. Your style is played out" ~ Biggie Smalls
Biggie loved rocking fashionable clothes nearly as much as he loved rocking the mic.
In fact, a lot of his fashion choices went against what’s now considered advisable wear for big men. Turtleneck shirts, all over prints and baggy jeans. It was the 90s after all. And Biggie just seemed to make it all work thanks to his unique machismo. However, there are quite a few style tips that we big men can actually glean from Biggie.
He looked great in a hat and so too can we (if we know which ones work best). He was a fan of the camo print, which tends to suit us bigger guys. Finally, we can copy a bit of Biggie’s signature style by wearing a leather jacket with streetwear.
Aside from his skills on the mic, Biggie was also a big thinker who left behind some wise words that can still teach us a thing or two about living life large and on one’s own terms. Read on to discover how we big guys can apply some of the big man’s finest phrases to better ourselves:
“Stay far from timid, only make moves when your heart’s in it, and live the phrase: sky’s the limit.” – As big guys it’s important to show our enthusiasm and passion for life with pride. In other words, do what you love and be great at it. And don’t be too humble about it either. If you have achieved something of note, go ahead. Brag about it a bit (but in a good-natured way). That way we’ll impress upon others our ample status and bring them into our orbit.
“Learn to treat life to the best, put stress to rest.” – We big men need to ensure we are setting the right tone for ourselves and our families. These days especially, getting stressed out is easy. That’s why it’s important that we learn to be more mindful. Enjoy the small things in life. They matter the most after all.
“Take a better stand, put money in my mom’s hand, get my daughter this college plan, so she don’t need no man.” – We big men do need to take a proper stance when it comes to things that are important. We must stand by our convictions and just be all round stand up guys. We need to be the type of father our loved ones look up to.
Even though the Notorious B.I.G left us all too soon, the indelible mark he made on society is something us big guys can still learn from. Whether it’s his swagger, style or philosophy, Biggie certainly deserves to be our Big Man of the Month.
R.I.P Big Poppa 1972-1997.
What a legend....
By Anthony Cheadle