The ability to tell a story is one of the most revered skills a rapper can possess. Slick Rick, Ice Cube, Nas and Ghostface are all heralded as master storytellers. The Notorious B.I.G. is also considered among rap’s greats, thanks to his vivid collection of story raps like “Warning,” “Somebody’s Gotta Die” and Lil’ Cease’s favorite, “I Got a Story to Tell.”
“My favorite record — and I still think I get the same feeling today as when he recorded it — is ‘I Got a Story to Tell,’ ” Cease told MTV News’ Sway Calloway.
The Buckwild-produced “I Got a Story to Tell” is bare-bones as far as rap tracks go. With its drum track reminiscent of MC Lyte’s “Paper Thin” and its sparse acoustic guitar strokes, the song’s beat is the perfect background for Big to weave his complex robbery tale. In addition to its detailed imagery, the late rapper injected a healthy dose of humor into the track; that, for Cease, is the song’s greatest quality. “Me and Big used to listen to records all the time, and when I heard ‘Story to Tell,’ just the story line … Big’s charisma, his sense of humor is what used to catch me about him,” he said. “He could take you off and on, light switch. It could be so hard and in a minute you’ll be crying, laughing in tears, like, hold up, you gotta rewind that back.”
On the song, Big warns against having one-night stands with women who may be married or have boyfriends. He opens by painting a club scene.
When the party is over, Biggie ends up riding home with a woman he’s just met. It turns out, however, that the temptress lives with her man, an unnamed NBA basketball player. When the two are in the throes of passion, her 6’5″ boyfriend comes home early, and B.I.G. is forced to tie the woman up and fake a robbery. At the end of the almost five-minute-long record, Biggie retells the story in prose.
“He didn’t want anybody in that room to be confused with what he was saying, so he would explain to the room,” DJ Clark Kent said of Biggie’s in-studio routine.
“To be great, you have to be able to do it all, and he was just sitting there laying down the format to let you know, ‘I can do it all. I can rhyme, I can do the metaphors, I can do the punch lines, I can do the stories, I can make you think, I can make you dance, I can make you chant,’ ” Cease said. “He made sure he balanced himself and made himself that well-rounded rapper, and ‘Story to Tell’ just [has] one of those feelings of being great.”
Join MTV News as we celebrate the Notorious B.I.G.’s life on the 15th anniversary of his death. From now through March 25, we will be rolling out exclusive and commemorative content from Biggie’s closest friends, collaborators and his biggest fans. To join the conversation on Twitter, hit target="_blank">@MTVRapFix using the hashtag #biggie15.