Last week, as the county of Kings welcomed back a proud son and the world wondered whether Jay-Z had proven to be the greatest story that hip-hop has ever written, I popped into a Forever 21 store looking for nothing in particular and stumbled on a T-shirt that spoke as much to Hov's journey as his Barclays Center triumph.
On a rack sandwiched between peplum tops and horse-print pullovers, were a row of black tanks printed with the words The Notorious B.I.G. and a graphic of the late MC's iconic Ready to Die album cover. Beneath the image of the afro-sporting infant were the words "sky's the limit."
It feels almost unnecessary to drive home the point, but there was something moving about the fact that two of Brooklyn's finest — comrades who had willed their way out of gritty Bedford-Stuyvesant and collaborators until Big's untimely passing at 24 — had so extraordinarily impacted the culture in life ... and death. The beloved Christopher Wallace had established his pop-cultural reach in no less than a mass retailer of fast fashion for teen girls, while his fellow Bed-Stuy native, Hov, had kicked off an eight-night stand at a gleaming new arena that's now synonymous with his name.
It couldn't have been a luckier moment for Faith Evans, Grammy winner and Big's widow, to have visited the MTV Newsroom. The singer came by with co-star/singer Monifah to promote their reality hit "R&B Divas," and we asked her what she thought of seeing the rapper's imprint in malls across America.
"It's wonderful just to know that Big, his legacy is still so strong," Evans told us. She went on to add that "seeing stuff like the shirts, that's just an extension of that. People loved him and continue to love his music so you know, I'm just proud to have been a part of his life and to be able to carry on the extension of his legacy."
These days, a typical Tuesday night for Jay includes hosting a sitting president at his New York City club, but B.I.G. is never far from mind, a fact he's been underscoring during his Barclays concert run, adding a handful of Frank White's hits to his set list. We asked Faith why she thought Big continues to resonate.
"Well, shoot, he was still one of the best that ever did it," she said emphatically. "And just imagine had he still been making music. I like to think sometimes, like, 'Wow, what would he be doing?' 'Cause his stuff right now — you hear stuff right now that was made back then, it still sounds great."