As a 15-year-old white girl growing up in a middle-class suburb of Chicago, I probably hadn’t heard a harder track than Notorious B.I.G.’s mainstream hit “Hypnotize.” I was a teenybopper to the core — I had Hanson posters plastered over every inch of my bedroom walls, and I kind of lost my mind when I saw *NSYNC at the B96 Summer Bash. But there was something about Biggie’s 1997 album Life After Death that made me look deeper into this thing called “hip-hop,” and I haven’t turned back since.
The day it was released, I made my dad go to Best Buy after work so he could buy me Life After Death. First of all, I couldn’t drive, but second, due to the “Parental Advisory” warning, I couldn’t purchase it without an adult. (LOL at America.) Also, there was barely an internet at the time — when you wanted music in 1997, you had to go out and buy the physical album. My dad brought the album home (how cool of my dad?), and I skipped right to “Hypnotize” to perform some private booty dances in my room for my Hanson posters. But then I actually listened to the rest of the two discs — obviously the Diddy and Ma$e-assisted “Mo Money Mo Problems” was a hit, but I also played “Ten Crack Commandments,” “Notorious Thugs” and “Sky’s The Limit” until I knew all the words (still do — thought you knew). What did some white girl in Naperville, Illinois, know about “never getting high on her own supply”? Nothing. I thought taking NyQuil was living on the edge. But Life After Death introduced me to this entire world of music I didn’t know existed.
Read more about Life After Death and the 15-year anniversary of Notorious B.I.G.’s death after the jump.
I just love the way hip-hop tells stories: It’s set to insane beats you can’t get out of your head, and (if they’re good) the lyricists are so smart that you’re still picking up puns and metaphors 15 listens later. Sure, the stories most hip-hop artists are telling are from the perspective of someone I probably have very little in common with (again, white girl from suburbia), but as a teen, this music was presented to me at a very influential time. Just like grunge was an outlet for so many angsty kids during the ’90s, the dudes putting hip-hop on the map during that time were also underdogs.Teenagers love underdogs.
For whatever reason, I identified with Biggie on Life After Death — not his stories of selling crack or doing things with Lil’ Kim on “Another” that I didn’t even know two people could do together, but this dude just wanted to be big. He wanted to be famous, he wanted to be rich and he wanted his friends to join him at the top when we got there. He couldn’t believe his good fortune, and he celebrated it every chance he got.
I consider myself a lover of all genres of music (even country), but I always find myself gravitating toward hip-hop. Whether it’s because I always wanted to be a Fly Girl on “In Living Color” or because I went through this borderline obsessive phase with the Harlem Renaissance during my Intro to Poetry class sophomore year of college, I want to listen to new hip-hop artists, learn their struggles and how they choose to set their stories to music. Thinking back today on the 15-year anniversary of Notorious B.I.G.’s death, I have a lot to thank him for. And so does almost every major player in the hip-hop game right now.
From March 9 through March 25, MTV News will be rolling out exclusive and commemorative content from Notorious B.I.G.’s closest friends, collaborators and his biggest fans. To join the conversation on Twitter, hit @MTVRapFix using the hashtag #biggie15.