Writers continue to return to Biggie | Lifestyle

Hip hop loves to honor its heroes, especially those who die at the peak of their talent and influence. While some of these artists have only recently received biographical processing – books about the late J. Dillie, DJ Shru and Nipsi Hasla have been published over the past couple of years, others have been comprehensively documented, studied, discussed and researched until it seems that nothing new about them is impossible to learn.

In his book on Notorious BIG, “It was all a dream: Biggie and the world that created it,” author Justin Tinsley takes on the difficult task of telling the story of one of the most gifted, legendary, and iconic rappers he has ever held. microphone – and the one who after his death a quarter of a century ago became the subject of at least seven books, one biopic, many podcasts and two documentaries, the latest Netflix film of 2021 “Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell”. In the introduction to his book, Tinsley admits that he was afraid when he was first asked to write a biography of one of the most biographed rappers.

“What the hell could I say about Notorious BIG that hasn’t been said yet?” Tinsley recalls asking himself. “What did people want to talk about?”

Anyone who considers themselves a fan of Biggie’s music should be familiar with his story. Born to Christopher Wallace in Brooklyn and raised by a single mother, Biggie dropped out of high school to become a full-time hacker, trading crack cocaine on street corners and sometimes getting into trouble with the law. He was on his way to becoming another anonymous statistician when, almost by chance, it turned out that he possessed an extraordinary gift of lyricism and storytelling. He became a hip-hop superstar, leaving hit after hit, and a few days before the release of his long-awaited second-year album he was killed at age 24 during a shooting in Los Angeles in March 1997.

Published to Biggie’s 50th birthday, “It All A Dream” could be an opportunity to rethink his short life and unprecedented talent or explore the extent to which his music is relevant to our current conversations about racing and entertainment. Unfortunately, readers looking for new ideas or original evaluations will be disappointed.

Tinsley, a senior reporter for ESPN’s online platform The Undefeated (recently rebranded as Andscape), has spent nearly a decade covering the intersection of music, sports and racing, using reportage and analysis by a journalist to the passion of a hip-hop leader. A young writer with extensive knowledge of sports and black culture, Tinsley has established himself as a critical thinker on contemporary issues and a dedicated student of black American history, recognized for his original voice and sharp appreciation. However, “It Was All A Dream” struggled to distinguish itself from previous accounts – despite personal interviews with subsequent figures from Biggie’s life, such as former MAFIA junior member Chico del Vec and the popular Brooklyn di -Jay Mr. Sea, who was one of the first. support the birth of Biggie’s rap career. Tinsley draws heavily on existing documentaries, previously published interviews and biographies, including Chee Cocker’s book Che Hodari, The Incredibles, 2003, and Biggie’s mother’s memoir, Valletta Wallace, 2005.

Where “It Was All A Dream” seeks to stand out can be found in the subtitle: “Biggie and the World That Created It”. Tinsley is expanding his opportunities to observe what the country is going through as the Biggie grows – the crack epidemic, the rapid escalation of violent crime, Reaganomics – and how these developments have affected black urban communities, most acutely in New York City.

“Between 1980 and 1989, New York City averaged 2,042 murders a year, peaking in 1990 at 2,605,” Tinsley wrote. “What drugs did to New York was vicious. Corners of the streets became makeshift offices for countless young black men who considered money on the street a better game than flipping through burgers at McDonald’s or working in the laundry.

Tinsley cleverly observes how the Reagan administration’s war on drugs has turned into a war against low-income black families and how for young black men who have no real employment opportunities, the hustle and bustle was often the only way to put food on the table and roof over the family. pits. heads. There has long been controversy over whether the federal government deliberately sent cocaine from Latin America to the black community or simply turned a blind eye to what was happening. But it is undeniable that the government has responded to rising drug use and violent crime with draconian measures of repression and mass imprisonment.

It is not entirely clear, however, whether young Christopher Wallace was particularly affected or motivated by these social ills and anxieties. Although his mother, Voleta, an immigrant from Jamaica, was far from prosperous, she was a preschool teacher with a higher education who loved and loved her only son. His interest in shooting was motivated not less by survival, but by the most archetypal American excuse: there is money to be earned, so why not earn it?

Biggie’s dishonesty, which often looks like ambivalence, leads him to his next profession, a rap star, when he usually delegates artistic decisions to others, first Mr. C and then Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs – producer, creative director, songwriter, executive , far-sighted – whose tireless (also arrogant and hostile) work ethic was fundamental in transforming the little-known street swindler from Bedford-Stavesant into a world superstar.

Mild and insecure, Biggie is lost in the pages of “It Was All a Dream”, interceding for more focused or uglier peers, including fellow rapper and early career teacher Tupac Shakur. Bigi’s fate will forever be linked to Shakur, whose death by shooting six months earlier is widely seen as the catalyst for Biggie’s murder in return. The murders of Shakur and Biggie marked the ugliest page in the history of hip-hop and the loss of two of the greatest talents. It was a moment of intense spiritual search for culture in general, but for Brooklyn, losing Biggie meant losing one of the brightest stars, whose unlikely rise was the inspiration for the devastated area.

“A piece of Brooklyn’s soul, a piece of his identity was torn out,” Tinsley writes. “Big, the first-generation American child, was Brooklyn. The district was responsible for so much in hip hop culture, and Big represented so much of it in one body. One massive beautiful body that maintained normal standards for how beauty can look artistically and spiritually. Throughout his career, one thing that has always remained true is the place he has made in his soul for Brooklyn. ”

Notorious BIG will always have a place in conversations about hip hop. His music will continue to destroy clubs and house parties, and he will be firmly in the top five rappers. However, as “It All A Dream” reminds us, even the most massive and beautiful talents should ever be put to rest.

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