Yup, it’s March 9th. It’s just another day for most people going about their day to day. Heads remember it as the day Christopher Wallace fell victim to a shooting 14 years ago. I could write all day on how he was an impeccable MC yet flawed as a man. However I’d rather spend this time to recall a time when I first heard his music.
Some may say it’s corny to highlight “Juicy” as the first record that got you hooked on Biggie’s music. But it was really that simple in my case. Hot 97 played the HELL out of that track and I couldn’t get enough of it. I remember letting it rock well into the summer that year all while reciting the words and nodding my head to the beat. Everything on it came together and resonated to me. I didn’t come up from a “one room shack,” and apparently, neither did Big. Still it’s hard to say no to a rags to riches story especially when I never heard anyone rap like he did. Modern day rap nerd tendencies make me look twice when he said “I never thought it would happen, this rappin’ stuff/I was too used to packing gats and stuff.” But it’s all good as the song suggests. The lyrics elucidate a complex, yet effortless flow that begged millions to rap along.
Rap was hard to come by as a kid. My parents weren’t the type that let their children listen to whatever they pleased in their impressionable years. Therefore, my older siblings and I had to become crafty in how we procured our CDs. I don’t blame my folks because rap, in large part, wasn’t for kids and still isn’t. Nevertheless, I was definitely in “Parents Just Don’t Understand” mode anytime I got caught with an album I wasn’t supposed to have.
Mom and Pops let us listen to Hot 97 from time to time since the curses were censored. MTV, BET and The Box weren’t as heavily monitored either so they served as my gateway to my favorite songs. I kept my eyes glued for “Juicy’s” video among others. Waiting all day for your favorite records seems so antiquated in the age of the internet and instant gratification. But that’s how things were.
Juicy’s song and video initially sold me on how the supposed “hip-hop” life style was the life to have: big houses, raucous pool parties and having both Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis like it’s nothing. That last part was key because, as a young nerd, having both consoles was a obviously a sign showing you “made it.” I’ve long since unsubscribed to that made for TV image portrayed in the flick. But the message of perseverance through adversity still sticks and that, to me, is the most important theme to take from it: despite Big’s anecdotes of hustling to provide for his daughter and Diddy’s ad libs.
Even the beat grabbed me and remains as compelling as ever. Pete Rock’s back story on it is pretty fascinating if already familiar territory for most rap nerds. With that said the way Pete Rock and, later Poke, layered the Mtume sample with its drums and made it progress throughout catches my ear every time. It also got me interested into music production and analyzing how great beats are constructed at an early age.
Hearing “Juicy” and watching the video now makes me recall my younger days with rose-tinted Versace shades. Heads may look at this day in remorse or anger while wondering how the game would be different if Big didn’t die. I’d rather look back and observe at how his seminal single sparked that initial fire to check out the rest of his catalog.