“Comin up on half a mil, we build/
Get real God, taking you on another one Son/
Uhh, Julio Iglesias/
Makin CREAM like that nigga.”
Yep. I’m aware that leading with a quote from a track taken from an album that fires barely concealed missiles at the late, great Frank White is a little odd, but I was hunting for Julio Iglesias references in rap. Funnily enough, Mystikal and South Park Mexican have used him in lines too, but I’m steering clear of the sex offenders. Kind of. Rap loves to grieve. If an MC or producer dies, we spend hours trading lines on Twitter, screaming to the skies, begging them to take Chris Moyles and leave us with our hip-hop hero for just one day.
Today’s been one of those days, being the anniversary of Biggie’s passing. And for once I fully understand. I love his wordplay, his versatility and his hunger for the hardcore. Had Mr. Wallace not been slain, rap would be different now – not necessarily better, not necessarily worse…but different. That’s an aura right there. Today you could get beat down for daring to wash your car when you should be listening to ‘Gimme the Loot.’ A murderer would be acquitted for stabbing you after hearing you hum ‘Hit ‘Em Up.’ My Facebook feed is riddled with the ‘Juicy’ video. Everyone’s copy/pasting lyrics in a bid to reach esoteric heights of fandom. But I don’t care, because, after Kool G Rap, Biggie Smalls was the illest.
But how do you blog about him without repeating yourself? You can’t. Everything he ever recorded is online somewhere. Except his appearance in Channel 4’s ‘Passengers’ in 1995, smoking blunts with Faith and wandering around Bed-Stuy, which somebody, somewhere must have ready to upload, I’ve actually posted the above image on my blog from when I used to blog at SlamXHype a couple of years ago. I actually posted it hours after being interviewed by ‘The Source,’ but when I told my mum, she didn’t give a shit, let alone smile.
But I think it’s remarkable that ‘Represent’ – a short-lived but excellent hip-hop UK-based fanzine – put the Notorious B.I.G. on its cover before anyone else. That’s deep. I read it in July 1994, and it contained (other than an ill-fated set of reviews that deemed Warren G’s LP better than the first Beatnuts LP) a feature on the big man based on a listen to the LP promo, declaring ‘Ready To Die’ as a successor to ‘Illmatic’ (released just a couple of months earlier).
I think the piece was written by DJ E-Legal, but I could be mistaken. ‘Represent House’ was based in Cumbria. We’re not talking London here – we’re talking Lake District territory. Matty C might have made his career-defining move, but it was a Brit-magazine – one that had Finsta Bundy on one of their covers – who made their own lo-fit but notable powermove during Biggie’s rise to fame.
Another key moment where strange gets stranger is the union of Biggie with then Jive upstart Crustified Dibbs aka. RA The Rugged Man. I never knew how this all happened, and an old email circulation of Biggie engaging in some kind of score sheet and claiming he wasn’t into the whole experience has floated around, but I don’t believe it — I’m sure I remember Biggie saluting just how Dibbs took it there in the misogyny stakes too. RA and B.I.G. work well together.
‘Cunt Renaissance’ is still one of the most offensive records I’ve ever heard and while the OG version is produced by Marc “Nigga” Nilez, matching the murky production I’ve heard on bootlegs of ‘Night of the Bloody Apes’ (I’m not a massive fan going on the tape-sounding leaks — I prefer the sound of RA from 1997 to the present day), I prefer the mysterious remix from a mixtape from a decade or so ago. I’ve never known the producer, but it elevates these depraved verses to almost epic status with a lavish loop.
The sample in question comes from another duet, albeit one less preoccupied with bodily fluids — the introduction to Julio Iglesias and Diana Ross’s 1984 hit, ‘All of You’ (the mystery producer even let Miss Ross’s voice make a brief appearance when he used the record). I love the duality between the discarded blunt guts sex talk and the cocaine mansion seduction that the tracks evoke. For all the gossip, cinematic depictions, partying and bullshit, there’s still a lot of depths unexplored in Christopher Wallace’s short, memorable career.
I’m excited about Terrence Malick’s ‘The Tree of Life’ after the disappointment of Criterion not releasing the version of ‘The Thin Red Line’ that goes on for, like, a week with half of Hollywood in it. Yesterday, ‘Little White Lies’ upped an interview with the special effects team who promised that there’ll be dinosaurs in it. Then the interview was pulled down. I hope the dinosaurs remain in the final cut and don’t get the Billy Bob Thornton treatment. There’s an interesting new poster doing the rounds too.
On semi-related Criterion matters, go check Eric Skillman’s blog to witness his work. An occasional Criterion cover artist and designer, book cover designer and comic artist, he’s consistently excellent, and in an age where everyone’s a goddamn art director, this guy is the real deal. I love looking at his work (that ‘Wiseblood’ cover’s still a classic) and the design process section of the site is fascinating.
It’s not Eric’s work to my knowledge, but the cover for Criterion’s ‘Le Cercle Rouge’ (set for release in April) is a winner. A film this assured and stylish (the original promotional materials were good in the first place) can’t be an easy brief, but the gun element sets it off perfectly.
T-Shirt Party’s at an end. Nearly a year since I covered it here, and the mysterious Stan Still (who became less mysterious as the months progressed) fulfilled his mission to make 52 tees with accompanying videos. It ends with a black one, after 51 white shirts, plus a DVD of the visuals. I actually bumped into the man behind the project on a Supreme shoot when we were tasked with covering a backdrop with bricks of black box logo stickers. Time flies when you’re blogging gobshite.
I’ve never met anyone as dedicated to a singular subject matter as Scott (Bothan Spynet). He was doing the shoe-a-day thing a long time ago too. A nice bloke and someone with streetwear history, I stumbled across this little interview with him. Can’t remember if they were in that CLOT/ACU book a few years back with the alternate Stash BWs, but those samples of the 2003 Futura artist series Nike Blazer that Futura scrapped just before releasing the curry/Jedi version still kills me since they appeared on Recon a few years back. An amazing makeup that equals the unreleased Stussy Blazers from2001. They should have put out both.
And while I’m not a runner, I just freeload a lot, the Nike team in NYC recently instigated a masterplan that would even get me running. Training sessions with a hardcore mind-body correlator — Mr. John Joseph of the Cro-Mags. That’s serious. If you never picked up ‘The Evolution of a Cro-Magnon’ or ‘Meat is for Pussies,’ you should do. Training with a man preparing himself for this year’s Ironman tournament must be a pretty damned intense experience. He’s intense when he’s static and we’ve all seen him on stage so it’s safe to assume he’s pretty focused on the keep fit regime. Good work, Nike. Very good work.