Classics: The Notorious B.I.G. – Big Poppa (Bad Boy Entertainment)
If ever (still) wondering who’s this Big Poppa about, then don’t wait any longer. That Big Poppa being nothing else but one of The Notorious B.I.G.‘s countless nicknames. Meanwhile its lyrics also make a reference to original Bad Boy artist Craig Mack… “Now check it, I got more Mack than Craig in the bed.”
Comin’ from his ironically titled ‘Ready To Die’ album back in 1994. And built on a sample of The Isley Brothers‘s famous ‘Between The Sheets’. With production work by the likes of Carl Chuky Thompson and Sean Puffy Combs… ‘Big Poppa’ is one of his biggest classics ever.
‘Big Poppa’ got a nomination at the 1996 Grammy Awards for ‘Best Rap Solo Performance’. But finally lost to Coolio‘s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’.
‘Big Poppa’ eventually saw a Spanish version of its chorus used in a Taco Bell commercial called ‘Grande Papi’ back in 2013.
“Bad, boy, bad boy…” Christopher George Letore Wallace‘s short life sadly embodies the daily life of a part of the Black American society.
As a matter of fact, he started selling crack and cocaine for a brief time in Virginia, by the age of 17. This prior doin’ freestyle Rap in the streets of his native Brooklyn. A demo tape he’d done with friends eventually got to the attention of DJ Mister Cee of the Big Daddy Kane fame. With the latter soon after writing a review in the Unisgned Hype section of Hip-Hop mag The Source. Enuff to soon after get Sean Puffy Combs signing him on Uptown Records before takin’ him to his newly launched Bad Boy Entertainment label.
Was this ever a premonitory sign? The two albums that hit the streets during Wallace‘s lifetime happened to be related to the idea of death. In other words, ‘Ready To Die’ back in 1994. Then ‘Life After Death’ by the beginning of 1997, although it saw the light sixteen days after his murdering.
Besides, let’s not forget how he became one of the main actors of the East Coast / West Coast Hip-Hop rivalry along with Tupac Shakur. A dispute which violently opposed artists and fans of the East Coast and West Coast Hip Hop scenes Stateside. Eventually reachin’ its peak between 1994 and 1997. Then resulting in Shakur and Wallace‘s successive asassinations in drive-by shootings.
The first traces of a recording by the likes of The Notorious B.I.G. bring us back to 1992 and Mary J Blige‘s ‘Real Love’. A cut which appeared as the second offshot from her ‘What’s The 411?’ debut-album. This with remixes courtesy of Sean Puffy Combs featuring Rap verses courtesy of Wallace. Besides, he would eventually do the same the year after. Meanwhile featuring on the Puffy‘s remix of ‘What’s The 411?’, the title cut of Blige‘s album of the likes. His appearance on label mates Heavy D & The Boyz‘ ‘A Buncha Niggas’ completing his brief legacy on the label. Eventually joinin’ Combs on his newly launched Bad Boy Entertainment label after he got fired from Uptown.
‘Party And Bullshit’ hit the streets by the beginning of the Spring of 1993. Marking the debut of The Notorious B.I.G. then known as Biggie Smalls, it saw the light as the fourth single from the ‘Who’s The Man?’ OST. But also as a part of Doctor Dré & Ed Lover‘s ‘Back Up Off Me!’ album on Relativity the year after.
On Jul. 24, 1994, he appeared alongside long time friend Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J and Rampage. This on a remix of label mate Craig Mack‘s ‘Flava in Ya Ear’. Then 10 days later, on Aug. 04, 1994, he married R&B singer Faith Evans whom he’d met at a Bad Boy photoshoot. Another five days, and he scored his first Pop chart success as a solo artist with his interpolation of Mtume‘s classic ‘Juicy Fruit’ retitled ‘Juicy’. ‘Ready To Die’, his debut-album, coming out back on Sept. 13, 1994. Thus featuring extra gems such as ‘Big Poppa’, ‘One More Chance’ and ‘Warning’. Meanwhile bringin’ the focus back to East Coast Rap at a time when its West Coast alter ego was prominent in the charts.
Wallace made friends with Shaquille O’Neal with whom he collaborated on ‘You Can’t Stop The Reign’. Then with West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur. The twosome eventually appearing together as 2Pac and Biggie some 20 years after their respective deaths. This in an album – ‘ 2Pac and Biggie* – put together by Blackstar Recordings back in 2016.
1995 happened to most definitely be a good year for Biggie who multiplied the collaborations. From his appearance on the Dallas Austin remix of Michael Jackson‘s ‘This Time Around’. To his so to say joint venture with label mates Total on ‘Can’t You See’ as a part of the ‘New Jersey Drive’ OST. But also his presence on ‘(You To Be) Be Happy’ as a part of R. Kelly‘s emonymous album. This in addition to his contribution to ‘Conspiracy’, the debut-album of his protégé group, Junior M.A.F.I.A. (Junior Masters At Finding Intelligent Attitudes).
In July, Biggie made the cover of Hip-Hop mag The Source with the caption, “The King of New York Takes Over”. Then at The Source Awards, he made like a razzia over the distinctions. From ‘Best New Artist (Solo)’ to ‘Lyricist of the Year’, ‘Live Performer of the Year’, and his debut-album ‘Album of the Year’. Meanwhile the Billboard Awards celebrated him as the ‘Rap Artist of the Year’. And by the end of 1995, he stood as the top-selling male solo artist and Rapper on the US Pop and R&B charts.
Biggie‘s success also had its side effects. And most likely in the rivalry between the East and West Coast Hip-Hop scenes with Shakur, now his former friend. The latter eventually accusing Uptown Records’ founder Andre Harrell, Sean Combs, and Wallace of having prior knowledge of a robbery that resulted in him being shot five times and losing thousands of dollars worth of jewelry on the night of Nov. 30, 1994. But although Wallace and his people were in the same Manhattan-based recording studio at the time of the shooting, they always denied the accusation.
Almost 20 years after, in 2012, Dexter Isaac, who is serving a life sentence for unrelated crimes, claimed that he attacked Shakur that night. And that the robbery had been orchestrated by entertainment industry executive and former drug trafficker, James Rosemond.
Besides, when Shakur came to sign with Death Row Records in October 1995, this made Bad Boys Entertainment and Death Row business rivals. Thus intensifying the feud. Meanwhile Wallace had started the recording process of his second album in September that same year. An album titled ‘Life After Death’ that would see the light 16 days after his murdering, on Mar. 25, 1997.
In June 1996, 2Pac came up with ‘Hit ‘Em Up’. A diss track in which he claimed he’d have sex with Faith Evans at a time she and Wallace were strangers to each other? And that Wallace had copied his style and image. He (Shakur) got shot multiple times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, NV, and died, 6 days later, on Sept. 13, 1996, of complications from his wounds. Rumors of Wallace‘s involvement with Shakur‘s murder following almost instantly…
Faith Evans gave birth to Wallace‘s son, Christopher ‘C.J.’ Wallace, Jr. on Oct. 29, 1996. The following month, Junior M.A.F.I.A. member Lil’ Kim released her ‘Hard Core’ debut-album, under Wallace‘s direction while the two were having a love affair. Kim reporting some 16 years later that Wallace prevented her from remixing Jodeci‘s ‘Love U 4 Life’ by locking her in a room. This because of the group’s affiliation with Tupac and Death Row Records.
Wallace travelled to California in February 1997. This to promote his upcoming album and shoot a music video for its lead single, ‘Hypnotize’. His last public appearance happened to be on Mar 08, 1997 to present an award to Toni Braxton at the 11th Annual Soul Train Music Awards in Los Angeles.
He got shot to death from a drive-by in Los Angeles, CA, the day after. In other words, sixteen days before the release of his ‘Life After Death’ album. He was not even 25….
He stands as one of Hip-Hop’s biggest lyricists ever along with Tupac Shakur…
‘Hypnotize’ happened to be the last video recording in which Wallace came to participate. His biggest chart success being its follow-up, ‘Mo Money Mo Problems’. A gem built on a sample of Diana Ross‘ ‘I’m Coming Out’, featuring Combs, Mase and Kelly Price. The third single from the album – ‘Sky’s The Limit’ – featuring label mates 112. A R&B group with whom Biggie had collaborated the year before (on ‘Only You’).
A few months after, Combs released his debut-album – ‘No Way Out’ – under the Puff Daddy & The Family guise with Biggie contributing to 5 tracks. Beginning with the memorable ‘I’ll Be Missing You’ dedicated to his memory. A cut featuring Combs, Faith Evans and 112, built on a sample of The Police‘s ‘Every Breath You Take’. Meanwhile one could also hear Biggie along with Busta Rhymes on ‘Victory’ from the same album.
Bad Boy released two extra albums by the likes of ‘Born Again’ in 1999 and ‘Duets: The Final Chapter’ in 2005. Meanwhile, more recently (in May 2017), ATCO Records released a duet album – ‘The King & I’ – by the likes of Faith Evans and The Notorious B.I.G..