Twenty FIVE(!) years ago today, Chris Wallace aka Big Poppa, aka Biggie, aka The Notorious BIG was taken from the world…gunned down in his prime at 24 (Holy Shit, 24?!, that is still unbelievable to me).
Someone else can tell you why BIG was important to the Hip Hop and music worlds better than I. But I can speak to one thing…in 1997, there wasn’t anyone BIGGER than BIG.
My crew always let the tape rock til our tape popped and we were known to throw our rollies in the sky. Shit, I even called a car dealership to settle a bet after watching the Hypnotize video, about whether or not Diddy could really drive that fast backwards. Spoiler alert…he could not have.
It’s no surprise really. I mean his music and story are totally relatable to white teenagers from the Boston suburbs going to private school…ummm…look, the reason isn’t important. Just know, when he died in the spring of ’97, we took it hard. The following story will attempt to explain just how hard.
*Real quick note for some context. The spring of ’97 was the last semester of my High School life. Completely. Checked. Out.
I used to ride to school with Bennygloves and spiritsguy, Benny was our carpool mom. The mornings were always good for music, conversation, sports arguments, and mainly me and benny messing with spirits making him all self-conscious and him acting all hard like it didn’t bother him. BTW, spirits is an ALL-TIME world class ball-buster, a real pro, make no mistake. But when you get him good…it gets to him. He’s probably pissed reading this right now.
One morning, spirits jumped in the car and right away we could tell he had something to tell us. But first thing was first. We had to get some OJ…to mix with the bottle of Smirnoff we somehow (my fake ID) came by…so we could polish it off….before school. Told you…checked out. This was actually one day in a weeklong celebration, including Messed Up Monday, Trashed Tuesday….well, you get the picture. It was such a big week that the Lil’ Dogg came from the next town over, left his car at my house, and drove to school with us for no other reason than to party pre-homeroom.
We mixed up a couple of cocktails, got to our preferred before-school drinking spot, and at some point, spirits finally spilled the beans. He had made a tape off the radio the night before (remember that?) and demanded we put it on. After a few minutes of illogical arguing (a spiritsguy trademark), and him refusing to tell us what it was, we popped it in. The tape was only one song…it was “I’ll Be Missing You”- the Diddy tribute to Biggie- that debuted the night before on like one station in NYC. This was pre-music sharing. Anyway…it was a great find.
Maybe it was the early morning cocktails, but the song hit us hard. There was no arguing…no posturing…no tough guys. Just four dudes, sitting in a Ford Taurus at an undisclosed location in Woburn, listening to Diddy over and over, hammered at 7:15 on a Thursday morning…and crying.
We were legitimately in tears, and that in and of itself may seem like a memorable morning. But, no, what happened next is etched in our minds forever.
The normally brash and argumentative spiritsguy, was for once pretty silent. Then he leaned forward, teary-eyed, and put his hands on benny’s and my shoulder, and said
“You know what…I’d take a bullet for you guys”
So, as the years have gone by, I still love banging some Biggie. My favorite rapper, all day long. But on the anniversary of his death, I always think of spiritsguy…swearing his undying allegiance, telling me he’d take a bullet for me.