BY ELI KABERON
In this week’s edition of Word is Bond, Poor Scholars’ Eli Kaberon celebrates one of the greatest rappers of all time, The Notorious B.I.G., by breaking down of one of his hottest verses: “Flava in Ya Ear (Remix).”
I’m 25; that’s not very old.
I’ve come to grips with the fact that several movie stars and musicians are much younger than I am. Same goes with players in every major sport. There are some people across the country my age that are billionaires or CEO’s of enormous companies or running for political office. All of that is cool with me.
Still, from time to time, I think of myself as old. Some examples:
- Earlier this year, while watching a Clippers-Knicks game on TNT, I saw Grant Hill defending Jason Kidd. Not only do I remember when both of those players were young NBA players, I owned both of their jerseys (Hill on the Pistons, Kidd on the Mavericks) before I was age 7.
- At a movie a few weeks ago, I saw this trailer for an upcoming release. I was shocked! Has it really been 20 years since the original Jurassic Park? Seems to me like it was just in theaters last week.
- Last Saturday was the 16th anniversary of The Notorious B.I.G.’s murder. I remember when I learned he died. Now there are kids in college who never heard jams like “Big Poppa” or “Hypnotize” on the radio.
In honor of the last of those three items, I’m going to examine my favorite Biggie verse for this weeks Word is Bond. Determining which verse was my favorite was the hard part; listening to it over-and-over to reflect on how great B.I.G. was: Pure joy.
Song: “Flava In Ya Ear (Remix)”
Album: Project Funk Da World
Artist: Craig Mack featuring the Notorious B.I.G., Rampage, LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes and Puff Daddy
Verse: First (Notorious B.I.G.)
Niggas is mad I get more butt than ash trays
Fuck a fair one I get mines the fast way
The ski mask way, nigga ransom notes
Far from handsome…but damn a nigga tote
(What ya’ tote?)
more guns than roses
shaking in their boots
Invisible bullies like The Gooch
Disappear…vamoose…you’re wack to me
Take them rhymes back to the factory
The gimmicks, the wack lyrics
The shit is depressing…pathetic…please forget it
You’re mad cause my style you’re admiring
Don’t be mad…UPS is hiring
You shoulda been a cop…fuck hip-hop
With that freestyle you’re bound to get shot
Not from Houston but I Rap-a-Lot
Pack the gat a lot
The flav’s bout to drop uhh
Having Biggie go first on a remix like this, even with a talented cast behind him (we covered Busta Rhymes’ skills last week), is like serving chocolate cake at the beginning of the meal, then offering lettuce afterwards to see if people are still hungry. There’s just no chance.
Biggie is a terrific storyteller, an All-Pro wordsmith and can make party jams with the best of them. But where he really separates himself is with punchlines – nobody in rap history had better single lines than B.I.G. This verse has several amazing ones, from the first line about getting “more butt than ash trays” to the end where he states he’s “not from Houston but I Rap-a-Lot.”
However one could argue that Biggie’s all-time best punchline, and maybe the best of any rapper in any song, is “You’re mad cause my style you’re admiring /Don’t be mad…UPS is hiring.” He could have dropped the microphone right there. In an art form where copying (some would stay stealing) is part of the game, Biggie lays it out nice and simple: If you need to replicate what I do, then maybe you should reconsider being a rapper in the first place.
Few MC’s could replicate what Biggie was doing. In the 16 years since he was senselessly gunned down, only a handful of rappers have come close to matching his overall skill set. It’s a shame that he got to record only two albums, that he never experienced the commercial success he should have or that he didn’t live long enough to see real rap music become mainstream, which happened thanks in part to his own songs.
Thankfully, the music lives on. Once the flava drops, everything he says is in our ear. And no matter how young or old you are, when the Notorious B.I.G. comes on, the music is timeless.