Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A quick plug for Biggie Smalls

I don't think I'll see the Notorious movie, but for those of you totally unfamilliar with his work, Biggie is worth checking out. A lot of what he does may sound like a rap cliche, but he played a large part (no pun intended) in creating those rap cliches, and he does what he does SO much better than his imitators. Many of his songs are about the gangsta lifestyle he (to some extent) left behind, but he doesn't sugarcoat the realities of that life, or fill his stories with a lot of empty braggadocio: he makes a life of crime sound like a difficult, demoralizing grind that leaves you depressed and empty at the end of the day. And his first big hit "Juicy", which I think of as a kind of "Move on Up" for the 90's, absolutely puts to shame 99% of other rap songs about getting rich and living the good life. The genuine joy and hopefulness at the heart of this song, not to mention the lyrical craft Biggie employs, make it still sound fresh and jubilant 15 years later, and set it apart from the many bling anthems it no doubt inspired.

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