My eyes are bloodshot, my hands are shaking from three cups of coffee and my hair looks like Danny Brown. I was up until 4:30 AM.
I’ve always considered blogs a thoroughly modern invention, a product of a time when the internet rules everything around us. Action Bronson mentions Ghostface, he responds, and it's on every blog in about three minutes. Drake drops a surprise album and it’s trending before you can say If You Are Reading This It’s Too Late. In 2015 it’s impossible to escape the internet's reaches, but my investigation into the Illmatic forums had me thinking about how we went from people struggling to find mp3s to an over-abundance of streaming companies, from literally nothing to news, music and interviews available with the swipe of a finger. It may have only been 20 years ago, but the world was completely different. How did people get music? Where did they go? Who was talking about it?
And then, like some sort of internet miracle (and with a little help Yoh) I stumbled across Davey D’s Hip-Hop Corner. Davey D is a hip-hop historian and journalist, who back in the day worked at San Francisco's 106 KMEL and ran what has to be one of the first ever hip-hop blogs.
As you can imagine, the site is now a ghost town compared to what it once was. There are chatrooms that are now dead, audio interviews that cannot be played, and message boards lost in the abyss. Still, I managed to find some really crazy shit. I’m talking mind blowing, holy crap I can’t believe it kind of shit. The kind of stuff that makes the '90s Illmatic article look like a Buzzfeed quiz. Like...I was reading this and started to cry rap nerd tears, partly because at 4:30 AM and I have no control over my emotions, but mainly because, holy shit. There’s so much to share, and we will cover it all, but everything I found had to be broken up into different articles. Seriously it’s that amazing.
Are you ready?
Obviously, two of the biggest stories of the late '90s were the deaths of both Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. Their deaths forever altered hip-hop and is still something that hip-hop heads think about frequently. Within six months the two biggest rappers on the planet, the faces of hip-hop were killed, and as you can imagine, Davey wrote extensively about both, so much so that there is too much for one article. So for now, let’s stick to Biggie.
First up, a post from Davey written just days after Biggie’s shooting. I highly suggest you read the whole thing here.
According to witnesses, Notorious BIG was hanging out at an after party for the Soul Train Music Awards. The party was being thrown by Vibe Magazine at the Automotive Museum in downtown LA and Biggie was in full swing with an entourage of about 30 people including Lil Caesar, and Lil Kim…
...From the outside looking in, Biggie's visible presence in LA indicated that everything was squashed and there's was no longer any more bad blood between LA-based Death Row and the New York-based Bad Boy record companies who had embarked on a new and more peaceful direction for hip hop. A lot of this was reinforced by the recent 'coming together' of Snoop Dog and Sean Puffy Combs.. on the Steve Harvey Show. Folks simply felt it was all good...Industry insiders said such was not the case....
The fallout of this tragedy has left many within the hip hop community shocked and despaired. Rumors immediately began to surface. Witnesses claim that Notorious BIG has earlier that evening engaged in a heated argument with DJ Quik. The rumors speculating that Quik had something to do with the shooting immediately circulated around the Bay Area. Other rumors surfaced saying that Suge Knight was the mastermind behind the shootings. It was a message from his jail cell to let Biggie and everyone else know that he was very much in control despite being handed a 8-year prison sentence. Another theory was that Biggie was gunned down by LA Crips because him and Bad Boy refused to pay an extortion fee to members of the LA Based gang. Other speculated that it was a Mafia hit. The most outrageous and yet persistent rumor is that it was someone connected to 2Pac... perhaps even Pac himself was involved if you believe the rumors about him being alive. Ironically Biggie was killed 2 weeks before the release of his lp like 2Pac... It also occurred 6 months and a day after 2 Pac's untimely demise. Another disheartening speculation is that there would be retaliation from the East Coast... Artist like Ice Cube and Mack 10 have been said to be next on the hit list of this ongoing saga. Whatever the case the shooting took place in front of a lot of people within the music industry.. and that Biggie was the intended target... Many are refusing to talk.
The Vibe on the streets out here in the Bay Area has been one of frustration. Many have gotten fed up with a situation that has gotten totally out of hand.. Many have pledged to help bring about some substantial changes. Still others have sadly celebrated Biggie's death claiming that it was just revenge for PAC's death.. 'Now folks back east know how it feels' was what many said. In San Francisco Fillmore district there were folks actually getting drunk and partying over the fact that Biggie got shot.. Things have definitely gotten bad within some circles.What's so sad is that Biggie at age 24 leaves behind two children, a wife and his mom.
You know how people save newspapers from important dates? That’s what this feels like. Both Biggie and Tupac’s deaths are so mythologized it’s hard to really get a pulse on what people were feeling at the time, but Davey’s article is an incredible artifact. To hear all the rumors that were swirling and the reaction of some people in the Bay is amazing to me. I can't imagine ever celebrating someone's death no matter who they were, and to hear about people cheering that Biggie was killed really shows you how heated, and how out of hand the East vs. West feud had become.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
News reports and official documents are interesting, but I’ve always been more of an oral historian; rap game Studs Terkel. I prefer human thoughts and emotions to unbiased, cold reporting. You may not get the depth of information, but sometimes the story of an average person tells you much more than any reporter. What really stirred something deeper in me was not Davey’s article (although that was riveting) but the tribute section to Biggie where fans could share their thoughts and feelings on his death.
I believe that the death of Biggie was a wake up call for all rap artists, telling them that they need to stop hatred between each other. When I heard the news, at first, I didn't believe anyone. Then, I saw it on MTV News. I was choked, I couldn't say anything. I was really surprised because there has been two major deaths in the rap game and it was also the same way. After the two greatest rap artists have gone, other artists began to wake up. They needed to. This has to stop.
Puffy or whoever I am writing this to, I am only 13 and I live in Mt.Clemens, Michigan and we have gangs up here like bloods and crips. People be going around school throw it a bunch of gang signs.
And I think that you are right about we need to bring peace back to hip hop music. When I heard of 2pac's death I was sad because he was a great rapper and the same with when I heard of B.I.G.'s death I was sad because they were my favorite rappers. I think that it is dumb that people be goin around yellin westside and eastside and that is some shit they don't own. Please excuse my language in here but I am expressing myself. They don't even own it, nigga you are renting. I got the life after death cd and I can't listen to number one on the first disk because when I hear the sirens and stuff it makes me sad that and I've been in a car accident so my parents have told me what it is like to see some on the emergency bed. B.I.G and 2pac were great men and rappers and I just hope we don't have any more deaths caused by the dumbest reasons like the two deaths we have had the last two years.
Well got to go,bye."
No matter what anyone else says, I still feel (very strongly) that there is a connection between the murders of Tupac, Yakki and Biggie. It may come off as far-fetched, but since no one really knows what the motivations were, all possibilities should be left open.
All murders were definitely pre-meditated. They did not just occur out of the blue. Those murders were carefully planned out; they were just orchestrated in a manner that suggested that they were random. I suppose the cops think people are stupid. How in the world could federal agents have been part of those entourages (we don't know who was actually tracking Yakki in NJ either...) and not have seen what occurred -- unless they had an idea of what was about to take place.
Let me back up for a minute. The Feds were tracking Bad Boy and Death Row. Why in the world would they not track down the perpetrators on the spot? It seems to me (and many others) that they allowed to make a clean escape.
I think I need to stop right here. All I can say is that Tupac is truly missed...I loved that brotha. Biggie's murder was an awful event, and I hope that his family continues to honor his memory."
"Farewell to a person,
Who was truely loved,
I pray you reach,
The heavens above,
Puffy, I know,
You were truely hurt,
To see your friends body,
Go down in the dirt,
What happened to Biggie,
Was really tragic,
Now in music,
There is no magic,
When will this stop,
This foolish game,
Now without Biggie,
Life ain't the same,
It was awful,
A terrible crime done,
Without you Biggie,
There is no sun.
written by: Nawal Mujahid age 11
Poems from 11-year-olds? Illuminati conspiracies? It’s absolutely riveting to pour through these writings to see how people felt. I’ve always read about the reaction, I’ve seen the clips of Big’s funeral, but I’ve never gotten a first-hand account from fans. It may not be official, it may not be grammatically perfect, but the outpouring of emotion teaches you more about Biggie’s legacy than any report ever could. Of all of these, though, there were two that stood out.
The first is from Puff himself, and it has its own section on the site. I don’t know if that was an “exclusive” to Davey’s site or if it was released to the public and copied here, but I have never seen this before.
"Christopher Wallace was my friend and I love him. I miss him so much. I have spent the last week trying to make sense of what our lives have become. Every day I try to make sense of why my friend is not here. It isn't easy.
Notorious BIG was not just a Bad Boy Entertainment artist. He was a lyrical genius, a literary giant, a voice for people who aren't often heard and one of the greatest rappers in the history of hip hop. What people need to know about B.I.G. is that he was compassionate, humorous and generous. He was not perfect though. We all have our problems. In fact he shared the same problems growing up as many Black youth in America who are raised without fathers or understanding of what it means to become strong, productive and responsible men. Notorious BIG and I both had to teach ourselves to become men. It was not easy, and we obviously made some mistakes.
From the beginning, all BIG and I wanted to do was make music people could dance to and laugh at while at the same time keeping it real with lyrics that talked about life in the ghetto. The trial we go through as people are not easy. Our music was supposed to encourage us to see life for what is, then make a change.
What it was never meant to be was some competition with the West Coast. Though I have said this many times before, I feel I need to repeat it today: in my heart there is no East Coast-West Coast Rap War. I do not want it. I do not like it. I will not fuel it. There are enough obstacles we face as a people already. There is no reason for us to turn on one another.
What I want to do is talk about where we go from here. While we did not create the conditions that we live in every day, we can definitely do a lot more to be a part of necessary solutions. While as an artist. I see and feel the need to create music about anything and everything, I now realize the power to direct the development of our culture. There is no escaping my responsibility. I must be accountable to today's youth. My music must provide the young not only with the reality of life, it must serve as an inspiration for us to create a better life. My words come from the heart.
So to insure that Notorious BIG's album Life After Death has some type of positive impact on youth, I will use a portion of my profits from the album to open the Christopher Wallace Youth Center-an educational and recreational place to be located in Brooklyn, NY. I am willing to sacrifice profits to make a change. I will also take time off to evaluate my role in music and life.
Christopher Wallace aka Notorious BIG you will always be in my prayers along with all of the urban youth who lives were ripped away by senseless violence. It is time for a change." - Sean Combs
Wow. Simply wow. Puff’s thoughts just a week after his death are so poignant; you can really sense his heartbreak. It's sad that it took Biggie's death to "Wake him up" but you can really sense this is what changed him and changed hip-hop. I've learned how hated Puff was in the '90s because he was "killing" hip-hop with his sampling and luxurious lifestyle, but I think a lot of people rallied around him because when it came to Biggie it wasn't business—it was personal.
While I love Puff’s statement, there was also a first-hand account of Biggie’s final hours which, to me, was the most incredible find in this rabbit hole free fall.
Just to remember the warmth and understanding of Biggie brings a smile to my face. I can say, I was one of several individuals to be with him during the last 2 hours of his life. I remember bringing my sister Jameika to the Vibe Party at the Petersen Automotive Museum, that night. This was her very first industry function and she was amazed!
The music, drinks, girls & guys were just flowin'. Hundred thousand dollar cars were parked as mere props on every floor throughout the party. As the party goers begin to settle in, Biggie strolls in with his cane and Bad Boy entourage. He settles into a chair like a king on his throne. Since I was just a table away from Biggie, I noticed all the activity and celebration at his locale.
Biggie, Puffy, Lil Ceas, Russell Simmons and several others sipped Crystal Champagne as the girls surrounded their table for pictures and autographs. As the minutes ticked away, I asked my sister if she would like to meet Biggie? Since I had recently produced a "Straight From The Streets" Fox News feature story on him, he had displayed so much love for me and it showed! Her answer was, yes of course. We arrived at the table, Biggie and I mutually acknowledged each other. She met him and joked for a moment as we planned on getting together the next day to view my film "Straight From The Streets" and work out the details for Biggie to record a song for my soundtrack.
Then that dreaded telephone call from my cousin, Jeff. He told me that Biggie had been shot after he had left the party. I called my colleagues at Fox and NBC News and confirmed the reports. For me, Biggie was an understanding and caring brother, that was down for making a difference in life. Till this day my lil sis still carries a picture of her and Biggie, taken at the party that evening in her wallet all the time. Lastly, I just hope that everyone that reads this story will appreciate every day that they live and remember tomorrow is not guaranteed. Just be thankful for today and hope for a tomorrow!
Peace to all,
Naturally, because I grew up on the internet I was skeptical. As amazing as the story is, as much as I wanted a glimpse into the final hours, I was hesitant to believe it. So I did some digging and as it turns out Keith O'Derek was for real because I found that Straight to The Street segment in his production reel and it’s incredible.
It’s hard to believe that a legitimate news station would let Keith air this interview where Biggie openly admits to selling drugs; I guess nobody really gave a shit in the '90s. There’s also some great performance video in there too. Oh yeah, that whole thing about him being with Big right before his death is incredible too. It's both riveting and a little bit creepy, no? Picturing Biggie celebrating by popping bottles and hanging out knowing his death is imminent is chilling.
There's so many stories, reports and tributes on Biggie's death—there's a whole movie about him - but you won’t learn half as much from any documentary or film as you can by diving into Davey’s Biggie Tribute section. I’ve never felt more invested or closer to Biggie. I feel like I learned more about Biggie’s death and the circumstances surrounding it from Davey’s site than I have ever before. It’s getting the information from people who were just like me; they were hip-hop heads with dial-up instead of wi-fi
I’m going to be taking more findings and turning them into pieces. There’s a lot more to cover but my eyeballs feel like they are going to fall out of my skull and I can’t imagine you feel much different after 5,000 words on Biggie alone. So stay tuned. I recently got in touch with Davey and got him on the phone expecting a few quotes here and there, but he gave me so much I am going to turn it into a separate interview piece. Also, we have a lot of insane stuff on Pac, as well as some random stuff that left me giddy. (One minute I'm watching a Biggie interview and the next I'm watching a young Destiny's Child press conference.) While you wait for us to unveil all the glory, take a look through the halls of hip-hop history yourself and check out Davey D’s Hip-Hop Corner.
By Lucas Garrison aka @ItsLucas_G
Art Credit: Chris Morley