I left my house just after six this morn to go and cop a little of my drug of choice—the java bean, baby. (Did I mention I have a full time media job now? It’s keeping me more than a little busy. But good busy.) Anyway, it’s a beautiful morning in the T-Dot and as I was walking to the coffee shop, I passed a lounge in my neighborhood and through the window I could see this dude sweeping the floors, cleaning up the bar from last night. He was blasting Biggie, and he was smiling and nodding his head as he swept. As I was walked away (slowly, cause I wanted to hear the whole song, dammit), I realized that today is the ten year anniversary of Big’s death. Don’t you love synchronicity?
I wonder sometimes if Big—if any artist, for that matter—could ever fully comprehend the extent of his influence. How can any artist really wrap their minds around all the lives they’ve touched? All the individual people in so many different situations that have taken pleasure from their music: on the job, working out, getting their flirt on, celebrating, sharing a meal, sitting on the train thinking, driving around lost in thought.
One time I was in Laos, the country next to Thailand, in a café and out of nowhere Guru’s Jazzmatazz Volume 1 came wafting out the patio speakers. There was a wave of recognition that passed through the crowd, and it hit me that the disc had somehow made its way to this off-the-beaten-path country in Asia—a communist country that had only been open to tourists for five years—and become a favorite for locals there. It’s hard to fully comprehend the fact that hip-hop has the ability to touch the hearts of so many strangers in so many different countries. That something that was born in a grimy studio on some block in America has the ability to be the soundtrack to so many lives around the planet.
When I think about Big’s death, I think about this enormous reach. I think about dancing to his tracks in Tokyo, in Joburg, in Bangkok. I think about footage I’ve seen of his casket being driven through Brooklyn, the crowds breaking into a spontaneous cheer as “Hypnotize” boomed through enormous speakers. I think about that wave of emotion reverberating all across the globe, a million souls feeling the loss.
And I think about my own personal connection to that track. Some music is so much more than just music—the songs wind up woven into the fabric of your life. Around the time that Life After Death dropped, I was in love for the first time in my life. We were young and super duper broke, but someone loaned us a Range Rover for the day, and so we took it and drove all the way to Seattle, blasting Big the entire way. We were both dealing with some heavy stuff at the time. But something about the stretch of open road and the insane beats and Big’s precise, mathematical flow made all the stress and pressure disappear, if only for the day.