Number 7: The Notorious BIG/Big Boi

The Notorious BIG


Overall 86

(Flow 10, Lyrics 10, Distinctiveness 10, Charisma 9, Charisma 9, Consistency 8.5, Longevity 3, Punchlines 9, Subject Matter 8, Quality 8.5, Influence 10)

Did I say that my Jay-Z listing was controversial? Biggie not being in the top 5 (or #1) listing is downright blasphemous for someone that lives on the East Coast, but my reasons are quite simple. He only had two albums released in his life (we had a similar issue with Pun) and so there’s no career arc.

We don’t know if he would have released a whack album (I’m being relative here) or changed his sound, or left Bad Boy after realizing that he wasn’t making any money (according to Charli Baltimore) or would expanded the scope of his music beyond his Brooklyn crime rap roots. And so it’s not fair to call him the greatest.

But it’s visceral to want to when you hear him.

“All my life I been considered as the worst
Lyin’ to my mother, even stealin’ out her purse
Crime after crime, from drugs to extortion
I know my mother wished she got a f**kin’ abortion
She don’t even love me like she did when I was younger
Suckin’ on her chest just to stop my f**kin’ hunger
I wonder if I died, would tears come to her eyes?
Forgive me for my disrespect, forgive me for my lies
My babies’ mothers 8 months, her little sister’s 2
Who’s to blame for both of them (naw nigga, not you)
I swear to God I just want to slit my wrists and end this bullsh*t
Throw the Magnum to my head, threaten to pull sh*t
And squeeze, until the bed’s, completely red
I’m glad I’m dead, a worthless f**kin’ buddah head
The stress is buildin’ up, I can’t,
I can’t believe suicide’s on my f**kin’ mind”

BIG had one of hip-hop’s perfect voices, while often compared to fellow luminary Tupac, he was at a higher lyrical level. I always got the feeling that he could freestyle forever; his flow just seemed to build momentum the longer he went.

I don’t know that BIG ever did a guest vocal. Sure he was on someone’s tracks, but the moment he opened his mouth, it became utterly his and the other people didn’t seem to matter. In fact, when BIG was alive he dominated our attention. I often tell younger people how odd it is to see Jay-z, Nas, Lil Kim and other careers flourish, because they were always second fiddles to BIG.

The moment he died, Bad Boy began its slide to irrelevancy. The King was dead.

Big Boi


Overall 86

(Flow 9.5, Lyrics 9, Distinctiveness 9, Charisma 9, Consistency 5, Longevity 9, Punchlines 7.5, Subject Matter 9, Quality 9, Influence 10

I have a decided East Coast hip-hop bias, which means that I tend not to enjoy Southern hip-hop. There are exceptions (you’d have to be made of stone not to feel Scarface, for instance) but it’s not my thing. But no matter what you like you have to acknowledge Outkast as one of the nicest groups out there.

Outkast is just plain interesting. I don’t what they’re going to do or sound like next. I don’t know what some of things they do mean. But they make me nod my head, they make me laugh, they make me co-sign and I have to acknowledge their greatness. And so has everyone else, because they’ve been tremendously successful. In fact, one of my favorite Big Boi verses doesn’t even rhyme-

“When I first met my SpottieOttieDopalicious Angel
I can remember that damn thing like yesterday
The way she moved reminded me of a Brown Stallion
horse with skates on smooth like a hot comb
on nappy ass hair
I walked up on her & was almost paralyzed
her neck was smelling sweeter
than a plate of yams with extra syrup
eyes beaming like four karats apiece just blindin’ a nigga
felt like I chiefed a whole O of that Presidential
My heart was beating so damn fast
never knowing this moment would bring another
life into this world
Funny how sh*t come together sometimes [ya dig]
One moment you frequent the booty clubs &
the next four years you & somebody’s daughter
raisin’ y’all own young’n now that’s a beautiful thang
that’s if you’re on top of your game
and man enough to handle real life situations [that is]
Can’t gamble feeding baby on that dope money
might not always be sufficient but the
United Parcel Service & the people at the Post Office
didn’t call you back because you had cloudy piss
So now you back in the trap just that, trapped
Go on and marinate on that for a minute”

Big Boi has a lower register and is slightly less flamboyant than his partner, helping create Outkast’s impossible chemistry. Big Boi is aggressive about finding new sounds, another telltale sign of a great artist. I especially respect the effort he puts into creating live and spontaneous percussion sounds, a definite weakness in hip-hop.

He’s established himself as both a top artist, solo and otherwise and an innovative one, a combination that almost never happens. And he has lots of cool nicknames, which we should have made a category.


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