Go Big or Go Notorious | A Tribute to The King of New York

Go Big or Go Notorious | A Tribute to The King of New York

Remembering Biggie Smalls

“Excellence is my presence. Never tense, never hesitant.”

Notorious B.I.G.; Biggie Smalls; Big Poppa; B.I.; King of New York; Black Frank White.

It makes sense that a big man with an even bigger personality would need such a long list of nicknames and name changes to cover his vast influence, reach, and talent.

This week marks 26 years since the tragic death of the hip hop legend, and whether you were an East Coast or West Coast rap fan at the time, nobody can deny that he was and always will be exactly that; legendary.

Coming from South LA, I of course lean towards Pac, but didn’t get wrapped up in all that BS when it was happening. The day I heard Biggie got shot cut me just as deep as when I heard about Pac six months before.

Since we’re releasing the Bed-Stuy 2.0 this week to commemorate Biggie, I wanted to throw together this post remembering the late, great, Notorious B.I.G with a look at his upbringings & influences, who he influenced, takeaways about the Biggie / Pac fallout, and end with the legacy he left behind.

Big City, Bigger Dreams

“My real life helped me sell a lot of records.”

If you didn’t know or pick up on it, Drawlz Bed-Stuy 2.0 is a nod to Big. He spent the first 20 years of his life in an apartment in Bed-Stuy, which now some people consider to be Clinton Hills - but we won’t get into that.

Growing up in Bed-Stuy, short for Bedford-Stuyvesant, immersed Biggie in the Brooklyn street life from a young age, and subsequently entered his teenage years during the crack cocaine disaster in the 80s and 90s. All you gotta do is listen to a few of his tracks to learn what it was like growing up there.

Because of this influence, he was selling drugs at just 12 years old, which is around the same time he started rapping. From there it was a never-ending struggle to survive and succeed while trying to dodge rival gang members, the police, and other rappers.

Lines like “I made the change from a common thief/To up close and personal with Robin Leach” really hit when you understand what his life was like growing up.

Bed-Stuy 2.0

Made with 85% silky soft nylon fabric and 15% elastane for a secure, breathable fit. Features the trademark Drawlz 2" wide, soft waistband.


Who Found Biggie

“If you got a little something you know how to do, progress at it, keep trying, you know God knows what could happen.”

After making a name for himself in Brooklyn, Big was able to pass a demo onto the Unsigned Hype column editor at The Source magazine. One thing led to another, and that recording caught the ear of Puffy, or whatever Sean Combs called himself then.

Their first meeting happened in ‘92 at a soul food restaurant in uptown Harlem, and less than a year later, Big would be the first artist to sign onto Bad Boy Entertainment. The rest is history.

Who Biggie Influenced

“If you don’t love yourself, I’ll make you see your own heart.”

This part can go on for pages and pages; I think anyone who put out a track after Ready to Die released was influenced by Big in one way or another.

So for this, I want to shine a light on the artists that he made a significant impact on while he was alive. Rappers like Jay-Z and Lil Kim were massively impacted by Biggie’s music and personality. Jay-Z’s quoted some of Big’s lyrics in a few of his songs, and a surprising amount of Lil Kim’s lyrics were actually written by Biggie.

We can’t bring up who Big influenced without talking about Junior M.A.F.I.A.; he was the one who assembled the Brooklyn-based ensemble.

While no one can really say the the sound of Faith Evans’ music was impacted by Big, it’s safe to assume that a lot of her lyrics were a result of their relationship.

What We Can Learn From the Big / Pac Fallout

“If you hear something about somebody, don’t be so quick to be like, I don’t like him. Try to find out what’s going on.”

Now here’s where it starts to get a bit cloudy; the truth about the whole Big/Pac saga was and always will be never truly known.

There will always be people trying to get their 15 minutes of fame, record label execs looking to capitalize on a situation, and celebs trying to get a little extra media attention when two music icons who were once tight friends become mortal enemies.

How much of it was real and how much of it was total lies will never be cleared up; but here’s what we as a community can learn from the situation.

Be Careful Who You Surround Yourself With

Look, I’m not saying anyone was right or wrong, I’m not getting into that with anybody, but one of the biggest takeaways we can get from this whole thing is to be very careful with the people you choose to surround yourself with.

There were so many voices and opinions in both of their ears with their own agendas and stake in a certain outcome; think about it.

People who were in their orbit wanted to be the one to get a scoop to spill to the news and get some quick cash. These leeches wanted to hear something they could leak and get some attention; they didn’t care at all about their friendship or well-being.

Record labels were profiting from the songs, merch, and attention that came out as a result of it. A relationship between two friends doesn’t even enter their conscious awareness.

Then there’s the people who were tight with both of them who loved the attention and notoriety that came with being involved with such a massively covered confrontation between two celebrities. The last thing they want, whether consciously or subconsciously, is for the dust to settle and get less attention.

TLDR; People outside of your most trusted circle have their own motivations that rarely benefit you. Be aware of it and structure your life accordingly.


The aforementioned point dovetails perfectly into this next one; learn how to, and actively, communicate with the people you care about.

You gotta wonder how many levels of separation there were between the two rappers during that time, especially when mobile phones were really just starting to become popular.

Even if iPhones were a thing back then, their larger-than-life lifestyles would have made it impossible for either of them to put down their egos and talk things out. I always wonder how things would have turned out differently if they were given that opportunity without any external influence, at least before things got out of hand.

In my personal life experience, an overwhelming majority of confrontations were settled through an adult conversation. 

So no matter how busy you get with your day-to-day life, or whatever people tell you what to think about another person, always communicate with people first-hand. More importantly than learning how to speak with respect and dignity, is learning how to listen with intent.

Bed-Stuy 2.0

Made with 85% silky soft nylon fabric and 15% elastane for a secure, breathable fit. Features the trademark Drawlz 2" wide, soft waistband.


Small Things You Didn’t Know About Big

“As I leave my competition respirator style, climb the ladder to success escalator style.”

  • B.I.G. stands for “Business Instead of Game”

  • Jay-Z grew up in the same area and went to the same high school as Biggie, along with DMX and Busta Rhymes

  • The neighborhood where Biggie grew up has been heavily gentrified into a refurbished middle- to upper-middle class neighborhood. His childhood apartment is now worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  • Biggie Smalls changed his name to Notorious B.I.G. because he took the name from a 1975 movie where Biggie Smalls was the name of a gang leader. The actor who played the character sued Big, which is why he had to change his name.

  • The name “Black Frank White” comes from the film, King of New York, where the main character was a drug lord named Frank White.

  • 2Pac bought Big his first Rolex

  • Michael Jackson requested to work with Big on his ‘95 track “This Time Around”

  • Big really was big at 6’3” and 400 pounds

A Notorious Legacy

“If the game shakes me or breaks me, I hope it makes me a better man.”

For Drawlz, Big stands as a monument to the days when mainstream rap and hip hop had something to say.

His music shed light on the corners of society that were carefully tucked away from public view; the uncomfortable reality that there were homes and neighborhoods in the United States where you couldn’t walk the streets at night or wear the wrong color in the wrong part of town.

Even more important than bringing that truth to light, he was able to humanize the reality of living that life. Society could finally put faces to the stories they heard on the news, which could have prompted positive action.

While some may say 90s rap and hip hop perpetuated that lifestyle, others say bringing it to the forefront helped people who lived in those communities felt heard. Or, it helped them realize that they have a choice when it comes to participating in that lifestyle. 

Maybe people living somewhere like Bed-Stuy listened to a track off Life After Death and realized they could choose to leave their neighborhood and violent lifestyles to make a better life for themselves. Or, do something to make their community a safer place to live.

At the end of the day, the legacy of Big is different in everyone’s eyes. What we can all agree on is that he put out some killer tracks with a once-in-a-generation flow that also gave a voice to people who were never heard before.

Bed-Stuy 2.0

Made with 85% silky soft nylon fabric and 15% elastane for a secure, breathable fit. Features the trademark Drawlz 2" wide, soft waistband.


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