*Disclaimer: This article is not meant to be read by sensitive individuals. The purpose of this article is an attempt to explain the popularity of the given rapper from a marketing and psychological perspective.
How does a broke, less than handsome and overweight rapper from Bedford Stuyvesant sell 20 million units? How does this same rapper get crowned the king in a city of 8 million with emcees like Rakim, Nas and Big Daddy Kane still in the game? Puff Daddy saw the lyricism but more than likely, he stumbled upon this unlikely recipe of success.
Brooklyn and every other hood in the US had suffered through a decade of crack, cocaine and violence. There wasn’t much to be happy about when you were poor, there wasn’t even much to hope about. But along came Biggie Smalls and he gave the people hope. He didn’t lay out a plan for how you can join him but he showed you what was on the other side of the bridge. Bad Boy introduced wealth to the mainstream through their music and videos at a whole new level. Puff Daddy successfully turned hip hop into a commercial dream and Biggie was the hero of this dream. It is not hard to imagine a teenager thinking to himself, “If Biggie Smalls can do it, so can I".
Bringing East Coast Back
New York is known as a city with short term memory. The city will forget you or even worse drown you out with boos and criticism if you do not represent them properly. The people also have a great sense of pride, an unmatched ego for being a part of the most famous city in the world. So when urban New Yorkers saw hip hop, the art they crafted and nurtured and its title being handed over to the thriving West Coast, they were left with a wounded pride and no response. Sure, NY still had their veterans like Rakim, LL and KRS One. They also had newcomers, the introspective Nasty Nas and the hardcore Wu Tang Clan, but America’s attention was focused on the left side of the USA. Dr. Dre had a monstrous solo debut while Ice Cube continued his reign as LA’s O.G. A new generation led by Snoop Dogg was being introduced as well and among them, Tupac Shakur. Back on the East Coast, New Yorkers who once took their dominance in hip hop for granted were now watching the West Side holding up the trophy. The East Coast needed an answer and it turned out to be the Notorious BIG. As Biggie blew up, New Yorkers realized they had found themselves a new champion. They had a lyrical monster that could be thrown into the ring against anyone the West coast had to offer and it wouldn’t be long before the king of NY would be tested.
“It was all a dream”. They say success doesn’t come over night, but it sure looked that way for Biggie Smalls. It took little time for Christopher Wallace to become the biggest thing in rap. The cameras would not let off of him. For one, Big Poppa knew how to keep desirable women around him. He wasn’t just messing with models and groupies (those were a given), he was sleeping with multi platinum recording artists. There was the R&B lady Faith Evans, hip hop’s sex symbol Lil Kim and gangster girl Charlie Baltimore. In between all his romantic conquests, Biggie would also find himself in a car accident as well as get arrested multiple times. While all this was happening, the rivalry between East and West coast boiled on. All of this would have been enough to make any rapper go platinum in the worst recession. Then Tupac is killed, and Biggie will too just a week before Life After Death’s release date. (Could an album have a more fitting name given the circumstances?) Plain and simple, nothing sells like death.
And when he died, New York and the East Coast did not forget. For stepping up and restoring the pride of a wounded city, Biggie Smalls was honored like a king after his passing. The East knew they had lost their best warrior and more than ten million will mourn by purchasing Life After Death.