Why Idealist Poets Need To Stop Hatin Biggie Smalls

Posted 2/08/2009 by smartblackboy in Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

I was at the Angry Dog this Friday night after a life changing show by Garrett Potter at Mokah. (Before I go on let me say a bit about Garrett Potter. I don't know if it has been the Portland air, or hanging out with Anis Mojgani, or working at the homeless shelter, but this kid came back looking and speaking like Jesus. Seriously one of the best live sets of poetry I have seen since Amir Sulaiman graced Artist Night Out back in 2006. I am mailing him $10 + shipping to get his CD. Seriously we might have to get an interview with him soon.)

While we were waiting for Hal Samples to meet this kid, Will Richey, Darius Frasure, Robert Cooper and myself got into a huge debate about Tupac and Biggie.

Basically some folks felt like Biggie ain't shit and had no substance.

Although the Tupac v Biggie debate has been hashed and rehashed a trillion times by now, I will use it as an opportunity to discuss my theory on how you can divide artists of all sorts into two sorts.

First, there are artists who create work for other people.

Second, there are artists who create work for themselves.

For my friends who were against Biggie they wanted him to be an artist with a message, a movement, an uplifting kumbayah master of verse wrapped into the hard edges of urban life and hip hop. Basically they wanted him to be Tupac.

But Biggie was an artist who created work for himself, and that allowed his unequaled lyrical skills to shine through the ancient trade of storytelling.

Unabashedly honest, "black and ugly as ever, however", as well as personal "birthdays were the worst days" what you get from Biggie is just a story of one guy who "went from ashy to classy". And it is beautiful.

Also, even though people are enamoured with prescience of Tupac, what is more clairvoyant than Biggie's song "you're nobody til somebody kills you"?

And that is the joy of writing for yourself - at the end of the day you don't have to please anyone. You can face tough, harsh issues, with an uncompromising honesty which I think is more difficult than writing in an overtly universal or anthem-lite fashion.

Because at the end of the day unswerving personal honesty and introspection does lead to the same level of transcendence, the same wellspring of human pathos, that writing for others leads to. Yet, it also gives you an opportunity to work through your own dysfunction "yah my mama got cancer in her breast, don't ask me why Im muthafuckin stressed, things done changed". A line like that doesn't invite all breast cancer survivors into the lyric, it doesn't invite families to be uplifted, but it is intensely personal and real and expresses a level of frustration and truth that you might not get in something uplifting.

This is not to say that artists who write for themselves can't have a message or be uplifting, and artists who write for others aren't personal - but it merely a description of the sum of all parts and intentions - it is not just who you are but it it is whose you are.

4 comment(s) to... “Why Idealist Poets Need To Stop Hatin Biggie Smalls”


CtotheB said...

Biggie Smalls is the illest

Anonymous said...

Biggie Smalls and Tupac were BOTH brilliant young men, but they were dools because they bought into their stage personas -- and they're dead and stinky for it!

Anonymous said...

2 dead dumbasses who influenced hundreds of black men to kill each other over stupid bullshit like what colors they wore or which coast they lived on.

So fucking what.

I'm glad they are both dead.

The fact that you think they are "poets" or in fact have any artistic worth at all proves that you are a fool with bad taste. You suck. Eat shit.

CtotheB said...

I bet you won't come to Brooklyn and say that.

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