Music

The Notorious B.I.G. - "Juicy" (Singles Going Steady Classic)

No matter how many hipster cliches and gentrification stories come out of Brooklyn on a weekly basis, "Juicy" is still the national anthem here.

Marshall Gu: Excepting "Lose Yourself", there is perhaps no other hip-hop song that is so anthemic and iconic that you probably know all the words without realizing they're permanently burned in your hippocampi. I'm constantly bothered by the number of times "Juicy" has been sampled throughout music (ie. CunninLynguists' "Predormitum"; Jay-Z's "A Dream"; J. Cole's "Villuminati"; even Vampire Weekend's interpolated it) because it's almost always used as a badge/symbol/easy hook, instead of evocative, but there's a reason it's sampled so many times -- it's a stone-cold classic. [10/10]

Timothy Gabriele: A relatively optimistic song an era of nihilism and also a tune with a pretty languid flow from artists whose hardcore wares were the backbone of his identity. The former may make it endure, the latter dates it some. The Mtume groove that hooks the entire track, supplied by Trackmasters and Pete Rock, has now gone through the cycle where it has gone out of fashion and come back. I'm still on board, even if the rapping itself is a bit, well, soft. I never thought this was the best track on Ready to Die and I still don't, but listening to it again with some distance it's clear that one of B.I.G.'s strengths was his commercial viability. The placement of the swimming pool in the video is not accidental; this is clearly a summer jam. But it's also one with no illusions about the juxtaposition between the privilege of being able to luxuriate by the pool and B.I.G.'s hard origins. "Phone bill about two G's flat / No need to worry, my accountant handles that / And my whole crew is lounging / Celebrating every day, no more public housing." A worthy addition to your '90s party this summer.

I'm also struck thinking that somewhere out there on the internet there has to be some intersection between the B.I.G./2Pac conspiracy theorists and the 9/11 truthers via that line "Time to get paid / Blow up like the World Trade", which even back in '94 when above-ground rappers were openly fantasizing about raping women and killing cops was in incredibly poor taste. Which leads me to speculate stupidly... who really killed B.I.G.? [8/10]

Pryor Stroud: "Juicy", like its author, needs no introduction. It's a bitter autobiography. An expletive. A manifesto of survival in an urban underworld where surviving equates to offending, scaring, even breaking the law. Biggie's famous enunciation -- fat-lipped, overstuffed, yet sharp and replete with masculine aggression -- is here in full force. "It was all a dream", the verse begins, and this dream materializes, not as a wisp or haze-bordered vision, but a gunshot: the beat hits like a bullet blasting out of a chamber, shedding its case to feel the air raging against its curvature, and the dream it carries is an ambition to rip across and out of the world that's caging it. This world is a world of gang violence, of drug peddling and common thieves committing uncommon crimes just to stay afloat; it's a world that necessitates the velocity of gunfire to escape. "Juicy", then, is vitalized by the same propulsive bullet-force that would eventually return to Biggie in a different form -- not as a world-ripping triumph of talent and will, but as four shots from a 9 mm blue-steel pistol, one of which would take his life. [10/10]

Ian King: No matter how many hipster cliches and gentrification stories come out of Brooklyn on a weekly basis, "Juicy" is still the national anthem here. There's a law on the books that on the first warm day of the year all drivers have to roll their windows down and play "Juicy" on full volume as they go about their day. I don't know how it went down in other neighborhoods, but, a few weekends ago when that day finally came, motorists driving up 5th Avenue from Bay Ridge and Sunset Park certainly did not shirk their civic duty. The guys who run the shoe store downstairs from me also serve as sidewalk DJs at the annual street fair, and "Juicy" always gets played at least once, if not more. The street fair is less than two weeks away, fellas! Time to pull out Ready to Die. [8/10]

Emmanuel Elone: Before Drake's "Started From the Bottom", "Juicy" was hip-hop's official rags to riches anthem. Over a classic P. Diddy instrumental that was inspired by Pete Rock's later-to-be remix version of the song, Biggie Smalls depicts his rise as a New York rapper, starting as a "born sinner, the opposite of a winner", to having "sold out seats to hear Biggie Smalls speak". It's a message that everyone can relate to on some level, and is no doubt one of the many reasons why "Juicy" is still one of the most well-known hip-hop songs more than two decades after it first originally dropped. [10/10]

Chris Ingalls: It's possible that a huge swath of music fans were introduced to "Juicy" by way of the Girl Talk mashup "Smash Your Head", which paired the rhymes with Elton John's "Tiny Dancer". The original track still packs a punch after more than 20 years. The rags to riches tale is a goldmine of vivid childhood memories ("Hangin' pictures on my wall / Every Saturday, Rap Attack, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl") paired up with a chronicling of the present-day good life ("Now I'm in the limelight 'cause I rhyme tight / Time to get paid, blow up like the World Trade"). Often times, the immediacy of hip-hop denies the genre the ability to age gracefully, but Biggie Smalls knew how to create an atmosphere where the kids living the struggle could envision the riches that come with hard work and perseverance. It never sounds forced or condescending. [9/10]

Chad Miller: Such a feel good track in the sense that it's impossible not to want to join in on the celebration. I especially liked the first part where he shares the struggle that he and so many others have been through and ends it with "it's all good baby". It's one of the most charismatic sections of the song. It doesn't slow down from there, showcasing Biggie's tremendous skills and an enjoyable beat while taking on some important issues as well. [9/10]

SCORE: 9.14


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