Following last week’s look at the classic “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” by DMX, we’re going back even further to look at one of the most iconic rap tracks of all time, from one of the most influential rappers of all time: Biggie Smalls, the Notorious B.I.G, Big Poppa – whatever you want to call him – “Juicy” is a certified classic so heavily entrenched in history.
Biggie’s rise from rags to riches, nothing to something, is a story we’ve seen repeated so many times in the music world – it’s far rarer to see someone establish themselves as a true legend, with a legacy and influence reaching on way past their lifespan. “Juicy” served as a breakthrough track of sorts, or a song that cemented him in the rap game as a centerpiece of East coast culture – the song speaks on the ascension to superstardom, giving those struggling with any and every problem hope for the future. A song for dreamers, by a bigger dreamer than any, Biggie’s opening verse presents the stark contrast between eating sardines for dinner and being “in the limelight ‘cause I rhyme right”, in an honest and rather vulnerable confession of his upbringing and life before the rap money came in.
“I made the change from a common thief
To up close and personal with Robin Leach
And I’m far from cheap, I smoke skunk with my peeps all day
Spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way
The Moet and Alize keep me pissy
Girls used to diss me
Now they write letters ’cause they miss me
I never thought it could happen, this rappin’ stuff
I was too used to packin’ gats and stuff”
The above is an excerpt from the second verse – aside from the masterful wordplay and rhymes, the admission of his past was a rarity in ‘94, paving the way for rappers who are, rightfully so, proud of where they came from. This is followed by bars mentioning aspirations of owning a Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, then a retrospective take on owning them with a 50-inch screen and a money green leather sofa, in a verse that’s relatable to Biggie’s life now and years prior.
In the opening verse there’s one line that’s rather peculiar; in 1994, for some reason, Biggie’s verse included the bar “Time to get paid, blow up like the World Trade”, nearly a decade before the horrific 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center. Today, when one listens to the song on the radio we’re left with 1.5 seconds of eerie silence in lieu of replacement lyrics – this is often overlooked as through streaming services the song remains intact with the original bar. For a small group of cult followers, there’s a conspiracy theory that Biggie predicted the attack (or even further, was a part in planning it) while many fans hate that the track has been butchered as such. In reality, the lyric is more likely to be a reference to an Islamic radical attack on the World Trade Center from ‘93 which saw a Ford truck laden with a 1,200-pound bomb explode in the building’s car park, killing 6 people and leaving a 100-foot-deep crater in the garage. Being only a couple kilometers away from the blast, Biggie could see smoke from the blast rising into the sky from his neighborhood on Fulton Street – where many scenes from the “Juicy” video are shot.
Videography wise, we see Biggie’s two lives: one where “it’s all good, baby baby” and he’s posed up in a mansion with a model holding his microphone, and one where he’s hanging posters of rappers, on street corners playing dice games for dollar bills. The stark contrast between the two lives are on show here, almost as a caricature of each life, with one sat in a dirty apartment playing street fighter while new Biggie is sat on a pool, towel round his neck and surrounded by his whole crew dressed nice.
Live performance wise, we didn’t get to see much Biggie – he was tragically killed only three years after the release of this track – as he was only in the early stages of what was set to be a flourishing career. There’s one example however, that is such a perfect representation of what “Juicy” means as an anthem. Biggie’s performance at the 1995 MTV Spring Break sees the legend donning a Coogi sweater, flat cap, massive baggy jeans and a subtle gold pendant. The vibes are incredible, set on a floating stage surrounded by ocean water and being circled by yachts and speedboats full of excited fans.