Before he became Notorious, Biggie Smalls had to start somewhere. That somewhere was the Extended Bad Boy remix for Supercat’s “Dolly My Baby.” The early 90s was the apex of the hip-hop and reggae collaboration, an obvious nexus based on the West Indian roots of many rappers. Chris Wallace might have been born at St. Mary’s Hospital in BK, but his mom hailed from Trelawny on the Caribbean island once called the land of wood and water.
So for his first verse, it was a natural fit for him to rhyme over the beat first popularized by Supercat, the dancehall legend recently signed to Sony, and seeing slight American vogue for his remix to Kris Kross’ “Jump,” and his hook on “Alright” (still the most unsung cut in the catalogue of the Mack Daddy and the Daddy Mack.) Fresh out of the unsigned hype column, Biggie was still very much in his first incarnation as the super-raw Bed-Stuyvesant livest one. That said, the hook for “Big Poppa” starts here. He calls himself the “lyrical lyricist pulling lyrics out his larynx” in case you doubted this was 1993. He only gets a few bars, but the cadence, timing, thunder god voice, and syllable placement is already perfect. He was just 21, already a prodigy making Puffy look like the jiggiest prophet. This marked the actual first Biggie and Mary J collaboration, a few months before the “Real Love” remix. Bad Boy didn’t invent the remix, but they certainly were the first to fully harness its promotional power.
Over 20 years later, Action Bronson drops what’s purported to be the first leak off Blue Chips 7000. You might dislike Bam Bam’s crassness and lack of conventional decor, but you can’t deny that he knows exactly what he’s doing. Mr. Wonderful was better than its reputation, but it didn’t match the heights of the Blue Chips tapes because part of Action’s appeal was rapping absurd boasts over whimsical beats. He’s a chef, cognizant of what spoils the broth. The demands placed within the major label system usually lead to compromise and debased flavor. It’s an old story. I wrote about it yesterday.
By signing to Vice, Bronson cannily aligned himself with a global multi-media brand. He got the food show, and took some time time off to get paid touring the globe, wisely prizing the overall entity above the need to constantly vomit bars. If you could get a prime cable time slot and luxuriously traipse around the world eating ludicrous meals, you wouldn’t waste your time dropping free mixtapes either. Bronson has already released more material than most 90s rappers did in their entire careers. Anything we get from here on out is a bonus. He’s a star without rap, Action Zimmern.
The return single finds him kicking chimerical flows over the beat from (yes, obviously) “Dolly My Baby.” If you’re an overweight rapper from the outer boroughs, this might as well be your destiny. Plus, it’s excellent promo for your Jamaica episode. This is Action in mixtape mode, so to say, at his best, feeling like “the phantom of opera, hanging from the ladder of the chopper.” Looking Spanish in the drop, in the store playing lotto in the wife beater, marveling at his views, stuffing 100,000 in cakes, driving M3’s, and letting Jah Tiger take over for Super Cat. It’s not about to get radio play, but it reminds you of his appeal in the first place. A colorful writer as New York as a bialy, screaming “you better get my cheddar before I break shit.”