To say Biggie was phenomenal to me feels like a gross understatement. The man did things for the culture that haven’t been replicated or duplicated since. How many rappers can easily go from storytelling, to battle rapping, to romantic anthems that made the ladies swoon, to owning every collaboration he’s featured on? Not many, and very few who can do it all with the precision that Big Poppa had. He was clearly in a class by himself, ahead of his time, and left us as fans with a chasm-sized void that can never be totally filled…
That doesn’t mean that people haven’t tried…. a LOT!!!!
The first attempt that sticks out in my head came from BIG’s best friend, Sean-Puffy-Puff Daddy-P. Diddy-Diddy-Now-I’m-Just-Sean-Combs, with Shyne. Although Shyne didn’t look anything that resembled “Black and Ugly as Ever,” if you closed your eyes, he sounded a lot like him.
Unfortunately, we can’t ever know what heights Shyne could have reached because of an incident at Club New York that involved a gun, “American Idol” judge and Kohl’s spokesperson, Jennifer Lopez, and Ciroc Obama. The incident landed Shyne in the bing, and it did irreparable damage to his potential career.
The next “Wanna-BIG” that I remember was Guerilla Black. Not only did he have the girth, the look, and the sound, he was actually talented.
Sadly for him, Guerilla Black was so much like Biggie that people took to him with all of the enthusiasm that Snuggie owners had over the Slanket! Maybe it was too much too soon. Maybe we didn’t give him a fair chance to get out of what could arguably be described as the largest shadow in Hip-Hop. Any way you slice it, Guerilla Black was gone before you could say “UGHHH.”
It’s 2012, and on the 15th anniversary of the Notorious B.I.G.’s unfortunately premature demise, Hip-Hop is in need of something a little more solid. The radio is cluttered with a bunch of surface rap and sing-song styled, skinny jean (or worse yet, JEGGING) rap. Real Hip-Hop seems to have returned to the underground – a place where you won’t find reality show cameras or people with lackluster skills. It’s there that I ran across Philly Swain.
Before I get into who Swain is and what makes him special, I need to tell you that he’s not trying to be BIG. He’s trying to be HUGE.
Swain grew up in Philly, and although he lives in LA, he reps the East Coast… HARD! “If Biggie didn’t pass, I would have never taken rap seriously,” he says. “Biggie had an energy that changed the game. He died four blocks from my house (on Wilshire), and I just want to bring that energy back.”
Swain isn’t without credentials. He’s been a BET 106th & Park “Freestyle Friday” champion and a Red Bull EmSee Battle Champion. He’s the first rapper to have a battle on Pay-Per-View, in addition to having millions of hits on every site from YouTube to Facebook and everything in between. Paramount even shot a documentary on him calledHustle Diaries.
It’s rare that I endorse anyone, let alone put him in the same SENTENCE as BIG, but Philly Swain reminds me why I love Hip-Hop. He is REAL. His life story didn’t come from some other gangster, nor was it manufactured in some A&R’s office.
I miss gangster sh*t. I miss having fun when I turn on the radio or the TV. I miss lyrics that are actually SAYING something. Swain’s latest mixtape, Swain Storm, brings all of those things to the forefront.
No one will ever replace BIG.