Acknowledging one’s heritage and the way a person has completed to achieve success is a likable personality trait. This is especially true for hip-hop artists, too many of whom often resort to bragging about their wealth. Notorious B.I.G.’s music video for the song “Juicy” was chosen for the analysis because the rapper explored the theme of poverty that deeply affected his life. From the very beginning of the song, the artist mentioned that when he was young, he dreamt about fame, listening to other rappers, and hanging their photographs on his walls. He admired them for their accomplishments and wanted to overcome poverty one day and “get closer to the stars.”
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Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher Wallace) was not shy to acknowledge that there was a time when he had struggled and emphasized the fact that his poverty was real through using the word “remember” in his lyrics: “Remember when I used to eat sardines for dinner” (The Notorious B.I.G., 2011). By letting others know that poverty for him was an unfortunate but important part of his life, the artist connected with the audience that had the same experience. For big fans of the rapper, hearing that their idol admitted to dreaming about fame, drinking cheap beer, and eating canned food is something that creates stronger connections between them and Wallace.
Crime as the answer to poverty is also heavily present in the lyrics to “Juicy.” The rapper mentioned, “I made the change from a common thief to up close and personal with Robert Leach” (The Notorious B.I.G., 2011). These lines (in the second verse) suggested that in order to overcome poverty, Wallace had resorted to stealing, which could be connected to the “crime like work” phenomenon. The concept relies on the idea that some choose illegal activities like fraud or stealing over legal work, thus making crime their main source of financial support. B.I.G.’s example fits into the narrative, similar to thousands of other African-American young people who were growing up in the second half of the twentieth century (Males, 2013). There is also an underlying message associated with manhood, which is deeply challenging for people living beyond the poverty line. As mentioned in the Hip-hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes documentary produced by PBS, the hip-hop culture reinforced the stereotype that in order to be manly, one had to be tough, have a lot of money, and dominate others through force and power (Namor, 2015). Therefore, Notorious B.I.G.’s lyrics about being a thief when growing up align with the idea of manhood and domination.
It is important to note that despite listing his accomplishments in the lyrics to “Juicy,” the rapper did not hesitate to express his gratitude for what he had achieved as an artist. This humbleness is characteristic of people who have “started from the bottom.” Lines such as “When I was dead broke, man I couldn’t picture this,” “Birthdays was the worst days,” “No heat, wonder why Christmas missed us” represent the deepest lows that Wallace experienced in his childhood and that he would never forget that poverty is not easy to overcome (The Notorious B.I.G., 2011). The example of Notorious B.I.G. shows that despite being poor and resorting to minor theft in childhood and adolescence, a person can overcome the struggle and achieve success. As poverty is one of the important issues discusses in hip-hop music, “Juicy” is a relatable song that mentions some of the major social problems while showing that it is possible to overcome them with the help of motivation and hard work while allowing oneself to dream.
Males, M. (2013). Why the gigantic, decades-long drop in Black youth crime threatens major interests. Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. Web.
Namor. (2015). Hip-hop beyond beats & rhymes [Video file]. Web.
The Notorious B.I.G. (2011). Juicy (official video) [Video file]. Web.