You may know me as that Biggie freak, you know. The guy has a Biggie Smalls quote for nearly every situation that I will mumble under my breath, who jumped onto a taxi from Entebbe on a Friday evening, traveling against the grain of heavy evening traffic back into Kampala because my video girl at Eddie Soft had texted me that they had finally got Notorious and I could not wait until Monday. When usually not even the promises of money will get back into Kampala after I have left the city on Thursday evening.
I have fallen out of seeing so many good, old friends because they live in Kampala and I live in Entebbe and they think the best days to meet are over the weekends—Saturdays and Sundays. I will not make the pilgrimage but for Biggie, for The Notorious B.I.G…tell me that Lil’ Kim has made a secret personal visit to Kampala and is on her way to one of our numerous game parks. I will visit my first national game park if that is what it will take to meet the woman who probably, after his mother, knew B.I.G in ways few other people ever got to know him—to meet her and ask her what he was like, what did he sound like in his everyday conversation, what did he like watching on TV, well, I will just about do anything.
But that is about the closest I can ever hope to get to Biggie, apart from the endless versions of playlists of his music that I have made. Finding even songs worth listening to in Duets: The Final Chapter, and damn Biggie fans if you have never listened to Biggie and Pac collabo in the House of Pain song, way, way better than that other celebrated collabo-the Jay-Z Biggie Brooklyn’s Finest—House of Pain is guttural, raw, cutting to the bone like intimations you get from Cadillac Records what it must have felt like to first hear Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and the originals wringing art and song from terrible circumstances that had seen their mothers and fathers leave the South, go stark raving mad in trying to prove I’m also a man.
I’m that Biggie nut. But I also used to be an Eminem fan. Okay, you know I can never just be a fan. Because I just don’t listen to the music. Once I get into some song, some artist, it is all consuming and I got to watch every documentary, every movie they have been in, I got to have the photos and know the lifeline curve and where these songs were recorded and where possible, what was on the brain---genius coruscating, ideas sizzling, like corn popping. That is why I find it hard why some people think music is like polite chatter, something you can put in elevators and pay not much mind to. Music is like the literature I read, life saving. Eminem was and is a life saver.
This is for you who was told that your generation is shallow because you think Eminem is just as important as Shakespeare. For daring to say you think Eminem is the greatest poet of his generation. For trying to articulate how like Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, Eminem gets your pain, rage, outrage and desire to survive and overcome. Refuse to be broken and that raised middle finger is not just an obscene gesture for you.
Have they not listened to Rock Bottom, If I Had, Guilty Conscience from the Slim Shady LP? Kim, Stan, Drug Ballad from the Mathers LP? I mean don’t Mocking Bird, One Shot 2 Shot, Like Toy Soldiers from Encore speak for themselves? Norm Mailer was right that obscenity and its sanity saving blessedness and you intuitively got it though they are trying to tell you that Eminem is a misogynist bastard, gay-basher, intolerant KK white, and you could not believe it. You have to go through the darkness to get to the light and for you Em was the only one holding the light like no one else could--- so no need to apologise for idolizing him---for the musical hand that got you to bite your lip through a barrage of virulent verbal opposition but hang onto your ideas, put that vodka sachet down and instead outline that business plan you carried around in your head for nearly half a decade, turn away from the betrayal of a brother and the impending one of a lover without rancour and continue climbing instead of letting it drag you down and embitter you age you. How many people can claim to have saved even one life? Em saved yours. It’s enough.