One Of Biggie’s Final Radio Appearances Is A Moment That Can Never Be Tuned Out (Video)
In today’s Hip-Hop landscape, Sway Calloway is most synonymous with hosting both established and budding MCs at the Shade 45 studios in New York, providing them a globally esteemed platform to showcase their verbal readiness. A successful Sway In The Morning appearance has become somewhat of a seal of approval for blooming MCs—especially with a “5 Fingers Of Death” freestyle. For already ingrained luminaries, a visit with Sway can serve as a reminder to the masses that their lexical fastballs still loom large. Sway now sits atop Hip-Hop royalty due to 30 years (and counting) of building an unshakable rapport with some of the greatest artists to ever exist.
Long before Sway In The Morning was The Wake Up Show, taking place on 106.1 FM at KMEL Studios in the Bay Area, home to both Sway and his partner, DJ King Tech (who has The Wake Up Show going strong on Shade 45). The duo constructed one of the most authentic radio spaces for MCs to pass through while in California. The pair, in turn, ended up releasing two handfuls of albums and mixtapes, many documenting these game-changing freestyles and in-studio collaborations. Along with packaged audio from the show, a handful of raw video footage also began to permeate the Hip-Hop archives. Eventual greats such as Eminem, RZA and Inspectah Deck, as well as Common (among countless others) were captured flexing their microphone aptness in-studio.
One specific interview glaringly stands out above the rest though, as The Notorious B.I.G. visited Sway and King Tech in a Los Angeles, California studio on March 1, 1997, roughly one week before the Rap icon was murdered. Already an extremely tense and hostile climate in L.A. because of Tupac’s passing six months earlier, Biggie’s real-life “Goin’ Back To Cali” campaign was courageous. Rap-A-Lot’s general, J. Prince, recently disclosed in his memoir that around that same time he suggested to B.I.G. and Puff on the set of “Hypnotize” that they depart the west coast as urgently as possible because of a potential hit out on the two. Other advisors forewarned Christopher Wallace that the trip was not safe. However, Biggie—the biggest Rap star in the world at the time—would not be contained. While out West, he had to visit the show that celebrated his art and lyricism since the early days.
While in the radio lab, Biggie was asked about a rumored link to Tupac’s murder. “I ain’t that powerful. Yet,” says the MC who donned the “Frank White” moniker after The King Of New York. While offering his sincere condolences and also gratitude for Pac’s influence on him personally, B.I.G. does stand his ground on the notion that Pac suggested B.I.G. stole a conceptual style from him. The Brooklyn superstar proclaims, “That’s completely untrue. I’ve always been my own person,” and concludes with “If anything, he should have been happy for me more than anything else. He was saying I sounded like him. That’s bananas.” Forever captivating, especially when speaking on such a regionally taboo topic, Biggie holds nothing back, and in fact, even doubles down when the time to rhyme presents itself.
Featuring verses from the final two tracks off of (at that time) an unreleased Life After Death, Biggie seamlessly enters into a superb, but bone-chilling lyrical display. Over Sadat X’s “Stages & Lights” (beginning at 6:10) Biggie boldly decides to exhibit the words to what would end up being “Long Kiss Goodnight,” which many believe is Biggie’s last-word response to the prior year’s scathing “Hit Em Up.” Intention aside, Biggie is at his finest lyrically, even editing his own profanity with the cough button throughout the first two verses. As DJ King Tech transitions in Mobb Deep’s “Hell On Earth” instrumental, B.I.G. presents the second verse of “Long Kiss…,” before coincidentally shifting into a verse from “You’re Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You).” During a verse that is largely cloaked in glorifying bloodshed, a more impassioned B.I.G. (who has scrapped the edit button at this point) flawlessly navigates the composition. He eerily concludes the effort with the striking final words, “I spit phrases that’ll thrill you / You’re nobody until somebody kills you.” As noted, just eight days later Biggie would depart a Soul Train Music Awards after-party in Los Angeles at 12:30 A.M., be targeted in a drive-by shooting and succumb to his injuries that same morning.
Prophetic in a myriad of ways throughout his illustrious career, considering the circumstances and his forthcoming expiration, Biggie’s final appearance on The Wake Up Show is fascinating, impressive, and bone-chilling all in the same breath. A compelling moment in the Hip-Hop history books that contains significant layers and will forever elicit emotion, both pleasant and unpleasant.
#BonusBeat: In a new Drink Champs episode, Faith Evans explains that when Biggie recorded his “Brooklyn’s Finest” verse with JAY-Z, she and her then-husband thought they were expecting twins. He rapped the lines: “Gotta go, Coolio, I mean it’s getting ‘too hot’ / If Faith had twins, she’d probably have two Pac’s Get it? … Tu-pac’s.”