Few hip hop artists have had the seismic impact on the game that The Notorious B.I.G. delivered in his comparatively short time in the limelight. Considering his back catalogue only stretches out for a few potent years, the Brooklyn native delivered some of hip hop’s best songs. His shadow looms large over the entire genre, providing a blueprint for style, flow and the ultimate swagger. But while his panache is celebrated over and over, sometimes we should sit back and respect the rhymes.
Below, we’re doing just that, as we take a minute to listen back to Biggie Smalls’ isolated vocal for his iconic song ‘Ten Crack Commandments’, a track that has defined Biggie’s career for decades.
One of the final tracks Big recorded for Life After Death; the song has gone down in history as one of his greats. Not because it made light of the epidemic of crack that had swept through America in the 1980s to such devastating results, but because it showcased the life Big had been forced to lead.
In truth, this track is an example of Biggie’s prowess at telling stories from a human perspective, even if the protagonist is questionable. New York was in the midst of a crack epidemic, and it had swirled into a new decade to grab a new generation b the scruff of the neck and drown them in addiction. After reading a survival guide to survive as a crack dealer in The Source magazine, Smalls decided to re-interpret that article and ‘Ten Crack Commandments’ was the splendid result.
The song will go down in history as one of the seminal tracks of the 1990s. It has seen some memorable makeovers too. Biggie’s widow Faith Evans produced her own version of the song titled ‘Ten Wife Commandments’ while Lin-Manuel Miranda also paid homage to the song in his hit Broadway show Hamilton! with his ‘Ten Duel Commandments’.
But nothing can compare to Biggie Smalls laying down some fire lyrics, taken from a spot of complete passion and fired out like a machine gun with an attitude problem. Listen to his searing isolated vocal for ‘Ten Crack Commandments’.