Doris Kearns Goodwin always seemed totally nuts to me. What kind of insane person wants to fully know the lives of multiple presidents? But again and again she writes encompassing tomes on various leaders of the free world, their stories neatly (if expansively) cataloged and comprehended. After making just a single magazine issue on one rapper, albeit a rapper as complex as Notorious BIG, she doesn’t seem any less crazy, though now it’s a bit more like a fox. Wily or otherwise, there’s certain arrogance in the role of biographer we hoped to avoid with Big. A whole hog takedown this is not.
This year’s Icon issue is our humble attempt to consider Biggie’s genius piecemeal. What was his life like in Brooklyn, North Carolina and LA? Onstage, in the studio, at home? What did he mean to the many lives he touched in such a short time, ours included? As a staff, FADER is medium-young, just one or two of us even dipping into an age younger than Biggie when he died. That means his primetime was ours, too; Bat Mitzvahs and quinceañeras celebrated in real time to “Hypnotize.”
The first time I remember hearing Big, I was 11 or 12, at Caitlin Crist’s house. After playing basketball withe her and her brothers, we watched the “Big Poppa” video on MTV. It was so decadent! I will forever connect Caitlin with Big’s butter-tan leather coat and turtleneck, such a distinct and useless mnemonic device. Big died soon after that. In the mid-’90s, an era of all around extreme fandom, his loss felt crushing. I’d already gone through this with Kurt Cobain three years prior, the terrible pain of losing a beloved stranger. But Cobain was a pained person and his suicide felt almost appropriately literary. Everyone loved Big. It was not his time. Almost 15 years later, his death still feels needless and confusing. Like everyone else in this issue, we’re still trying to digest it.