The Reid Report   |  March 10, 2014

Remembering Biggie 17 years after his death

Toure joins Joy Reid to discuss the role of rap lyrics, demonizing hip-hop and the 17th anniversary of The Notorious B.I.G.’s death.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

ameriprise asked people a simple question: of the death of christopher wallace known to the world as notorious b.i.g. larger than life figger in hip-hop. 17 years later, conspiracy theories at his shooting and death had the east coast / west coast rap rivalry and the backdrop for it remain numerous. his death remains unsolved. on this year's anniversary "vibe" is revisiting the cover story in which hopeful statement was presented after the editor lamented covering the death of yet another young rapper. just six months after the death of tupac shakur . there's a wonderful diversity of individuals in the hip-hop community and in that diversity lies strength. we all need to come together and take responsibility for ourselves and for each other before more lives are lost. if we simplial,000 things to stay as they are, if we are afraid to take a moral stand, there will be blood on all of our hands. we have passed the point for words. now is the time for action and change. the passinging of nearly two decades have wayned but young rappers are still fight for their lives in the courtroom. as this mother jones article points out. next month, the supreme court of new jersey will hear arguments about whether rap lyrics written by a defendant are fair game in criminal proceedings in a case that advocates say could have major first amendment implications. the article cites a study by the aclu of new jersey that found 18 cases around the country in which prosecutors tried to cite rap lish ricks as evidence. prosecutors won the argument most of the time. here with me now to discuss the role of rap lyrics and the anniversary of biggie's death.

>> it's so weird to be on this set. where is this?

>> it's like so far away from.

>> so far away .

>> i don't know how you're going to get there on time. you are the one person i wanted to talk to about this.

>> thank you.

>> i noted that the anniversary happened on sunday, just take us back to that time. you were very much involved obviously in music journalism at that time. give us your personal reflection.

>> it was very painful. i remember the moment that i heard that big was gone and coming six months after pac it was like, oh, my god, what's happening. you know, and i wrote something that suggested poetically i would not be part of hip-hop similar to the "vibe" essay, if this is what it's going to be, if rappers are not going to get the chance to die of old age, i didn't want to be part of it. we have matured to the sense that we no r. no longer doing that. a few years later we had the jay-z, naz battle which was lyr lyricallc vicious, epic, but nobody got hurt at all and just reminded us once again we can do these battling which are very much a part of hip-hop history without it turning into violence and all this extra sort of madness. and b there's tons and tons of battles that happen with no violence. so i mean, this is not liken dimick, you say something on the record. this is not tip hop at all.

>> it's still running just as hot.

>> absolutely.

>> easy target. and now, i mean, this idea of using hip-hop lyrics, in the jordan davis murder, the defense for michael dunn , the man who shot him, listened to the lyrics, entered the song as evidence. where are we as a culture?

>> i think that we're using hip-hop as an excuse to be scared of black men. right? just saying i was scared of brown skin , that's not enough, right? we would understand that immediately to be racist and we would throw that out. but using hip-hop is like that one degree of separation that allows you say that. i mean, i can kind of understand the t. prosecutors who want to use somebody's own lyrics against them and we can deconstruct that in a second. but this person was listening to this ergo i felt i had the right to be scared of him to take violent action against him. that is completely bizarre. what are you talking about?

>> i hear what you're saying about overall demonization of black men, it needs to find its location, something that does in hip-hop. what do you think about in terms of the industry overall? there was that vibe magazine piece. the fans of hip-hop, the artists, the history, do you think it's change m.d.

>> i think music changed, that sort of gangsta strain that was huge with them. that's largely gone away and still exists very much somewhat in the south and somewhat in the west. for the most part that has waned. you have a lot more of drake and nicky minaj and these people dominating the charts. it's different now.

>> you knew big. what do you think he would think of the current -- the quality level of commercial -- let's only say commercial hip-hop.

>> i would never dame to speak for big but he was a guy who took hip-hop extraordinarily seriously, expert rapper, expert word smith. and just telling stories from -- he was a well rounded guy, right? he would tell the sort of i get girls tale and then he could tell the street story, the thuggish sort of street story. he could go in every different aspect of hip-hop. he wasn't just a one-note sort of guy. that made him an extraordinary artist. i can't believe he was just 24 years old when he was killed because it reminds us how our black boys are man/children, right? they are older than they seem. he seemed a lot older than 24. and i can only imagine the sort of artist he would have become given more time to develop and the sort of man he would have become and especially even to get even a little deeper at that point, new york emcees were all about what's going on in new york that was not translating nationally. biggie was like, what's going on in l.a.? let's use their sound and structure to make our stuff more palatable. it's a guy with a lot of joy in his heard who wanted everybody to like his stuff, everybody be a part of his party. extraordinary individual.

>> the sad thing about it is were he alive today he would still be the boogeyman that is the target of so much fare regardless of whether he was rapping.

>> alfred hitchcock .

>> sad commentary on our culture. the one person i wanted to talk to about this today. thank you for being