On this day in 1997, The Notorious B.I.G. was murdered in a drive-by shooting at the age of twenty-four. Since then, his memory has endured, his artistic legacy cementing him as an integral piece of hip-hop culture -- a founding father, a benchmark for young lyricists. Given his unceremonious end, it's always bittersweet to revisit Biggie's legendary catalog. That includes "The What," a collaboration laced with Wu-Tang lyricist Method Man, one of the only emcees who can say he went toe-to-toe on wax with both Biggie and Pac.
Released as the seventh track on Ready To Die, the Easy Mo Bee-produced banger is simple in its delivery. Two emcees, two verses apiece. Occasional back-and-forth bars speaking to still-developing chemistry. "It's the low killer death trap, yes I'm a jet-black ninja, coming where you rest at, surrender," spits Method Man, sliding in after Biggie's opening bars. No easy feat, and yet here both rappers are well-matched as equals. Especially when verse two kicks into gear.
"Excuse me, flows just grow through me, like trees to branches, cliffs to avalanches," spits Big. "It's the praying mantis, deep like the mind of Farrakhan, a motherfucking rap phenomenon." While certainly anchored by its early-nineties golden-era qualities, songs like "The What" are a reminder of hip-hop in it's rawest form. Check it out for old times sake, and rest in peace to The Notorious B.I.G!
Excuse me, flows just grow through me
Like trees to branches, cliffs to avalanches
It's the praying mantis, deep like the mind of Farrakhan
A motherfucking rap phenomenon