The Notorious B.I.G. Was Never ‘Ugly As Ever’

A brief reflection on an iconic lyric and a reminder that Black men and boys are beautiful too

Photo: Nelson Ndongala on Unsplash

In the 1994 remix of “One More Chance,” The Notorious B.I.G. lists in great detail his effortless finesse with women of all races and ethnicities. The classic cut samples El DeBarge’s “Stay With Me” and features his wife, Faith Evans, and Mary J. Blige on background vocals. It’s partly comical, partly offensive, and all NSFW. Still, apart from a beat that lingers, a few lines really stick with you.

Momentarily putting aside glaring concerns with misogyny in hip-hop, I’ve spent perhaps an inordinate amount of time considering the social influences that led Biggie to rhyme “Heartthrob, never/Black and ugly as ever.”

Now, I’m no rapper, but if the rest of the song (and his very public carrying on with Lil’ Kim while married to Evans) is any indication, the line could’ve been “Heartthrob, clever/Black and lovely as ever,” or some other rhyming form of flattery. We know the attention Biggie received from women may have come later in his life in conjunction with his massive fame and respect as a lyricist. We need look no further than his “Juicy” line: “Girls used to diss me/Now they write letters ’cause they miss me.”

I want so badly to live in a world where every clever, charming, fat Black boy — and every other kind of Black boy — can identify their loveliness and be believed.

Imagine how different that simultaneous truth — the unquestionable affirmation of his inherent beauty — might’ve sounded to our ears back in ’94. I imagine he wrote these brilliant lines to protest a society that isn’t always kind to Black boys, especially those who are like him. Even if Biggie had written the “Black and ugly as ever” line in the affirmative, the probable protest would’ve been just as effective.

I wish he had lived in a world where he didn’t have to write those words at all.

I mostly wonder what it would take for a similarly situated Black boy — a poor, fat, first-generation immigrant growing up in an under-resourced community — to conclude that he is lovely, brilliant, and desirable.

I want so badly to live in a world where every clever, charming, fat Black boy — and every other kind of Black boy — can identify their loveliness and be believed.

While you try to unlearn the lie that Black women aren’t beautiful, remember, Black men and boys are beautiful too. You’ve just been lied to about them as well.

She/her. I write stuff. Published in Human Parts, Zora, AnInjustice!. #BLM http://www.Instagram.com/BridgetteWrites https://www.facebook.com/BridgetteHWrites

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