Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy,” the very, very important first single from his very, very important first album, Ready to Die. Given the song’s gravity, and given the length of time it’s been able to apply that gravity, there are a handful of things everyone seems to know about the song. They know:
- It samples “Juicy Fruit” by Mtume. They maybe even know that Mtume is a funk/soul band that was niche-popular in the 1980s, although, if they know that, it’s because (a) they somehow found themselves in a conversation with someone whose mom or dad was actually in Mtume; or, more likely, (b) it’s retrograde recognition, attributed to the reverberations from the success of Biggie’s “Juicy,” like how people know that Sam Bowie was the second pick of the 1984 draft only because he was drafted one spot ahead of Michael Jordan.
- Pete Rock says he came up with the original version, and that Diddy lifted it from him. Perhaps this is turnabout, though. Consider: In 1993, San Francisco’s Dre Dog released an album called The New Jim Jones. His lead single, “The Ave.,” also used a slice of Mtume’s “Juicy Fruit” as its spine.
- Biggie wasn’t all that excited about recording the track at first. We all watched Notorious. We all saw that part of the movie:
Sidebar: Diddy was an executive producer on Notorious, which maybe you were able to figure out because basically every conversation in the movie eventually wiggles its way back to an affirmation that Diddy is the smartest, most noble man of all. I’m surprised he didn’t give his character wings. What a total toad move. Diddy hasn’t been likable since he wore the top hat and tails in the “D.I.D.D.Y.” video.
There are more things. There’s the thing about “Juicy” pretending to be a pop song but really being a fairly somber, fairly sobering Black Man in America rags-to-riches story. There’s the thing about Biggie’s mom disputing some of the claims he makes in the song. There’s the thing about it crystallizing Diddy’s confidence in himself as a starmaker (even if he never pushed anyone else even halfway close to the height that Biggie reached). There’s the thing about it catapulting Bad Boy Records up into the ozone. If you want to get broad, there’s even the thing about how the song might represent the exact moment in history when hip-hop sprinted out from the shadows of popular American culture, from its dirtiest and most threatening corners, and began absorbing all of its energies and dollars, shaping the schema into the earliest version of what we know it to be today. On and on and on. There’s more and more and more.
But that’s not this.
This is the “Juicy” Standardized Test.
One more time:
This is the “Juicy” Standardized Test. This is not the Fill in the Blank “Juicy” quiz, or the True/False “Juicy” quiz, or the Word Bank Matching “Juicy” Quiz. You won’t be able to weasel your way through it by simply connecting words in the questions that rhyme with words in the responses. This is an adaptation of several statewide exams (New York and Texas, mostly), designed to replicate the rigor of those tests by asserting tiered, higher-order questioning.
It’s 10 questions long. And every question is rooted in “Juicy”-dom. If you’re not very familiar with the song, don’t even bother. Because this is the nerdiest rap thing.
Scroll to the end to see the answer key.
And don’t sit there trying to answer the questions with a browser window opened to a “Juicy” lyrics page. Don’t be a dolt.
Good luck. I hope that you do not die here today.
- D. The line is this: “Girls used to dis me. Now they write me letters cuz they miss me.”
- Mississippi River