So, the reason I asked you to look at narrative first is because essentially, all rap is narrative.
It all tells a story.
It’s finding different ways to tell that story, that makes it interesting.
Biggie was the first commercial rapper to voice three characters in one song. If you think about what kind of ground that broke for others (Eminem and Slim Shady, Nicki Minaj and Roman/Martha/Barbie, perspective shifts used by Hopsin, etc.) that makes Biggie a pioneer of the genre. (And that’s only in “Gimme the Loot.”)
Maybe the perspective shifts we see in this song aren’t that amazing to us now, because we see it everywhere. But I think they have a lot of longevity and nuance. He does a great job of camouflaging the characters (the female character, for example, only makes a couple of appearances). And he fleshes out the characters right at the beginning with only two lines.
“My man Inf left a Tec and a 9 at my crib/ turned his self in he had to do a bid”
The robberies they’re committing aren’t just robberies. They’re a sort of revenge for his man, Inf, who’s serving time in prison. But look at the tense they speak in.
“word is bond, imma smoke him, yo don’t fake no moves”
“then I’m dipping up the block, and I’m robbing bitches too”
“and when I rock her and drop her/ I’m taking her doorknockers”
The first few verses are all about what they’re going to do.
Then verse 3: “Man all this walking is hurting my feet”
They’ve been walking and talking about what kind of robberies they’re going to pull when suddenly
“Ooh money looks sweet”
they see a victim.
So, they’re planning to rob these folks in the car (the girl is laden with jewels, Biggie’s shorty is practically seething with envy and wants to “hit her with the Gat”) but something interrupts their plans.
“Oh shit/now he looking at my face”
So, at the end of the narrative, who do they end up shooting up?
It seems too simple that the song would be about robbing people, I mean anyone could write a song about that, right? This song is really representative of one foundational aspect of hip-hop: it’s all machismo, mostly talk. It’s mostly about and exaggeration of how big your actions are. When it finally comes down to it, are they really bad, bad “mothafuckas going out for the loot”?
No. They’re about to get stuck by the cops.
Again, this was about revenge. And the revenge they’re getting is for Inf’s sake, who’s doing 1-3 years in prison. So all that talk about how good they are at robberies seems silly considering they’re about to go back to the slammer and will most likely be seeing Inf soon. But maybe we can see it in a way that they’ve sought out the cops subconsciously, to get a fitting sort of revenge for Inf.
Biggie’s a master storyteller because he can move this along with three distinct characters, three voices, one plot, one message. And also, because he can make it a commentary on the rap game itself: poking fun at its own machismo. After all, if you pull back and look at the scene, it all looks pretty ridiculous. Big bad wolf doesn’t look so bad.
There are so many other things to notice about this track, like the persistent references to mothers (he even wants to shoot a pregnant lady, he cray) that I haven’t hashed out yet. But I chose this specific reading because I think it’s important to understand why narrative is important (why, for example, we ❤ Kendrick so much). Part of why Hip Hop has merit, to me, is that it tells someone's story and creates a history (but that's something I'll get into more later).