‘The Notorious RBG’ drew inspiration from The Notorious B.I.G; here’s how…

(September 20, 2020). No, folks, it wasn’t all a dream.

On Friday night, the world lost an American icon in the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died from metastatic pancreatic cancer at the age of 87.

Known for her steadfastness and steely resilience, the feminist pioneer held on for as long as she could during the waning months of the sitting U.S. president’s current term, hoping that it wouldn’t be him that would be nominating (and a Republican Senate majority confirming) her successor.

But that hope likely vanished with her last breath Friday evening, and now the world watches and waits to see how POTUS D. J. Trump will follow through in fulfilling his promise and constitutional duty of making the SCOTUS whole again.

The late Ginsburg, whose scathing dissents from conservatives and historic votes with the previous liberal majority accompanied some of the most landmark high court decisions over the past quarter century – including decisions that allowed women into the previously all-male Virginia Military Institute (from which my younger brother had graduated only a few years earlier), and the legalization of same-sex marriage – became somewhat of a rockstar in her later years.  

Her steely resolve on the court led to her “winning the Internet” in her eighties, making her the most celebrated high court justice since, well, ever.  Her unending quest for gender equality and civil rights for the underrepresented gave her a fierceness and a following that few others have attained in modern times.  She was the subject of unforgettable memes, SNL skits and other tributes that no other Supreme Court Justice has experienced before or likely will again soon.

In 2015, her life and career became the subject of a fan biography titled “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”  The book, written by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik and whose title was inspired by fellow Brooklynite and late ‘90s rapper The Notorious B.I.G., became an immediate New York Times Bestseller.

Fan non-fiction: “The Notorious RBG’ is a former bestseller on NYT’s list

The connection between Ruth Bader Ginsburg and The Notorious B.I.G., the slain Brooklyn-born-and-raised rapper whose birth name was Christopher Wallace, went well beyond their common NYC Borough or a convenient moniker invoking three-letter initialisms ending in “G” (although both played a large role in forever linking the two).

Ginsburg’s connection to Biggie was palpably rooted in how both overcame long odds in Brooklyn with meager beginnings to forge their way to the very top of their respective professions: Biggie, the King of Hip-Hop (for a short while at least), and RBG, the second woman to serve on the Court (and the only woman to serve from 2006-09).

In 1993, the same year that RBG was nominated by President Bill Clinton and confirmed by the Senate to serve on the Court, The Notorious B.I.G. launched his professional career as a rapper by appearing on his first recordings (including remixes of songs by Uptown Records label mates Heavy D & the Boyz and Mary J. Blige before leaving Uptown to follow Sean “Puffy” Combs who had formed his own label, Bad Boy Entertainment, later in ‘93).

The late Christopher Wallace, a/k/a The Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie Smalls (1972-1997)

In 1996, as Justice Ginsburg was hearing her first women’s rights case in United States vs. Virginia – the landmark decision that knocked down the Virginia Military Institute’s discriminatory male-only admissions policy, making it the last all-male public university in the United States, The Notorious B.I.G. was waging his own battle in a (silly) bicoastal East-vs.-West hip-hop civil war that would culminate with the murder of one-time friend and arch-rival Tupac Shakur that September. 

Unfortunately, Biggie’s life would end in a gunned-down fashion similar to Shakur’s the following March.

Despite their obvious differences – RBG’s diminutive stature vs. B.I.G.’s larger-than-life, 300-plus pound frame; RBG – a white Jewish woman from Flatbush vs. B.I.G. – a Black man from Bedford-Stuyvesant; RBG – an accomplished lawyer who championed women’s rights vs. B.I.G. – a popular rapper who was known for his misogynistic song lyrics about women; RBG’s ability to plank and do pushups vs. B.I.G.’s penchant for packing on even more pounds – Justice Ginsburg embraced her moniker and its connection to the late Notorious B.I.G, noting after the book’s release that she and Biggie “have a lot in common.”

Biggie’s debut 1994 song “Juicy,” considered by many to be one of the greatest – if not the greatest – hip-hop songs of all time perhaps captured the unintentional alliance between these two Brooklyn legends best.  “Juicy” itself was a tale of an oppressed man overcoming long odds and extreme poverty while being overlooked by society.  It expressed a vulnerability rarely seen amid hip-hop’s machismo (and perhaps never again from Biggie, with the exception of maybe “Sky’s the Limit” three years later).

Yet “Juicy” offered hope and optimism for the future, with an ambition and aspiration to success that made it resonate with millions of people who looked like Biggie (well, not literally but you know what I mean).

That is the kind of impact that The Notorious RBG had on Americans – of all genders and races and sexual preferences – both through her status as a first- and second-generation American citizen born to immigrant parents and throughout her iconic life serving on the bench, whether she was successfully arguing cases before the Supreme Court or authoring landmark decisions while sitting on it. 

Writers Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik saw fit to immortalize this connection in the 2015 book bearing the justice’s hip-hop moniker, and solidified the link by naming each chapter of the book after famous Notorious B.I.G. song lyrics, with each chapter relating the prose it contained to Ginsburg’s life, career and historic accomplishments. 

Here are the titles of each chapter and the Notorious B.I.G. songs from which they originated.  

Chapter 1: Notorious – taken from any number of Biggie songs in which the rapper uttered his name, but we’ll go with the song “Notorious,” the lead-off single from his posthumously released Born Again album in 1999.

Chapter 2: Been In This Game For Years – taken from “Ten Crack Commandments,” Biggie’s 1997 tutorial to aspiring drug pushers, a profession he was rescued from when he signed with Bad Boy in 1993.

Chapter 3: I Got A Story To Tell – the title of Biggie’s iconic retelling of a dalliance with an NBA player’s main squeeze.  The song famously featured Biggie rapping about the fictional (we think) encounter, then recalling the whole affair all over with his buddies in narrative form during the song’s second half.

Chapter 4: Stereotypes Of A Lady Misunderstood – taken from Biggie’s iconic debut single, “Juicy.”  The lyrics were slightly modified from Biggie’s original line: “stereotypes of a Black man misunderstood.”

Chapter 5: Don’t Let ‘Em Hold You Down, Reach For The Stars – taken from the chorus of “Juicy.”

Chapter 6: Real Love – taken from the title of the first big hit Biggie’s name appeared on, in the form of a 1993 remix of Mary J. Blige’s 1992 smash “Real Love” from her debut album Whats the 411.

Chapter 7: My Team Supreme – taken from Biggie’s No. 1 smash “Mo Money Mo Problems,” a single from his posthumously released second album, Life After Death.  The song’s rise to the top made The Notorious B.I.G. the only artist to have two posthumous No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100.

Chapter 8: Your Words Just Hypnotize Me – taken from “Hypnotize,” the first single from Life After Death, and the last music video Biggie filmed before his murder in 1997.  The song became his first posthumous No. 1 single.

Chapter 9: I Just Love Your Flashy Ways – taken from “Hypnotize.”  

Chapter 10: But I Just Can’t Quit – taken from Biggie’s first big crossover hit, 1994’s “Big Poppa,” a million-seller that catapulted The Notorious B.I.G. to superstar status and which served as one of the rapper’s many nicknames (“Frank White,” “Biggie,” “The Notorious B.I.G.” among them).

As we remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it’s also worth noting that her passing occurs in the same year in which The Notorious B.I.G. is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The book “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg” is a must-read, particularly for those people looking for inspiration as they ponder their own future career paths.  The woman whose life and career inspired the book – a Supreme Court Justice whose principles were rooted in fairness and equality for all people – helped effect great change in America (and, by extension, the world).  

As Biggie might have said, The Notorious RBG was simply unbelievable! 

Rest In Power Ruth Bader Ginsburg – the Sky’s the Limit!

The late SCOTUS Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (March 15, 1933 – September 18, 2020)

DJRob

DJRob is a freelance blogger from Chicago who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.

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2 Replies to “‘The Notorious RBG’ drew inspiration from The Notorious B.I.G; here’s how…”

  1. I am so intrigued by this blog, that I must purchase a copy of this NYT’s best seller. I love the connection and dualism of hip hop and justice as eloquently stated.

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