The anatomy of “A Story”

As today marks what would’ve been Christopher George Latore Wallace’s 40th birthday, talking about his legacy is easy it’s all we’ve done in the 15 years since his passing. Instead, I’m choosing to break down a song that to me is easily an all-time great Notorious B.I.G. song and still one of the great storytelling tracks ever: “A Story to Tell.”

Wrapping up the first disc of Life After Death, released two weeks after his murder in Los Angeles, Big spins a wicked yet hilarious tale of a young lady whose company he had desired and when she finally agreed, she took him to her spot – or the spot she shared with a well-known athlete.

The Buckwild/Chuck Thompson/Diddy-produced beat is chill, structured hi-hats and smooth keyboard riffs and some small synth and bass play gives Big’s versatile flow room to rap the tale as he was telling the story to his friends (sure enough as the song fades, Biggie and his homies laugh and smoke the stickiest of the icky while he tells the tale).

Like any good story, there’s a beginning, middle and end that keeps the listener intrigued. Big catches up with the fine lady and in his words, “Lays the game down quite flat – ‘sweetness, where you parked at?'” So after they get to the crib, they do what grown folks do, they roll up, but the athlete rolls up in the crib and Big figures he’s in deep, thinking he’ll be forced to kill homeboy once he comes up the stairs.

Instead, in a moment of quick thinking our hero fakes a robbery scene and the fearful baller forks over money from a stash and Big takes the keys to her Benz and bails out.

The alleged victim is former New York Knick John Starks, but that has never been confirmed or denied by anyone (and probably never will), but the fact that Big made this story seem so realistic, people run with it and believe it to be the truth, even though it’s unlikely.

That’s what a good storyteller does, and Big does it all here. The flashy fly big guy persona that was his life and the tough, hardcore hustler’s mind was all on display as Big Poppa got the girl and Biggie Smalls got himself out of a potentially harmful situation all in a neat and tidy two minutes and 40 seconds.

“A Story To Tell” is one of my favorite Big tracks because it’s so perfect (the beat, his flow, the subject, the lyrics) it’s ridiculous. To me it IS everything that made the Notorious B.I.G. unquestionably one of the best to ever pick up a microphone.


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