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Somebody's Gotta Die

originally published 1997 / VILLAGE VOICE

If I go you gots to go

As this terrible, tragic, painful year comes to a close I swear I can't get death off my mind. Yes, I lost a friend, a confidant, the brotha I'd asked to be my daughter's godfather. And though you might not have admitted it to yourself, still holding to this Rakim thing like you are, you've lost the greatest MC ever to touch a microphone. But it's someone else's death that consumes me. I daydream about murder. Quit my job so I could make it a full-time pastime. Wished to God I had it in me. Left Los Angeles vowing not to return till somebody figured a way. I visit Big's Mother at his condo in Teaneck and she cries a lot. Her whole chest caves in and she can't breathe. So many stories have come and gone on MTV News, a Chevy Impala that the police say "might" have been used in the drive-by was recovered in May, but for her it is as raw as March. She is losing faith in the LAPD, as she should. Though it may be better that way. In a California jail he'll be a star. Still it drives her insane to think her son's murderer is somewhere, feet up, watching Jerry Springer. That he may have a barbecue in his backyard this weekend. That he'll spend a warm Christmas with his mother under California's blue sky. It's enough to drive her out of her mind.

Revenge I'm tasting on the tip of my lips

The thing is Big laid it out, quite flat. "Somebody's Gotta Die" is like instructions from the grave.It's a brilliantly composed narrative, lush as always with vivid details. His man Singer comes to his crib in the middle of the night, interrupts him from daydreaming on "how to sell records like Snoop." At The Beacon Theater, Big's man C-Rock has just been hit no less than 50 times. Some kid he was making money with when Big was doing a short bid thinks that it was him who ran up in his crib, tied up and pistol-whipped his kids, then robbed him. "Niggas is trife.../He figured Rock set him?/No question." So Jason riddled Rock's body with bullets from Heckler & Kochs and Calicos. The thing is, like Pac, Jason was wrong, so wrong, it never was C-Rock. But the truth can be like smoke, you have to see it before it dissipates toward the heavens. In its place is the beast we like to call reality. "Retaliation for this one/Won't be minimal."

Puff won't even know what happened/If it's done smoothly

Despite his tendency to break into dance in the middle of a conversation I've never taken Puff for a punk. I've seen him flip the fuck out and beat the shit out of a longtime associate from Mount Vernon in the back of the Apollo one night. When I met him he used to roll with these riotous niggas from Harlem who called themselves Same Gang and covered their baldies with red, white, and blue bandannas. He had less to lose then. He was pushing a convertible Volkswagen with slashes in the ragtop, the result of some jilted lover. The same Puff that dumbs out on tracks, screaming "You bitches!" to his well-known enemies. Still, I don't expect Puff to exact any revenge. The minute you start talking crime around him he starts kicking some ole "Live by the sword..." The next thing you know he's bringing Jesus into it. So no, I expect Puff to do what he's doing. Making money is therapeutic for him. And in the most true way, it's his way of honoring Big. They had the deep, trusting, passionate bond of two men who make each other rich.

Cuz I'm a criminal/Way before the rap shit

That night, the worst night ever on the face of the fucking earth, I went to Big's hotel room. I had to see his man Damian. I need him to tell me all these people who called me in the middle of the night, these people I'd cursed and hung up on, that they were the same idiots who thought Pac was still alive. He just kept saying, "This nigga, who ain't never hurt nobody....I could see it if it was one of us." See, that's the thing. That they shot him in the heart is more than I can bear. It was so enormous, his heart. So giving, so fragile. "One fucking bullet," Damian kept saying. "I been shot mad times, niggas get shot. This nigga died from one ass bullet." The hotel was covered with Big's clothes. Custom-made Versace. The gator loafers he'd bought when he came to Detroit. Gutter called. ("Don't you know my nigga Gutter fucking kidnapped kids?") By daybreak, from jail Gutter called. Fuck Hot 97. He, too, needed to hear it from Damian. "Hold your head," it was the first time Damian let the tears flow. "You of all people have got to hold your head. I need you to hold your head." So real was the rage caused by such an unjust act. He was afraid that Gutter would break someone's neck. Because Gutter, yes, he has it in him.

I know where all them niggas rest at...

Before Pac breathed his last, I'm imagining some homie whispered in his ear. "Nigga, you got love. Niggas are laying 'em down for you. Do you hear me? Niggas slayed them niggas faithfully." What comfort that must have brought Pac. Knowing Pac, knowing how he was built, I know it brought him comfort. The streets are saying the same neighborhood that got lit up for Pac's murder is responsible for my dawg's, that this Southside Crip, a baller even, is throwing up Big's murder, is bragging that he rode alone. All the talk, all the tributes, all the videos, all the articles about how we were closer to Big than clothes...

Give them bullets room to breathe.


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