Joshua Honaker’s Marxist Analysis of The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy”

        The Notorious B.I.G’s “Juicy” was an anthem for hip-hop in the 1990’s. For the hip-hop culture, especially the east coast hip-hop scene, “Juicy” stood as a song of hope. In the song, Biggie articulates the struggle he underwent growing up in the projects of New York City and recounts his rise to fame and stardom. A quick listen to the catchy, popular, upbeat song would leave the listener entertained by what appears to be a song of hope for a better future. However, a Marxist analysis of the song reveals a commentary on the “American Dream,” our thirst for wealth, and how climbing the social ladder results in increased influence and power.
        Biggie begins the track by dedicating the song “to all the teachers that told me I’d never amount to nothing. To all the people that lived above the buildings that I was hustling in front of that called the police on me when I was just trying to make some money to feed my daughter.” Here we begin the song with Biggie acknowledging the oppression formed by social classes. Before he even begins rapping he references how people above him in social class would attempt to hold him down by verbally articulating that he would never be able to rise above his social standing, or by calling the police as he tried to earn enough money to get him through the day. Of course this dedication is entirely sarcastic and is nothing more than him rubbing his newfound wealth and success in the faces of the haters of his younger years. Nonetheless, Biggie inadvertently reveals to us the presence of classism.
        The remainder of the song continues to promote the “American Dream,” the belief in classism, and the Capitalistic idea of being able to rise above economic class by hard work and determination. The three verses in the song constantly parallel his dreams of success in the past with his current success. His early struggle is highlighted in the first verse when he says, “Born sinner, the opposite of a winner remember when I used to eat sardines for dinner.” Within this line Biggie reveals how growing up he was under the belief that because of his poverty and lack of luxuries he was a loser. As he continues into the second verse he begins to juxtapose the past and the present. Early in the verse he says,  “I made the change from a common thief, to up close and personal with Robin Leach,” followed by later in the verse when he states, “I never thought it could happen, this rapping stuff. I was too used to packing gats and stuff. Now honeys play me close like butter play toast from the Mississippi down to the east coast.” Both lines illustrate the change in life that is associated with monetary success. In the first line, he references how money transformed his life from being crime-filled to being in the spotlight and loved by the public. The second set of lyrics paints the picture of rags-to-riches again, but also highlights the idea that money increases how people view you. In the third verse, Biggie rattles off some of his possessions as he speaks about the type of happiness that money can buy. For example, “50-inch screen, money green leather sofa. Got two rides, a limousine with a chauffeur. Phone bill about two G’s flat, no need to worry, my accountant handles that.” This is an articulation of the capitalistic mindset that money and belongings create happiness and is thus promoting the basic premises of capitalism.
        The chorus of the song also clearly articulates ideals of capitalism. The chorus, “You know very well who you are. Don’t let em hold you down, reach for the stars,” is what allowed this song to be an anthem for the oppressed. He says that no one should be able to oppress you and your dreams. Do not allow someone above you in social standing to restrict your advancement, instead work hard enough to fight your way out of your current situation. Biggie represented capitalistic success. He represented the ability to rise above the plight of poverty and the oppression of the upper class. His music clearly promotes the ideas of capitalism without Biggie even realizing what he was doing. His attempt at flashing his new wealth to his haters turned into what could potentially be a strong promotion of the ideology of capitalism and the “American Dream.”

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