In The Quantity Ones, I’m reviewing each single #1 single within the historical past of the Billboard Sizzling 100, beginning with the chart’s starting, in 1958, and dealing my means up into the current.
When the World’s Honest got here to Queens in 1964, the shiny, chromed-out structure on show was presupposed to characterize the daybreak of the Area Age — a brand new international period when humanity was reaching past what was potential and leaping optimistically into the long run. These buildings quickly grew to become a part of New York’s kitschy iconography, however kitsch has its personal energy, too. In the summertime of 1997, these World’s Honest constructions, nonetheless standing in Flushing Meadows, appeared in two of the the summer season’s nice escapist leisure spectacles.
There was, for example, Males In Black, the blockbuster that turned once-and-future rapper Will Smith into the most important film star on the planet. (Will Smith will seem on this column fairly quickly.) On the finish of the movie, we be taught that the elevated discs of the New York State Pavilion are actually disguised alien craft, and a bug-monster man tries to make use of them to flee Earth. He doesn’t succeed.
Two weeks after Males In Black arrived in theaters, Dangerous Boy Data launched “Mo Cash Mo Issues,” the second posthumous single from the late Infamous B.I.G. Hype Williams’ video for that track — a bit of filmmaking as glossy and iconic, in its personal means, as Males In Black — takes place partly within the shadow of the Unisphere, the 140-foot chrome steel globe that Gilmore D. Clark designed to advertise the concept of worldwide peace by means of understanding. Within the context of “Mo Cash Mo Issues,” that globe represents one thing else. It makes a pleasant visible illustration of Dangerous Boy’s yr of all-conquering chart dominance — the most important sustained run of Sizzling 100 success for the reason that Bee Gees in 1978. The Unisphere glimmers within the background whereas Puff Daddy and Mase, all decked out of their era-defining shiny fits, dance the evening away.
“Mo Cash Mo Issues” was Biggie Smalls’ second #1 hit. Each that track and “Hypnotize,” Biggie’s earlier chart-topper, reached #1 after Biggie’s homicide. In between these two chart-toppers, Biggie’s label boss Puff Daddy held down the #1 spot for 11 lengthy weeks together with his Biggie tribute “I’ll Be Lacking You.” That yr, Dangerous Boy’s iron grip on the pop charts was each terrifying and awe-inspiring, and most of its hits have been instantly catalyzed by Biggie’s loss of life. Biggie was solely alive for 2 months in 1997, however he towered over your complete pop-music panorama for your complete yr. In your complete historical past of the Sizzling 100, only some artists have topped the chart posthumously. Biggie is the one artist in historical past who’s performed it greater than as soon as. It’s a real mark of a titan: This man was nonetheless making hits months after his physique was cremated.
You can argue that the success of “I’ll Be Lacking You” mirrored individuals’s unhappiness and shock over Biggie’s homicide, although the track had numerous different stuff occurring, too. “I’ll Be Lacking You” reached #1 in nations the place Biggie himself was barely identified, in order that track hit some form of cultural chord that went past Biggie, but it surely’s nonetheless a track about the lack of Biggie. Biggie’s two chart-toppers, against this, aren’t even remotely unhappy. They’re each triumphant get together jams, songs for celebrating, and that’s how they have been acquired.
“Mo Cash Mo Issues” is on Biggie’s Life After Loss of life album, and Biggie is the credited lead artist and one of the best factor concerning the track. However “Mo Cash Mo Issues” isn’t actually Biggie’s observe. As a substitute, it’s a pure instance of the Puff Daddy strategy to hitmaking. Biggie’s voice doesn’t seem till the track is previous the two-minute mark, and its complete flashy sugar-rush vibe is pure Puff. As with so many different Dangerous Boy hits from that period, “Mo Cash” is constructed from an enormous chunk of a track that was already huge. On this case, the track in query is Diana Ross’ 1980 disco anthem “I’m Coming Out.”
“I’m Coming Out,” comes from Diana, the album that Diana Ross recorded with Stylish auteurs Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards — the identical LP that gave us Ross’ good chart-topper “Upside Down.” On the time, Rodgers and Edwards have been solely simply beginning to write and produce songs for artists from outdoors their camp, and “I’m Coming Out” might’ve simply been a Stylish or Sister Sledge observe. For apparent causes, the track grew to become a gay-club anthem nearly instantly. This was intentional.
Many years after its launch, Nile Rodgers confirmed that he wrote “I’m Coming Out” particularly with the homosexual neighborhood in thoughts. Rodgers had been to a New York drag membership, and he’d seen that a number of drag queens had made themselves as much as seem like Ross. Rodgers advised the story simply final yr in a TikTok video: “Diana Ross is revered by the homosexual neighborhood. If we wrote a track known as ‘I’m Coming Out’ for Diana Ross, it will have the identical energy as James Brown’s ‘Say It Loud – I’m Black And I’m Proud.’”
Diana Ross liked “I’m Coming Out,” and he or she interpreted the track as her personal assertion of non-public liberation. She’d left Motown and Berry Gordy behind, and he or she’d change into her personal artist. She didn’t know what “popping out” meant in a homosexual context. In a BBC documentary a few years in the past, there was a narrative about Ross discovering out that phrase’s that means from the radio DJ Frankie Crocker. Apparently, Ross acquired extraordinarily upset, and he or she demanded to know why Rodgers and Edwards have been attempting to damage her profession.
“I’m Coming Out” didn’t damage Diana Ross’ profession. It’s a euphoric liquid dance observe with a nasty Stylish groove and, weirdly sufficient, a trombone solo from former Quantity Ones artist Meco. Presumably, like so many Village Folks songs, “I’m Coming Out” nonetheless sounded nice to individuals who had no concept what the lyrics meant, and the track peaked at #5. (It’s a 9.) Puff Daddy co-produced “Mo Cash Mo Issues” with common collaborator Stevie J. By no means shy about lifting big items of the songs that he sampled, Puffy looped up the “I’m Coming Out” groove. Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards acquired co-writer credit, so “Mo Cash Mo Issues” was additionally a posthumous hit for Edwards, who’d died abruptly of pneumonia after a Stylish present in Japan a yr earlier.
Puff introduced within the nice soul and gospel wailer Kelly Worth to sing a reworded model of the “I’m Coming Out” hook on “Mo Cash Mo Issues.” (Kelly Worth has come up on this column earlier than as a result of she sang backup on Mariah Carey’s “At all times Be My Child.” Worth’s highest-charting lead-artist single, the R. Kelly/Ronald Isley collab “Good friend Of Mine (Remix),” peaked at #12. Worth was additionally a featured visitor on Whitney Houston’s “Heartbreak Lodge,” which peaked at #2. It’s an 8.) For no matter purpose, Kelly Worth doesn’t get a featured-artist credit score on “Mo Cash Mo Issues,” although you may hear hear ad-libs all around the observe.
The lyrical adjustments on the “Mo Cash Mo Issues” hook make a distinction. Nevertheless you learn it, “I’m Coming Out” is a track about private liberation. “Mo Cash Mo Issues,” at the least on paper, is a track about all of the complications that may come from success: “I don’t know what they need from me/ It’s just like the extra money we come throughout, the extra issues we see.” However then, “Mo Cash Mo Issues” isn’t actually about issues. Except you depend the looming and unstated absence of Biggie himself — not a “drawback” a lot as an precise real-life tragedy — “Mo Cash Mo Issues” barely bothers to determine any issues in any respect. As a substitute, it’s a dizzy victory lap, all sly vanity and bad-winner taunting. Possibly “Mo Cash Mo Issues” is nonetheless a track about private liberation — the form of freedom that you could solely really feel for those who’re very, very paid.
Most huge Dangerous Boy singles labored as showcases for a number of Dangerous Boy artists, and “Mo Cash Mo Issues” is not any exception. The track’s leadoff verse belongs to Mase, who was recent off of his activate Puffy’s first chart-topper “Can’t No one Maintain Me Down” and who launched the debut album Harlem World a few months after “Mo Cash” reached #1. Like Puffy himself, Mase blended over-the-top bravado with sleepy, monotonal supply, and it took me means too lengthy to determine that Mase does that type a lot, significantly better than Puffy ever might. Mase’s opening verse is free and foolish, however he stays within the track’s pocket and will get off some good traces. He is aware of his obligation — keep humble, keep low, blow like Hootie — and he spends no dough on the booty. (Hootie & The Blowfish’s highest-charting single, 1995’s “I Solely Wanna Be With You,” peaked at #6. It’s a 5.)
Puff Daddy’s personal “Mo Cash Mo Issues” verse is best than a few of the different Puff verses from that stretch of time, although not by a lot. I at all times preferred the road about being larger than the town lights down in Instances Sq., yeah yeah yeah. However Puffy nonetheless sleepwalks by means of the track, emphasizing nothing and discovering no attention-grabbing flows. Within the second — the stretch of months when the one non-Dangerous Boy track to achieve #1 was “MMMBop” — Puffy’s dominance appeared shattering, apocalyptic. This man who couldn’t rap had damaged the pop-rap method extensive open, and his presence felt oppressive. Many years later, after I don’t have to fret about listening to Puffy groggily muttering each time I activate the radio, he nonetheless sounds fairly dangerous. The most effective factor I can say about circa-’97 Puffy as a rapper is that the person was assured. He actually felt like he might share Biggie’s mic.
He couldn’t. He did, however he couldn’t. When Biggie Smalls touches down on “Mo Cash Mo Issues,” the track’s complete chemistry instantly shifts. It occurs earlier than Biggie even raps, when his fired-up grunt finds the track’s pocket. (I’m a giant fan of beginning a rap verse with a few seconds of “unh,” and Jay-Z is the one one that ever did that in addition to Biggie.) Biggie’s opening line is an all-timer: “B-I-G! P-O! P-P-A! No information! For the! DEA! Federal brokers mad ’trigger I’m flagrant! Tapped my cell and the telephone within the basement!” Within the track’s logic, feds are the most important drawback that comes with cash, however Biggie doesn’t sound bothered.
Biggie was at all times reluctant to wholeheartedly embrace Puff Daddy’s complete explosive pop-rap aesthetic, however on “Mo Cash Mo Issues,” he commits fully. There may be a lot pure, joyous exuberance on Biggie’s verse, even when he’s speaking about harmful conditions. He makes “gats in holsters, ladies on shoulders” into an ideal get together line, although I’d by no means put a woman on my shoulders if she had a gat in a holster. (It simply looks like it will be inviting some form of horrible unintentional slapstick damage.)
Biggie taunts, too: “Step onstage, the women boo an excessive amount of! I suppose it’s ’trigger you run with lame dudes an excessive amount of!” However at the same time as he performs these energy video games, Biggie’s voice is simply so welcoming. When he asks you to throw your Rolies within the sky, it’s an automated sign to place your palms up, whether or not or not you really personal a Rolex. (Lots of people heard that line as “throw your roadies within the sky,” although Puff and Mase helpfully reveal with their very own Rolies within the video. That’s a humorous picture, however that’s not what Biggie’s saying to do. Go away your roadies on the bottom.)
“Mo Cash Mo Issues” is, on the very least, a fairly good rap track with one nice verse. However the track doesn’t give me the moment endorphin rush that it appears to trigger in so many others, and I’ve a selected private purpose for this. The summer season of 1997 was my second yr working as a counselor at a residential camp in western Maryland, deep within the woods. One in every of my co-workers was this child named Fortunate who at all times walked round with a boom-box and who solely ever listened to “Mo Cash Mo Issues.” I want I ever liked something as a lot as Fortunate liked that track. That’s the one observe I ever heard popping out of Fortunate’s radio, and I acquired so sick of it. That’s my drawback, not an issue for “Mo Cash Mo Issues.” However music criticism is a subjective factor, and Fortunate just about ruined “Mo Cash Mo Issues” for me.
Puff Daddy and Hype Williams have been confronted with the unenviable activity of creating a video for an artist who wasn’t round to seem in it. For Puff Daddy, that was by no means an issue; he merely made the video about himself. Biggie seems within the “Mo Cash Mo Issues” clip by way of archival footage — live-show video synced as much as seem like he’s doing the track, house footage of Biggie speaking about cash and issues whereas being filmed from a particularly unflattering angle. Many of the video is simply Puff Daddy doing Puff Daddy issues — profitable a golf match, for example, after which crediting Biggie’s spirit as his inspiration. This appeared terribly self-serving on the time, however now it’s at the least a bit of bit charming that this man restaged Tiger Woods’ early profession, making it seem like a Rodney Dangerfield comedy from the ’80s.
In the present day, the “Mo Cash Mo Issues” video stands because the purest model of peak-era Dangerous Boy spectacle. When individuals discuss rap’s Shiny Swimsuit Period — and for those who spend sufficient time speaking about rap, it comes up many times — they’re referring to Puff and Mase’s wardrobe selections on this video. Right here’s Puff and Mase strolling away from a slow-motion explosion. There’s Puff and Mase in zero-gravity, too fly to stay earthbound. Right here’s Puff and Mase dancing collectively in entrance of the Unisphere, or dancing collectively in a room stuffed with artfully designed fluorescent lights, enjoying on to Hype Williams’ fisheye lens. These guys simply liked dancing collectively. They have been good at it, and it’s enjoyable to observe them go. The entire thing is pure movement, with Mase’s smile shining in each path. Within the face of actual loss of life, they appeared completely undefeated. On reflection, this was the purpose.
Biggie didn’t have a 3rd posthumous #1 hit in him. The third single from Life After Loss of life was the smoothed-out 112 collaboration “Sky’s The Restrict,” which peaked at #26. The track itself was nothing particular, however I’ve at all times liked the Spike Jonze video, the place little-kid doppelgangers play Biggie, Puffy, and their numerous associates.
In contrast to Tupac Shakur, Biggie didn’t depart behind an unlimited trove of unreleased materials when he died. Dangerous Boy nonetheless assembled a few posthumous Biggie albums, constructing tracks from Biggie’s unfinished verses. The 1999 album Born Once more went double platinum, and its lead single, the Duran Duran-sampling Puffy/Lil Kim collab “Infamous B.I.G.,” peaked at #82. In 2004, the stitched-together Eminem-produced Tupac/Biggie collab “Runnin’ (Dying To Reside)” made it as excessive as #19. Actually, although, Biggie didn’t want extra posthumous hits to keep up his standing as one of many all-time rap greats. He solidified that standing with the music that he really recorded whereas he was alive.
Mase went quadruple platinum with Harlem World, and the album yielded three top-10 hits. (The most important of them, the Kelly Worth collab “Really feel So Good,” peaked at #5. It’s an 8.) However earlier than Mase launched his 1999 sophomore album Double Up, he introduced that he’d been known as by God to retire from rap. Mase began finding out at Clark Atlanta College, and he grew to become a minister. Just a few years later, Mase returned, releasing the 2004 album Welcome Again and briefly signing with 50 Cent’s G-Unit label. (50, who will finally seem on this column, positively realized rather a lot from Mase’s supply.) Mase appears to reappear each few years, rapping a guest-verse or popping up on a Dangerous Boy reunion tour, however he stopped being an lively chart presence the second that he introduced that short-lived retirement.
Puff Daddy, in the meantime, didn’t cease. We are going to see him on this column once more very quickly.
BONUS BEATS: Biggie’s pal Jay-Z began off his personal pretend retirement in 2003. The 2004 live performance movie Fade To Black, which I completely love, captures the Madison Sq. Backyard present that was presupposed to be Jay’s retirement live performance. In Fade To Black, there’s a scene the place Jay shouts out fallen rap and R&B heroes, and the Backyard crowd raps your complete Biggie verse from “Mo Cash Mo Issues.” There may be completely nothing like going to a New York rap present with a fired-up crowd, and this scene stands out as the single biggest cinematic depiction of that feeling. Right here it’s:
(Jay-Z will finally seem on this column.)
BONUS BONUS BEATS: Right here’s Nicki Minaj rapping over the “Mo Cash Mo Issues” beat on her 2007 mixtape observe “I’m Cumin”:
(Nicki Minaj will finally seem on this column.)
BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: On his 2014 observe “Worst Habits,” Drake raps about half of the Mase verse from “Mo Cash Mo Issues” nearly verbatim. Right here’s the “Worst Habits” video, which includes a large star flip from Drake’s dad:
(Drake will finally seem on this column.)
BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Ariana Grande’s 2014 observe “Break Your Coronary heart Proper Again” is constructed on an “I’m Coming Out” pattern, and it’s acquired Infantile Gambino quoting “Mo Cash Mo Issues.” Right here it’s:
(Ariana Grande and Infantile Gambino will each seem on this column finally.)
BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Right here’s Don Cheadle placing on the shiny go well with to re-create the “Mo Cash Mo Issues” video, with an help from Mase, on a 2017 episode of Lip Sync Battle:
(Lip Sync Battle co-host LL Cool J’s two highest-charting singles, the 1995 Boyz II Males collab “Hey Lover” and the 1996 Complete collab “Loungin’,” each peaked at #3. “Hey Lover” is a 4, and “Loungin’” is a 6. As a visitor, LL will finally seem on this column.)