Today we’re joined by Justin Tinsley, senior culture writer at ESPN’s Andscape and author of the new book It Was All a Dream: Biggie and the World That Made Him. We talk about the culture, legends, women, and controversies that shaped The Notorious B.I.G.’s life, and place his story into a greater context. Justin also shares how he worked on multiple projects while writing this book, and what he thinks comes next.
The Stacks Book Club selection for June is White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue … and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation by Lauren Michele Jackson. We will discuss the book on June 29th with David Dennis Jr.
*Due to the nature of podcast advertising, these timestamps are not 100% accurate and will vary.
Traci Thomas 0:08
Welcome to the Stacks, a podcast about books and the people who read them. I’m your host Traci Thomas and today I’m speaking with Justin Tinsley. Justin is a senior writer for ESPN’s Andscape, a journalist known for his entertaining probes into the intersections of hip hop, pop culture and sports. We discuss his book, it was all a dream Biggie and the world that made him, a heavily researched biography of the Notorious BIG and the culture and communities that shaped him. Justin has also written sharp commentary on Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Serena Williams, Cardi B and Nipsey Hussle Nipsey Hussle was also the subject for his 30 for 30 podcast with the king of Crenshaw. Quick reminder everything we talked about on each episode of this show can be found in the link in the show notes. And remember the socks book club pick for June is white negros when cornrows were in vogue and other thoughts on cultural appropriation by Lauren Michelle Jackson. We will be discussing the book on Wednesday, June 29. With David Dennis Jr. Listen, this act is a completely independent podcast. It is only made possible by the support of our listeners. I cannot stress enough how I would not be able to make this show week in and week out without the support of the stacks pack our incredible bookish community that supports the stacks on Patreon. If not for them, there would be no show. So if you like this podcast and want to show it some love, plus earn perks for yourself, like our monthly bonus episodes, shout outs on the podcast, our book club and our incredibly lively discord community full of book recommendations and other non bookish things. Go to patreon.com/thestacks. Thank you to our newest member of the stackspack gunner Sloane and thank you to every single member of this tax pack for making this show possible. Okay, now it’s time for my chat with Justin Tinsley.
All right, everybody. I’m very excited. Today I am talking to Justin Tinsley. He’s the author of the brand new biography of Biggie Smalls called it was all a dream Biggie and the world that made him Justin, welcome to the stacks.
Justin Tinsley 2:16
I am truly truly, truly blessed to be here. I am very excited for this.
Traci Thomas 2:22
Oh my gosh, I’m really, this is so great. Okay, we’re gonna dive right in in about 30 seconds or so can you tell people about the book?
Justin Tinsley 2:29
Well, the book came out on May 10. It is a part biography of Christopher Wallace, who was of course known as The Notorious BIG but it’s also a socio political, socio cultural, socio economic examination of the world around him. It’s the title Biggie in the world that made him.
Traci Thomas 2:48
Perfect. Okay, we have to start with the most important part of this entire book, which happens on the first page in the second or third sentence, which is, I did not know what big stood for.
Justin Tinsley 3:02
Yeah. Yeah. A lot of things.
Traci Thomas 3:06
It’s maybe the most embarrassing thing about Biggie is that it stood for business instead of game.
Justin Tinsley 3:17
I don’t think you need to be embarrassed by it. Because I don’t think-
Traci Thomas 3:19
No, I think he needs to be embarrassed by it. Like, what does it mean business instead of game?
Justin Tinsley 3:25
I mean, he was all about his money, I guess, you know, I guess is this instead of playing games? I don’t know.
Traci Thomas 3:31
He’s just like such a prolific poet wordsmith, and I’m like, that is how you decided to do big. I just, I feel like he could have done better. It was probably early, you know, in his career. Whatever. Yeah. So like, I’ll give him a little credit. But I when I read that I was like, had to go back and read it a few different times, because I kept forgetting. I was like, I know it’s something silly, but I can’t remember. Anyways, that’s just me joking. Okay. You touched on this before. And I’ll just let people know at home. I am not a huge Biggie person. I’m not anti biggie. I just was not raised listening to biggie. I’m from California. So I feel like Tupac is sort of the was the go to person in my life. So I didn’t know a lot about his life. Like this book, I learned. I learned a lot of stuff. And some of the things I’m sort of embarrassed that I didn’t know. But also, I think you and I are about the same age. And so you know, when Biggie and Tupac died, I was 10 Yeah, I wasn’t even 11 I think I don’t think I even turned 11 quite yet, when when Biggie died, and so I had heard a lot of the stories, but I didn’t really like understand the context. And that’s like the thing that really, I was taken by in this book was less about the story of baby’s life and more about how you put him and his life into context. Obviously, that must have been important to you because you’re doing it throughout the book. But can you sort of tell me how you were thinking about doing that? Like why what how that came to you why you sort of wanted to include All About in in this story.
Justin Tinsley 5:01
Yeah. So once I signed the contract to do the book, and I would say probably around like January 2020. And you know how it is in the book publishing world, you get half of your money upfront, and then half once you submit the manuscript, right? So when I got the first half of that check, I was like, wow, this is the biggest single check that I’ve ever gotten in my life. And I’m like, this is great. Then it hit me. I’m like, Well, what the hell do I tell people? Like I said in the book, like, What the hell do I tell people about Biggie Smalls, that they don’t already know. Because at this point, he’s like, he’s like Tupac. He’s like a folk hero. Like, there have been countless documentaries. And there’s been movies, and there’s been, you know, books written about the conspiracy theories around he and Tupac to death and things of that nature. And I knew I didn’t want to do that, because I wanted to more focus on on his life, rather than focusing on, you know, the tragic way that he died, of course, that would be in there. But maybe I would say, once I realized that I was gonna have to do this entire book in quarantine, and like research, report, interview, outline, and right, when once I figured that out, I was like, Alright, I need a different, like, entry point into this story. And while this book is a straight up, biography, and a sense of he was he was born here, on this date, and he died here on this date, right? I knew I wanted to make it. I wanted to put his life in context of what was going on in Brooklyn, New York, America, the world at that point in time, because none of our life stories are just about us. We’re influence where we’re influenced by the experiences that we have the decisions that are made within our control, and even a lot beyond our control. And I felt biggies life was a perfect microcosm of that. Because if we want to talk about drug dealing, and yeah, he sold drugs, for sure. But are we talking about the socio political factors that went into that, and the war on drugs that started even before he was even born? Right, yeah, he sold drugs, but he was just another soldier in that, you know, decades long war within America. And I knew I wanted to paint these pictures, because I feel like it would give a fresh perspective on a person that we know so much about.
Traci Thomas 7:15
Yeah, and I think, to two things that point one is like, for me, the moment that I realized like that your book was gonna do this. And that that was, like, thrilling to me, was when you talked about the 1960s. And it just never occurred to me that like, all of my favorite hip hop, people of that generation, were born between like 1969 and 1975, meaning like, their parents were in their 20s and 30s, during the Civil Rights Movement like that these are children. You know, they’re like, What I hope that our generations kids will be like, in the wake of Black Lives Matter. And all of the activism that’s going on now, like that influences them. And again, like a lot of things as I was reading, I was sort of embarrassed because I was like, I feel like I should have connected these dots. But like, just reading about Violetta Wallace, his mother, like coming to America in the 1960s. And like, as an immigrant to New York, and what she was coming into and what the politics of this time were, it was like, of course, this makes Biggie make more sense. And it also makes Biggie make more sense why he wasn’t super political in his music. Yeah, right. Like that. That was a choice that he made, but it wasn’t because he was ignorant to what was going on, like, so all of that, like, for me, I think that’s, you know, chapter one, or whatever. I was like, Oh, we’re doing we’re doing this. Yeah. Right. And like, and the other thing that I really appreciated about it, which, you know, is similar to a friend of yours book, Daniel Smith’s book, in shine bright. It’s the respect that you give to these artists that have been disrespected, like, the fact that a true biography of Christopher Wallace did not really exist. Until now. Imagine, like, imagine if there was no books on Elvis until 25 years after he died, you know, and like that those books wouldn’t be deserving of contextualizing his life and his story, or the Beatles, or whoever. And so I think that like, what you’ve done is really great. And also very important to the conversation of like, what hip hop music is and what it means because, like, we’re the hip hop generation, Jr. I don’t know, we’re not quite we’re quite a little younger. But you know what I mean, like, we deserve to have our heroes and our folk heroes and our leaders and our, you know, the people we deserve to have their stories told in context of America and not just in context of he wrote this song. Yeah, this isn’t a question.
Justin Tinsley 9:57
No, and I’m so glad you said that. I’m so glad You said that one of the first people I spoke to not even for an interview just to tell them I was doing this is a really good friend of mine. His name is Chell Hodari Coker. I’m sure a lot of people have heard of him. He actually wrote a biography of Biggie back in 2000 to 2003, which is he’s friends with big Yeah, he was. He knew he knew big personally and big. He told him was like, I want you to be my Alex Haley, basically, because I want a book done on my life. I’m just not ready for it right now. Because he was only 24. He figured, like he had decades and decades more to live. So I knew he knew him personally, I knew he took Biggie story personally, and he’s somebody that I consider a mentor and a friend. So he’s one of the first people I reached out to, but I was also kind of nervous to reach out to him because it was like, you just never know how somebody’s gonna react. But he reacted in such a beautiful, authentic way. And he was like, Look, it tripped. I can’t remember what he said verbatim. But basically, what he said was, it trips me out that the majority of what’s been done on him is more so like a who done it type thing, like, who pulled the Trump story. Exactly. And while that is, of course, part of the story, it’s not the entire story. And he was like, I’m so grateful. And I’m so thankful that you’re telling this story for like a basically a new generation of hip hop fans. And if anybody was to tell that story, if I wanted to be you, and that put a battery in my back, and I was like, Okay, I gotta do this the right way. And so, just to go off what you said, like, outside of that, it really trips me out that there wasn’t a definitive biography of Christopher Wallace, his life and times. And I knew, you know, unbelievable. It’s such a unbelievable book. That was like, I got to do it differently than how a child did it. You know what I mean? And that’s when it hit me. It was just like, we put these these other artists like you said, The Beatles and Elvis and you know, obviously John Lennon as part of The Beatles, but you get what I’m saying.
Traci Thomas 12:17
Like, what’s his face? Bruce Springsteen? Obsessed with him, you know.
Justin Tinsley 12:21
Like all artists who obviously made a big impact on the world in their own ways. But I was like, we don’t give hip hop artists that were it’s just more so like you said, they made this song. Oh, they talked about violence. And some of them died in violent ways. And maybe they brought that on themselves. And like, No, we have to give these people the care that they deserve, because they made music that impacted the world, their lives, change the world. I tell people all the time. I don’t know, if there’s an artist and not just hip hop artists. I don’t know if there’s an artist period, who did as much in such a short period of time as Biggie, you know, obviously pot falls into that as well. But biggest first album came out in September 1994. He was dead by March 1997. That’s two and a half years.
Traci Thomas 13:07
Like Pac’s career was longer.
Justin Tinsley 13:11
Yeah it was. It was a little bit longer. But yes, they were both super young, so young. And we need to give these artists and for the sake of conversation, somebody like Christopher Wallace, Biggie Smalls, like we need to treat that with care because for so long, you know, these artists have been in, in large part stripped of their humanity. They’re remembered by the negative headlines, oh, Biggie beef with Tupac and Tupac Biggie and then they were both, you know, shot and drive by shootings and killed and dropped by shootings. Yes, that happened. But you know, they live so much of a rich life even before, during and after that, that like, we need to give these people the grace and humanity they they deserve because they’ve been stripped of that. And you mentioned Danielle Smith, I think she did an incredible job with that in her book as well and just to be mentioned with her, you know that that means the world to me, she’s not only a really really good friend of mine, she’s somebody I’ve admired for well over half of my life.
Traci Thomas 14:11
Yeah, she well, we she’s she’s our book club. She was our book club pick for me and she was a guest on the show. So everyone listening now knows how obsessed with Danielle I have become. But reading your book so close together because I read her book a few weeks ago reading your book so close together. I was like, right. This is not just about black women in pop music. This is about black cultural icons period. Yeah. And again, like talking about the thing the things that you know, in your body that you know to be true but aren’t actually validated. Like your book validated for me a lot of things that I knew about the racism against rappers but like couldn’t quite articulate or like you know, you know, you know these things like you know, when you’re talking to someone when they are when a white person you know when they’ve said the N word Like you can’t say for sure, but like you know it. That’s how I thought reading your book. Yeah, I was just like, Ah, yes, I’m right. knew it all along. This is sort of a hypothetical. I’m asking you to do an impossible thing. Question. So you do your best. How do you draw a line from 1990s Hip Hop to where we are right now as far as like black activism and pop culture, like, how do you give us context now? Like you did give Biggie context in the 90s? Like, what would you say now about where we are? Does that make sense?
Justin Tinsley 15:37
Yeah, no, no, it’s a fascinating question. And it’s a crazy hypothetical, for sure. But, you know, the 1990s were the start of the commercialization of hip hop when hip hop really became like this undeniable force. And, you know, what’s, what’s crazy as we saw it happening in the 90s, we saw how impactful how influential and how deeply Hip Hip Hop permeated within American culture and society. Now, the crazy thing is, once Biggie, I mean, what’s Tupac was murdered. And then six months later, after Biggie was murdered, there was a real concern about Damn, is this it? You’re gonna know, people have been saying for a long time that hip hop was just going to fade away like disco did, it was just a fad. It was a trend. And after those two murders, there was some legitimacy to that it was like, Okay, we just lost our two biggest stars within six months of each other, like, what the hell happens next? Well, we saw what happened next. Like, of course, hip hop has never recovered from those two losses. But Hip Hop just became bigger, it became more commercially successful. If you started seeing more and more commercials, you start to see more and more endorsements. But also like when things went wrong, people also latched on to hip hop and be like, see, this is why we don’t need this in our society. And fast forward 2530 years. We see Hip Hop now is like, I read a study a couple of weeks ago, the most strain music in the world, not just America, but in the world is hip hop and r&b. They accounted for 31.1% of all streams of all streams in music, and then everything else just basically broke down the remaining like 69%. And we’ve seen how society has really taken on these conversations of mental health awareness, social justice. And if you listen to hip hop, and especially hip hop in his greatest form, that has always been there. It’s always been there. You listen to NWA is early music on straight out of Compton. They were basically telling you like, the situations and in our communities, this is a ticking time bomb. Like if you don’t address this in the in the proper way, it’s going to get ugly. And then what happened four years later, the LA riots. So when you listen to somebody like Kendrick Lamar is all right. Like that’s the soundtrack for this, this young black America this young, this young America who feels like our voices aren’t being heard when you when you see somebody like a jay Cole gone, I believe it was Letterman and do the song be free. After Michael Brown was killed, Mike Brown was killed. So like that these connections have always been there. But I think now with, you know, the advancement of the internet and social media, and literally everything is a click away. Whereas in the 90s, like, if you miss something on TV, you better hope somebody recorded it on VHS, so you better hope to see it again, on like late night TV. But I would say that the connection now is it’s more. It’s more immediate, like we can see the connection. We can see, you know, artists at protests, we can see artists venting their frustrations, whether it be on Instagram stories or Twitter. And you know, sometimes it has like a counter effect to like, sometimes it can be bad, like we see what’s going on with, you know, the Young Thug and gun a situation with the RICO cases and how you know, their music can be used as a means to prosecute them. Now, I don’t I don’t know the ins and outs of that situation. But hip hop is the only genre that you know, I’m gonna take your lyrics and say, This is why you’re a bad person. And we’ve seen it over and over again, we see it with YSL and thug and Ghana, we saw with Bobby Shmurda and the GS nine crew we saw with the late Draco the ruler and how they tried to use his lyrics against them. Like we don’t we don’t do that with movies.
Traci Thomas 19:40
Do you know there’s a book called rap on trial? Yeah, yeah, I’ll have you read it.
Justin Tinsley 19:45
I haven’t read it. But it is definitely on my to-do list like I read it.
Traci Thomas 19:48
Because I was hosting a panel for the library of Virginia’s like nonfiction book awards a few years ago. It was up for it. And I got to speak to them and I don’t Okay, no fans, I don’t think the book is great. It’s very redundant. My like the intro and the outro of the book are phenomenal. And it makes it makes so much sense. Like they talked about how, like Johnny Cash was not prosecuted for lyrics and his song. I guess he has a song about killing people. I don’t I don’t know Johnny Cash. Like, he talks, I just remember him like naming Johnny Cash and me being like, Wow, incredible. But it’s a really interesting book for people who are interested in that, because, you know, spoiler alert, racism. Just probably throw that out there.
Justin Tinsley 20:31
Go figure, right?
Traci Thomas 20:32
Yeah, yeah, I do think that, like the death, I can only speak for myself and sort of anecdotally, but I do think that like the death of the murders of Tupac and Biggie, actually made Hip Hop bigger. I think that like, it made it sexier, and very real are in a really fucked up way. But like, also, in a truly American way of life, this obsession with death, and like the death, the dramatic death of black celebrity, and like, the obsession with that, like you were talking about making, you want to make them human, because they’ve been stripped down to like, their worst, most vulnerable, horrible moment. But I do think that like, to a point, having these men murdered, and like outside publicly, yeah, both deaths were very public, like, at a party out of fight, like outside these locations, all these people. I do think that like, that gave credibility to what they were talking about, in a way that maybe you could ignore the truth of some of it before? I don’t know, that’s just like, my sort of sense is.
Justin Tinsley 21:38
It definitely stamped the genre in a way. It’s unfortunate that, yeah, that had to be the authenticity of it. And I mean, it’s just, it’s the power of the tongue to, you know, like, pop out a song, I see death around the corner. And he talked about it, you know, he talked about not living to be old, he talked about, like, I’m going to get out of here too early age and you know, big name, his first album, ready to die. And then second album, life after death. You know, he never had a chance to hear life after death in the world with everybody because he was murdered, like three weeks before it came out. But yeah, it definitely stamped hip hop in a way that separated itself from other genres innocence, but it’s just, it’s just really, it’s really screwed up. And it’s really like you said, American because there’s this infatuation with death and, you know, canonizing people after they’re no longer here to be like, You know what, this person was actually right about this, but we didn’t really give them their proverbial flowers when they were here. So let’s like double down on it, you know, once they’re gone, but yeah, in real time, it was scary because nobody knew what was going to come up hip hop, but in the, you know, from a wide from a macro point of view, they definitely became martyrs for for genre, although I don’t, I don’t know if either one really wanted to become a martyr. But I mean, no,
Traci Thomas 23:11
I don’t think people want to become martyrs.
Justin Tinsley 23:13
I think well, the white pot talked about it. I think he was fine with it if that happened, but if you talk if you talk about Biggie like, yeah, he talked about death in his music. But he also talked a lot about like, Yo, I can’t wait to be like a suburban soccer dad and my kids grow old. And even on his second out, even though it’s called Life After Death. There’s a it sounds completely different from his first album, it there’s there’s not this level of desperation and panic and paranoid the way that the first one was, and you can see that like he was really happy about, obviously, the beef with Tupac really soured a lot of things. But he was very happy about where he was going in terms of like being able to provide for his family, having two kids that he knew were going to depend on him. So, but that yeah, they eventually became martyrs for the genre. You can’t talk about hip hop, and not have the names. Tupac and Biggie come up at least, if that’s not the first two names out of your mouth somewhere near the very, very front of the line.
Traci Thomas 24:14
Right. Okay. I want to talk about another figure in this book who is sort of a supporting character. Yeah. Ampex life. Sean P. Diddy Combs. Yeah, again. Yeah, I’m gonna say this again. There’s a lot of things in this book. I did not know. I’m sort of embarrassed about some of it. And again, I blame my age, and like where I was in my life for some of it because I think that like, as it was happening, I didn’t really understand because I was nine I had no fucking clue that Puff Daddy was like an actual tough guy. Like, I always just thought that Puff Daddy was like hanging out with people on a boat in a in a wife beater with a with an open shirt like hanging out having Good Time friends of friends. I know mais I know biggie. I know Lil Kim. I didn’t know how like, important he was behind the scenes to the actual music. I did not know that him and Suge Knight personally, I knew Suge Knight was like a scary bad guy like, his his reputation is really bad. List. Yeah. But like, if you, you know, and I think this goes to kind of your point like if you get to live, if you don’t die at 2425 You get to become other things. I mean, you see it with puffy. We also see it with Donald Trump throughout the book, who’s mentioned a bunch of times like Donald Trump and Biggie lives were like, very connected for the short period of big us life. But like Donald Trump went on to become the fucking president and puffed out he went on to become Sean John P. Diddy, Diddy. Champa becomes like, Yeah, but I did not know about the incident at City call it like, there were so many things about Puff Daddy, where I was like, Oh, he was actually a serious person. Yeah, puff. wasn’t always like the butt of my jokes. No, like, you know,
Justin Tinsley 26:03
you know, I won’t call puffy, like, a tough guy like Suge was like, Suge-
Traci Thomas 26:09
Not as tough, but like he was in he was running around in the same conversation. Yeah, no, wasn’t what puffy is now.
Justin Tinsley 26:19
Yeah, no, he puff, puff. Puff, no, a lot of dudes from the streets. And you know what I mean? And like buff was connected. I’m sure he still is in his own ways. But there’s no way to shortchange how big puffy was in the early 90s. Because even before big, like, the City College incident was so was such a big news. You know, headline because, you know, he had he had worked with Joe to see and he had turned Joe to see into like this, this hit act, he was working with Mary J. Blige. She was working with heavy D, like, he had the Midas touch, he wasn’t a producer in the sense of, I’m gonna put this beat together. He was a producer in the sense of kind of like a an interior decorator like, let’s put this right here. Let’s put that right here. Let’s put this drum kit right here. Let me add live apart right here, because this is this is going to catch people’s ear. He knew how to craft a hit and give the City College incident. When we talk about Travis Scott, and what happened at AstroWorld, there was so many parallels to puffy and what happened with the City College incident in November, I’ve been to excuse me December 1991. And when you talk about Biggie in relation to puffy, puffy needed that when puffy needed that like, Okay, I am going to have a life in the music industry after this horrific and traumatic event, which, you know, followed them for years after that it still technically follows him now. But definitely in the decade after that event, he still he was still dealing with the legal ramifications of it. Which is why like when you talk about puffy for all the success that he had, basically having Biggie dropped in his lap was what he needed desperately at that point, because a lot of people had turned on him because of that City College incident. The newspapers were saying some not so flattering things about him in there. Right. And, you know, he was he was kind of wearing out his welcome at Uptown. So when Biggie fell in his lap, he was like, wait a minute, like, I you know, I’ll do my duty thing. Whereas like, I’ll, I’ll put you in these clothes. You know, I’ll ask you to make these type of hits. But like, this dude is a tailor made rapper that you know, is rapping about, you know, life in the streets. And this is what I want to get into in terms of like, my next big artists. So the puffy story runs in tandem with big story and the story of America in this book and a very, very real way because I don’t think you can tell it any other way.
Traci Thomas 28:50
Right, right. I mean, I just think like, I just remember my brother getting like, Sean John clothes. Yeah, like he was. He was like, just, I just think he’s become sort of a joke. Because his name was Puff Daddy. And I think that like Puff Daddy, just the word like it’s such a joke. I mean, even in the book of Allah is like, who? When he’s like, this guy, Puff Daddy is gonna help me and he’s, she’s like, What do you say? But like, I think about like the member the shirts had like the puffy lettering the Sean John shirt in the cursive and I like stood out from the shirt. And that was like, such a revolutionary thing that I remember it. Yeah. 20 years later, like I’m talking about right now. Yeah. And I also like, I did not realize how much how many people had been like, killed or beat up or whatever prior that like led to this situation. I sort of thought of it as like how beef is now where it’s like, oh, she tweeted a meme thing. Like I never really thought about like the context of like, right, like that was some real shit. Yeah. Like yo,
Justin Tinsley 29:55
a lot of people get the East West thing can misconstrued as well. It’s like oh, it was really just Biggie and Tupac, you know having a falling out yes that happened but know that that beef was really more so sugar and puffy. And you know, the the 9095 Source Awards are always remembered because of the theatrics of everything in there you know sneaking up on stage and East Coast and got no love for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg and you know should basically dissing puffy at onstage by st come to death row if you don’t want the executive producer all in the video like yeah, the theatrics are remembered from that. But what a lot of people don’t know is what really set that off was a month later at Jermaine du Preez birthday party in Atlanta when when a shook knights closest friends was murdered and death row and bad boy were in the party together. They were allegedly you know, Wolf and back and forth. And they you know, Suge and puffy had to be basically escorted out of the party. And part of the reports they say they want to puff his bodyguards killed when a chugs friends shot him and killed him. And that more than anything, is what you know, there was blood on the streets literally at that point. And yet there was unfortunately there was no turning back should want it to annihilate puffy. He he was already bad. He was already Belen Tupac out. And he knew that you know Tupac for as as iconic of an artist as he is, is probably the most iconic artists of my lifetime. Because I mean, I love Tupac, but he was also he could be manipulated very easily. And in shirts are a vulnerable Tupac, Tupac was in prison for a crime that he you know, for to the day that he died that he didn’t commit. But he was sitting in a maximum security penitentiary he was being you know, he was being abused by prison guards in jail. And he was going crazy. So like, if his Get Out of Jail car was sugar and sugar was like, Yo, we gotta ride on puffy and Biggie and bad boy, Tupac was going to do that to the most in degree possible. And he knew he could manipulate that about Tupac. So by the time pot got out of prison, less than a month later, gasoline was already being thrown on fire. And there was there was, you know, there’s Yeah, so the East West thing? Yes, there was a lot of violence in that period in time that, you know, a lot of a lot of it just never got reported, you know, outside of a police report if there was a police report.
Traci Thomas 32:44
I don’t want to talk too much about Tupac, because it’s some of my favorite stuff for the book. And I want people to read it. Yeah. But I will just say another thing I did not know. I didn’t know they were friends.
Justin Tinsley 32:56
See, I’m glad you brought that up. I’m very, very glad you brought that up. And we talked about you know, stripping humanity and you know, grace and things of that nature. Like when we hear Biggie and Tupac, we hear oh, they had beef and Tupac dropped hit him up. And you know, they had a falling out. And then they died. Like, yes, those are parts of the story that actually happened. That is very true. But like if we’re, if we’re going to sensationalized that over the last quarter century, then we also have to talk about why that falling out was so dramatic is because their friendship was so intense. It was so pure. And it was so genuine. Like there was a there was a deep level of respect for Biggie with Tupac and Tupac with Biggie and I wanted this book to showcase that just as much as anything else. Because again, they were both young black men with large positions of power still trying to figure out their own lives, and just happy being in concert with each other. And so I Yeah, they were, they weren’t just friends. They were really, really good friends, which makes the story that much more tragic.
Traci Thomas 34:03
Yeah, I don’t want to spoil it. But I just will say for people, there’s a little anecdote in the book about some flowers basically made me want to put the book down and cry for seven months. So just really attempt tenderness. I have to tell you a personal story about baby’s death. So I live in LA, I think, you know, that we met here. And I have two and a half year old twins, boys. I love cars. We have a membership to the Peterson car museum automotive. So as I’m listening to the book, kind of early on, you tease out like, you know on March 997 At the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire and I’m like, where is that? I was like, I know that is so close. Oh my gosh, I had no idea. And then as we get to the end, you’re like, oh, big. He’s like gonna go to this party at the Peterson car museum and I was like on Fairfax and Wilshire Oh, no. So now I can never go back to the museum because I’m going to just feel so differently about that space. And like, oh, it’s also right across the street from where the new academy or Oscar Academy Awards Museum is. It’s really on the same corner. Yeah, they’re across the street from each other. I had no idea. I’ve lived in the city for 10 years. I had no idea. That’s where it was.
Justin Tinsley 35:25
Yeah. When I first moved to LA in 2015. And just me being like a pop culture nut. I was like,
Traci Thomas 35:32
It was like first went to In N Out and then-
Justin Tinsley 35:35
Yeah, definitely got some food first. And I went to I went into First I went to a dispensary. And then I went to the corner of like Fairfax and Wilshire. And it’s so wild, because it’s kind of like Cobalt and Flamingo in Las Vegas where Park was killed by Fairfax and Wilshire, at least for me, because I knew what happened right there and understood the history like it’s heavy, right? There’s nothing around there that would signal like, Okay, this is where, you know, Christopher Wallace was murdered or anything like that. But if you know, you know, and it just felt very heavy. I’m like, wow, it happened. Like right here. So yeah, once you realize where it is, you can’t look at it. The crazy thing is, I’ve actually never been inside the Peterson-
Traci Thomas 36:19
No, I’ve never been until like two months ago, my in laws got us a membership, because my kids are obsessed with cars. I don’t care about cars, I could care less. Like truly one of the things I’m the least interested in the world of automotives. Like, it’s a no for me, but I go, like twice a month now. At least now, you know, I have to go. I’m like, wait, and we have a meme. It’s just anyways as a nightmare for me personally, but knowing that that’s there. Now the next time I go, I’m gonna have to like put on Juicy or something. Yeah, drive by and like, feel really connected. But it’s just, I agree with you. I feel like whenever I go to places where I know something, you know, someone whose life has been taken, like when you know it, and you get to that place, there is something that like, sucks the air out of the space for you. I’ve been to Vegas many times, but I’ve never been to where Tupac was called knowingly. But now that I know the intersection, I can check that out. And next time I go, which will be never. I’m wondering a little bit about your research. Interview process. I know you talked about. I’ve heard you talk about like, you know, listening to podcasts and watching documentaries. And I think you talked about that in the conclusion of the book of like, some of your sources. And you also talk about how you know, you weren’t able to, to get you know, Valetta Wallace and Faith Evans and little camera like a lot of the people that we publicly know to be the closest to biggie. And so I’m wondering like, how were they on your list? Originally? They said no. How did you then source like later people also was sort of surprised Danyel Smith was not a source in the book. I was expecting to see her because she wasn’t she was around she was doing. Yeah. And I know, you know, her and I know she worked with I was like, Oh, she’ll, she’ll pop up. And yeah, it’s a little sad.
Justin Tinsley 38:08
Yeah, actually wrote the obituary for big, I believe. But yeah, I wanted to interview Danielle for but I know she was like neck deep in her book at that time. The timing just just didn’t work out. But she was absolutely a great resource for me with this book, in terms of like, pointing me in directions of where to go and people who to talk to. But early on, when I first signed the contract to do this book, I wrote a letter and I sent it to Vicki’s estate. And I wanted to let them know like, hey, look, I’m working on this book. And I would love to have your involvement on it. But I completely understand if you don’t want to. But I want you to know that this is happening. And I want you to know that like this is not some like clickbait salacious type book where I’m trying to expose, you know, deep dark secrets of his life and, you know, tear him apart. This is not that now we’ll be honest and forthcoming about his entire life good, bad and indifferent, as best as I can. But I want you to know this book is going to be done out of like, love and respect. One for his legacy and who he is as a person, but also the craft of journalism as well. And so I never heard anything back. But I never heard anything back saying no, we don’t want you to do this book, either. So I knew early on, I probably wasn’t going to get Valetta or fate, but also looked at it as like that there’s a ton of archival material on them already talking about big Of course, you want to get your own new material, but it could be worse. It could be nothing out there on them talking right. So I knew I had that. But it was also a chance for me to introduce new voices into or at least voices that really don’t get as much pub in terms of the biggie story like Drew Dixon was one of my favorite interviews for this book. She was the music Indian Dree exact who lived in Brooklyn, like the early 90s, and she and Biggie formulated a great friendship just in terms of trying to crack into the music industry around the same time, but from different ways. Talk to party promoters down in, in Raleigh, North Carolina. And when he was hustling, and this would be big, lying about being shoved rocks cousin said just so he could get on the mic. So every person I interviewed, I would always, you know, you know, as you know, as a reporter you like, is there anybody else I should be talking to, and, like, point me in that direction, and people are more than willing to point in that direction that not every interview came up that day, he pointed me in that direction, too. But I appreciated that nonetheless. So yeah, that that was how I got a lot of interviews, it was just more like a scavenger hunt. Like you get one person who will refer you to two more, and those two people will refer you to four, and so on and so forth. But in terms of research, I’ve always been a research nerd. I love reading like newspaper archives, I love going through, like, you know, news, news archives, whether it be TV stations, or radio programs, and I already had a lot of knowledge about Biggie going into it. So it helped. It helped me think of new ways to talk about him throughout the process. So it was, it was it was confusing at first, but once I got my footing, I think I hit a good groove around maybe like June or July.
Traci Thomas 41:24
I liked your sources. I felt like they lent a lot of depth that you maybe wouldn’t get from the family or like people really close. I also think like one of the things that I appreciated about your book was how important the women in Christopher’s life were to his story. Obviously his mother, but his daughter, yeah, faith, Little Kim, like, Charlie Baltimore, like I just be, I can’t remember her name. But his the mother of his daughter. Yeah. Yeah, I think like so. So often, women are erased, as we’ve talked about from pop music, and hip hop, and also from the legacies of you know, these folk heroes Right? Like, obviously, we all know to pox mom, because he made sure we did with Dear Mama, right, like and her story she was she was infamous famous in her own right for her own activism. But I just I think that like, I just want to say thank you for including them and making sure that they were as important to his story as, as Sean P. Diddy Combs or has to pop because they really informed his music and his choices and his humanity.
Justin Tinsley 42:32
Yeah, I Well, thank you for thanking me for that. Because I’m always, I’m always very cognizant about that in just in anything that I do, whether it’s a podcast, whether it’s a written story, or whether it’s like this book. And that’s something I noticed a lot growing up as to where like, when I read like these stories, I’m like, these, these great men who did so many things, like the women in their lives, at best. They were like footnotes. At worst, you just didn’t hear from him at all. And I was like, for me to tell his story about Biggie Smalls, there’s no way you can not talk about the women in his life. And yes, Valetta, of course, and of course, faith because he was married to her but like, I so much of his story revolved around women, you know, good and bad, you know. And so like, I knew that I wanted to do this. And I knew they had to be, you know, important parts of this story. Because like you said, they made up part of who he is, like, you know, so much of who biggie is, is Tiana. But how did Tiana come into this world? Is through his relationship with Janet Jackson, and how did they meet? And how did they grow together? And how did they fall apart? Like you have to talk about at all. And I credit Danielle Smith was really helping me make that a priority in everything that I do. And because we would work on stories of the undefeated and you know, I’d be like, Man, I need a woman’s voice in this. And she’s like, Yeah, let’s get some women in here. Let’s do that. Because and it just, it just makes the story that much richer when you have like a diverse array of voices. And so that’s always a priority of mine. I’m not just putting women in the story just to be like, Oh, look, it’s a woman in the story. Just be like, hey, look, I know I’m doing that because I understand the value, the texture, and just the nuance that, you know, that brings to a story. So I’m glad you brought that up. And I thank you for thanking me just know I’m thinking.
Traci Thomas 44:34
Okay, we have to quickly talk about the cover. Yeah, because it’s so good. How involved were you in the cover? How like, what was the process? Were you involved at all I know sometimes authors aren’t. I just I think it’s great cover.
Justin Tinsley 44:48
The cover is phenomenal. The cover it makes you want to read the book. The spine is beautiful. I love the fact that the spine is kind of reminiscent of like his Kuji sweaters, sweaters.
Traci Thomas 44:58
Yeah. So I’m gonna sweaters are in cover on color on. Yeah, he’s, it’s, and
Justin Tinsley 45:07
I love when you open the book, there’s like a map of Brooklyn and like this. So to be honest, I had nothing to do with that I, they showed me the final version of it. I was like, whoa. So they showed me like a couple of different versions of artists who they were thinking of designing the cover. And the one that stood out to me the most, like, immediately was the one that eventually became that and I was like, Yo, I don’t know who did that. I didn’t know who did it. First. I was like, I don’t know who that did that, please pick that person, please pick that person. And that was great. And not in terms of the cover, the only thing I came up with was the title.
Traci Thomas 45:46
But I want to ask you about that. How did you decide which lyric? Did you always know? That was what it was going to be when you started working on it?
Justin Tinsley 45:53
Um, no, like when I first first started and actually found my old Google doc about this, like, their original title was like, sky’s the limit, which is my favorite Biggie song, like sky’s the limit. Something about Biggie Smalls as gospel or something like that. And it was just a placeholder title. Because I was like, alright, this title was way too long. And I was like, but it’s not gonna stick come to find out, I eventually had a long title. And I changed the title early on, not knowing that it was actually going to stick but I knew like, it was all a dream. It’s one of those, like, famous call and responses in all of music, especially, you know, for people like that. It’s like we’re gonna have like, it was all a dream I used to read. Everybody knows what goes after that. So it’s gonna, it’s going to roll off the tongue for a lot of people like, alright, that’s a very famous, that’s a very famous lyric and in music, so I stuck with that. And then once I started getting the contextual stuff about society in America, and you know, just given like the history lesson, that’s where the biggie in the world that made them came from. So it was it was kind of a two part process.
Traci Thomas 46:58
Yeah, I was I was, as I was listening, I was trying to think of like, what other lyrics would have worked, but it’s, I think it’s the best one, but the now I can’t think of it the like, show love. It’s the Brooklyn way. I thought that was potentially Well, yeah, that’s good, too. Yeah. Because he’s so Brooklyn. And like, you make that point, because I think like, also part of his legacy is like how Brooklyn he was. Because with Tupac he wasn’t from a place. Yes. Like, he was like, from a lot of places. Yeah. And so, you know, like, I know, they did a huge party for Biggie 50th birthday, but I don’t think they did that for Tupac, because I was like, who was going to do it? Was Oakland gonna do it? Was Baltimore gonna do it? Was New York gonna do it? Like it was like this? No, nowhere for him to be anyway. Okay, I want to talk about you for a second. Okay. You are a writer at an escape formerly the undefeated and impossible thing to remember. But I made a note before I started typing.
Justin Tinsley 47:50
You nailed it. You nailed it.
Traci Thomas 47:53
How did you make time to write this? Did you take like a sabbatical thing? Or did you just sort of fill it in? As you could?
Justin Tinsley 48:00
If I knew then, what I know now, I would have absolutely taken a sabbatical. But I didn’t. I was working on this. I was working on this Nipsey Hussle podcast that I was working on. And I was working on Dwayne Wade’s photographic memoir, the way in, which I helped write. So I was doing all three of those plus writing for which at that point in time was still done defeated, all at the same time. And, again, if I knew then what I know now, I would never do that again. Because it was just, it was so much it was filled. It was fulfilling, in a sense, because I saw all three projects coming to life at the same time, while still writing for the undefeated. But that was it was a lot of work. So when I work on the second book, I will definitely take time to focus on that. And just that.
Traci Thomas 48:46
That was gonna be one of my questions. I know you have a two book deal. I heard you on books or pop culture. Yesterday, you mentioned maybe wanting to be the Alex Haley to Allen Iverson’s, Malcolm X, sort of stories situation. Oh, I would love that. If it’s not that. And I know you probably have ideas, so don’t actually tell me but like, is there another artist you would want to write about? I’m sure there’s many. Yeah, you can also say you can’t say anything if it’s,
Justin Tinsley 49:11
um, I can’t say right now only because I’ll tell you when we get off but yeah, there’s definitely there’s plenty of artists I would like to write them on. But in particular, of course, I mean, a bio on Jay Z has already been kind of kind of written, obviously decoded with Jay Z and dream Hampton is still one of my favorite books. I bet you know, if j if j ever wanted to do something else in the written world, I would I would love to work on that with him. Yeah, um, there’s so many I mentioned Allen Iverson who I consider an artist as well but um yeah, who I’m trying to think who else this Tupac have a book. Um, so then not not really in the in the sense of a biography like how this is right. Um, but yeah.
Traci Thomas 50:02
I wouldn’t want him to have a book. I just I, I have to say like, he just was so compelled, like you made him so compelling in this book that I’m like he made the book just to pocket but
Justin Tinsley 50:14
I would love to write a two part book and that not that would be. That might be like 600 pages because that live. I mean, Biggie Biggie lived six lifetimes in one set. I mean, Tupac live like at least 12 and one like he, he packed so much into 25 years that is.
Traci Thomas 50:35
Well, that’s why every time I think about Tupac, and then I like Wikipedia him and I’m like, right, he was only 25. But it’s like, so confusing to my brain. Because he was like, such a force for such a short amount of time. It just feels like he should have been. He couldn’t have done it so quickly. But he did. I know it makes me so sad. I can’t even I can’t even okay, how do you write? Where are you? How many hours a day? How often do you listen to music? If so, what are you listening to? Art? Do you have snacks and beverages? That part’s important? Candles? Rituals? Tell us about it? Yeah, so it kind of shifts?
Justin Tinsley 51:12
Yeah, I do. Obviously I write often. I listen to music sometimes. Sometimes I listen to music they like get me in the mood to write but I can’t really listen to music while I write. Because it’ll just distract me because next thing I know I’m typing lyrics down like subconsciously like, Wait a minute. Wait. That makes no sense. But there’s there’s like this low fast station on YouTube that just plays like these really chill beats that I would love to write. So, snacks. I’m not really a big snacks person to be honest. Yeah, my wife says the same thing. Like she loves snacks. But I really I loved it now. Don’t get it twisted. I love to eat. But I can’t. I can’t put like chicken wings or like mac and cheese in front of me while I write because there’s not a snack.
Traci Thomas 51:58
Is mac and cheese a snack? No. Meal?
Justin Tinsley 52:04
I’m a meal person. I really, I will eat snacks. I have nothing against them. But I don’t actively go seek them out.
Traci Thomas 52:10
What about beverages?
Justin Tinsley 52:12
Um, you know that I have some water behind me. But I also have some adult beverages too. That’ll help me get in the Getting. Yeah, get loose because you know, you need to be loose while you write and you can’t be tense because then you know, nothing will ever come out. So I’ll have some water but also have you know some Woodford around because I’m a big fan of old fashions.
Traci Thomas 52:33
Okay, you and my husband should start a podcast about whiskey and rye and hey, look, I’m with it. I’m very into it.
Justin Tinsley 52:41
I’m with it. Now the thing is, I can’t have too many. Because then obviously you’re worrying you know and next thing you know I fall asleep at the computer but you just-
Traci Thomas 52:51
Just like you read wrote other people’s lyrics. And that’s it.
Justin Tinsley 52:54
I don’t know what happened. There was one time I did that. I don’t know whether I was what I had too much. Too much to drink or whether I was just sleepy. Probably a combination of both. I’m typing and I guess I fell asleep for like five minutes. My hand was on like the letter M. And it was just like him for like 27 pages. I’m like what the hell just happened here. I wish I would have saved
Traci Thomas 53:20
The way she would have sent it in and been Yeah. Hey, go Danielle Smith. I’m serious. Reporter Hey,
Justin Tinsley 53:26
Sheila, why is this thing 37 pages like Oh, trust me get to page seven.
Traci Thomas 53:31
Israel God Israel get around there. What’s a word? You could never spell correctly on the first try?
Justin Tinsley 53:38
Oh, environment. For you know that word, like gives me fit? Like, even to this day, like I have in VI run MIT. That environment environment kicks my ass every time.
Traci Thomas 53:58
Yeah. Okay. I like that. You’re I think you’re the first person ever say that word on the show. So congratulations. Appreciate it. Oh, we didn’t really talk about your podcast kind of Crenshaw? Partially because I haven’t listened to it. I just found out about it. Sorry, your marketing team. But I am in LA. And I have to listen to it. But I Okay. Again, I guess I just not that into hip hop is maybe what we’re finding out I didn’t know very much about Nipsey Hussle when he was alive.
Justin Tinsley 54:23
Yeah. You. I mean, it was not a good thing. But in terms of the podcasts, I guess it is because you’re going in there green, like everything that you’re about to learn everything about a meal, you know, much much like Biggie like it’s doing a lot more than just his music and you touched a lot of people and a lot of real ways that you know will be felt for a long, long time to come. And he has said that the same way. Biggie is synonymous with Brooklyn. Nipsey will always be synonymous with South Central.
Traci Thomas 54:55
Just interesting like living here and driving around and like seeing all the murals of him Uh, Mike, obviously there’s lots of Kobe murals, but there’s lots of Nipsey murals and Nipsey was not nearly as famous. Yeah. nationally as as Kobe, so like to see how important he was to the community. It’s like, you can’t deny it, because he’s, he’s everywhere.
Justin Tinsley 55:18
He’s everywhere. Yeah, it’s just.
Traci Thomas 55:19
It’s wild. So I’m excited to be here. Yeah. Obviously report back. I will. Of course, of course. I’m not shy about that. I do want to know, though, you know, writing a book, versus like creating the podcast? Did you have a preference? was one more enjoyable, more fulfilling? I’m assuming the amount of research was maybe not exactly the same. But was your projects?
Justin Tinsley 55:42
Yeah. Now, there’s definitely a lot of research that went into both, I say they were both equally fulfilling while being separate. Because I’ve always wanted to write a book. And I, you know, I consider myself a professional writer at this point, but I’d never written a book. So I knew that there was going to take a different set of responsibilities and a different type of commitment. Although I know how to write so it’s basically alright, this has to be 100,000 words. Alright, so I basically have to write 25,000 word pieces, you know, that’s how I broke it down. And other Alright, so it’s not that daunting, when I look at it. Now, the podcast, it was crazy, because on certain moments, I would be in book writing mode. And then I would have to switch to podcast mode, which means I got, I got to go into script writing mode, which it wasn’t easy to turn one off and turn the other on. And vice versa, for me, so that that that was a learning curve. For me, script writing is totally different than book writing. Because in book writing, you got time to build the scene up, you got time to, you know, you know, talk about the contextual parts of society while talking about biggie. Whereas in script writing, like you got to get right to it right then while still managing to give context to a scene. And thankfully, I had an incredible production team with me. And they really helped me out in terms of like, how the hell do I do this? Because I know that idea is great, but I have no clue how to bring it together. And they, they helped me out quite literally every single step of the way. And I’m very pleased with how it came out. And I can’t wait for you to listen.
Traci Thomas 57:19
I can’t wait; I’m going to queue it up. ASAP, actually, there we go. I listened to some of your book on audio, and I really liked your narrator guy. But he said Jesus and marrow wrong. And as a person who’s had Jesus and marrow on this podcast, I was deeply offended. He called him de Zeus and marrow. Oh, no, I was like, Ooh, guy, Dion, you’ve got a great voice. But my guy, it’s Jesus.
Justin Tinsley 57:43
Now he’s got he’s got a grave, which is wild, because we spoke a lot while he was recording that. And he will call and ask me how to say a lot of different things. But I’m thinking Jesus and Mara was ever one of them.
Traci Thomas 57:55
Well, he went strong and wrong. And you know what, Dion never gonna forgive you because I am very much a bodega girl.
Justin Tinsley 58:04
Diaz a great dude. But yeah,
Traci Thomas 58:06
he’s got a great voice. Oh my God, He did such a good job. I mean, the audio book is really fantastic for people who are curious if it’s worthy, it is worthy. Okay. We have to wrap up but I have just a few more quick questions. You have had this like world when last few weeks promoting the book the books been out on almost a month not even a month yet as recording but about a month as people are listening? Who’s the coolest person who’s expressed interest or talk to you about the book?
Justin Tinsley 58:34
You mean outside of you? Me?
Traci Thomas 58:38
Yeah. Thank you had talked to Jay Z came after you. So I feel like that’s cool. Thank you.
Justin Tinsley 58:45
No, it was cool. Like Good Morning America was cool because that’s where my mom and grandma really realized like oh, wow, this is a thing you know what I mean? Like that was a metric for them like I know Good Morning America obviously you know who Biggie Smalls is as well. Like wow, this is this is cool. Going on sway was definitely for a hip hop nerd like myself that was that was lit like being able to have their be was dope. And honestly to be seated right beside CJ Wallace Biggie and fav son, while talking about Biggie and telling stories about Biggie and having CJ be like, what I never knew that about my dad. Like, that was powerful for me. So that was great. And yeah, the Twitter spaces, I still have the ad open for Jay Z and my LinkedIn bio, but you know, to hear Jay Z say like, Nah, I’m going to read the book. Is he going to read the book? I don’t know. But he said he would. And so I’m interested for that. And so like you said, it’s been a whirl. All of it still feels surreal. Still feels surreal.
Traci Thomas 59:48
I have a theory this is not really a question and I’m no I’m gonna go over but we’re just going to it’s fine. Do you have time to go over? Hey, it’s cool. As I asked you after I got over. I have this theory that If Biggie and Tupac were still alive that Jay Z would not be married to Beyonce.
Justin Tinsley 1:00:05
Do you think one of them would be married to Beyonce?
Traci Thomas 1:00:08
I like to think Tupac might have been. I just I don’t know, I just because when I think of it, here’s why I say this. No shots at Jay. Obviously, life turned out the way that life turned out. But like when they were rapping and being the huge celebrities that they were, Jay was like, he wasn’t a thing. And so I just wonder if he would have been able to take up as much space if they were still around. So not that maybe she would be with that. One of them though. I do think maybe Tupac has this sort of a fantasy of mine. But I just don’t know, I just don’t know. Do you think Jay would have become Jay? If they were still around?
Justin Tinsley 1:00:47
I think Jay was gonna be a star. I grant it would have been this big. Maybe, maybe not. I honestly have no clue. But I think Jay was going to be a star. Because if Biggie and Tupac never died, Jay and Biggie, were gonna come out do that joint album. And if they were going to come out with a joint album that was going to be like the biggest thing in rap at that point. Because now, by 1996, when Jay released his first album, like Tupac was already on death row. He’s the biggest star in rap big, he was big. So he wasn’t a superstar at the same time. They were superstar. Right. But I do think he would have eventually become a superstar in his own regard would he have been because now it feels like in terms of like the living goats in hip hop, like Jay Z sits on a level all to himself? Yes. You know, in a sense, I do think if Biggie and Tupac had live, that level of acclaim would have been more crowded than what it is right now. You know, like, but also think like, ad pocalypse, he would have gone more into acting. I think Paco would have been much more of a full fledge actor. I don’t know how long, how much longer Tupac would have wrapped I think he would have still always been rapping. But in terms of just releasing music at the clip Randy was doing in his life. I don’t think that would have kept up and nor should it have. He had interests outside of music. It would have been great to see to pot in you know, this whole era of like social justice and you know, this this hypersensitivity to, you know, Black Lives Matter and police reform and brutality and relations. Like you know.
Traci Thomas 1:02:30
Tupac would not have a deal with the NFL. I’m just gonna go ahead and say that no.
Justin Tinsley 1:02:34
Hova he might not have been, you know,
Traci Thomas 1:02:38
I don’t know, I don’t know, who knows he would have he probably would have become washed just like the rest of them. They’re all 50 year old men now they’re all washed. It’s great. They got to go old.
Justin Tinsley 1:02:46
Alright, my only hope is that I don’t think and I don’t think Tupac would have I just wouldn’t have want to see him as as like Get off my lawn type type. Right? You know, because Park was right. And I do imagine like imagine Tupac with social media. Oh my like, imagine
Traci Thomas 1:03:02
Someone take his phone.
Justin Tinsley 1:03:03
Yeah. They, you know. I do hope he would. I hope he wouldn’t have been one of those artists that like flipped on us and like, Yeah, I’m voting for Trump in 2020.
Traci Thomas 1:03:16
Right. You hope he wouldn’t have gone full Dave Chappelle?
Justin Tinsley 1:03:19
Like I don’t know the full Kanye like Kanye. Yeah, but But you just you just never know, man. We got older they didn’t.
Traci Thomas 1:03:26
Okay. Last two questions for real. For people who love this book. What are some other books that are in conversation with this book that you think they might like? Obviously, we talked about Danielle’s book, but anything else?
Justin Tinsley 1:03:37
Oh, go get Dan charnas delta time this on the lake Greg. J. dilla. That is phenomenal.
Traci Thomas 1:03:44
I love it. It’s really good.
Justin Tinsley 1:03:46
Oh my god.
Traci Thomas 1:03:47
I don’t even know who J Dilla is.
Justin Tinsley 1:03:49
See? See. That’s why J Dilla is a hip hop legend. You should definitely. And so you’re going into the book green the same way with the Nipsey podcast.
Traci Thomas 1:03:58
Everything green. I thought I liked hip hop. Apparently spoiler alert. I guess I don’t I don’t know.
Justin Tinsley 1:04:02
And there’s been a lot of great, like hip hop books to come out of this. And I’m not even just talking about you know what I hope my book is in that conversation. But you know, Jay, Dan, tarnish Dan charnas dilla time on J Dilla. Paul cancer wrote an amazing book on Mac Miller, which really puts Max life into like this really great perspective. This isn’t hip hop, but Garrett Kennedy wrote an incredible book on Whitney Whitney then we almost have it all. There’s a little Kim biography coming out later this year, which is going to be phenomenal. Writing it Yeah. Kathy and I think the word of it but I mispronounce her last name all the time.
Traci Thomas 1:04:49
Yeah, we’ll just link to it in the show notes. Yeah. Yeah, I think we’re Lincoln rolling bit
Justin Tinsley 1:04:55
but she she’s she’s dope but she Do you remember that Alia book that came out recently. Yeah, did you hear from she wrote that book as well about that one too. Yeah. So, but ya know, those are some, those are some other books that are definitely worth. Also it’s not it’s not music related but my man David Dennis the movement made us is is a phenomenal book please get that.
Traci Thomas 1:05:16
So everybody who’s listening to this right now you will know that David was our guest the first week of June and he’ll be back next week as you’re listening to this to discuss white negros by Lauren Michelle Jackson with me so you’ll all be very well versed and nice.
Justin Tinsley 1:05:30
And his style is the man. It’s one of my best friends.
Traci Thomas 1:05:34
I know I love that your books come out on the same day. I love that you guys love each other talk it out it makes so sweet. But don’t you too can have a falling out. Okay, don’t write who shot Yeah, about David. Okay, like I need you guys to stay together forever.
Justin Tinsley 1:05:47
No, I won’t do that. Not me. And David, we’ve been through too much to ever have a falling out now. So this is always gonna have a happy ending.
Traci Thomas 1:05:54
Okay, good. Good. Good. All right. Last question. Normally, I ask people, if you could have one person dead or alive, read this book, who would you want it to be? But I’m going to sort of flip it on you and just ask you straight up. Would you want Christopher Wallace to read this book?
Justin Tinsley 1:06:09
Absolutely. I you know, I hope that, you know, in some spiritual sense, heavenly sense that like he has a copy up in heaven. And he’s reading this and be like, You know what, this is accurate. Or this is something that I can be proud of that is written about me and I had no control over what know what went in there. But I’m proud of this. So like, Yeah, I’ll, I would love for him to read it. And I hope again, like I said, in that spiritual sense that he has, and I hope that he finds it as a fitting you know.in The universe. That is his massive legacy.
Traci Thomas 1:06:46
I love that. All right, everybody. The book is called it was all a dream. I’ve been talking to the wonderful Justin Tinsley, you can get the book or ever you got your books, it’s out in the world. I have to say, I’m just really excited that this book exists. I think you’re a frickin incredible writer. And I just I can’t wait to see whatever your next book is. I can’t wait. You guys can find Justin’s work on an escape. It’s like prolific the podcast. We’re all gonna group listen to together the Nipsey podcast. So yeah, Justin, thank you so much.
Justin Tinsley 1:07:18
Thank you so much for having me. It’s a true privilege to come on this podcast and talk about this book and have your cosign which is a big cosine in this world. So thank you very, very much.
Traci Thomas 1:07:29
I love that people think that I fooled everyone they use scammer. scammer I am I am. It’s true. I’m telling you. Now you guys can put this in the documentary about how I’m a scammer. You can put this clip. Alright everybody else we will see you in the stacks.
Thank you all so much for listening and thank you to Justin for being my guest. I’d also like to thank Gabby Fisher for helping to coordinate this interview. Quick reminder, the stacks book club pick for June is white negroes when cornrows were in vogue and other thoughts on cultural appropriation by Lauren Michelle Jackson. We’ll be discussing the book on Wednesday, June 29. With David Dennis Jr. If you love the show and want inside access to it, head to patreon.com/the stats and join this x pack. Make sure you’re subscribed to the stocks wherever you listen to your podcasts. And if you’re listening through Apple podcasts, will you be sure to leave us a rating and a review. For more from the stacks follow us on social media at the stacks pod on Instagram and Apple stocks pod underscore on Twitter and check out our website stacks podcast.com This episode of the Stacks was edited by Christian Duenas with production assistance from Lauren Tyree. Our graphic designer is Robin MacWrite. The Stacks is created and produced by me Traci Thomas.
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