Bedford-Stuyvesant was also home to several mosques and a growing community of African-American converts to Islam. In 1988, Masjid At-Taqwa, a mosque popular with African-American converts, coordinated with police to eject dealers from a dozen local crack dens. Congregants armed with knives and pistols operated 24-hour anti-drug patrols. Biggie, who had started dealing crack at 15 in the neighborhood before committing to rap, was likely aware of this community. One of the conspirators in the 1993 attack was a middle-aged African-American convert named Clement Rodney Hampton-El, a medical technician and former mujahid in Afghanistan.
In August 1994, Biggie released “Juicy,” the first single on his debut album Ready to Die. In the opening verse, Biggie dropped the “blow up like the World Trade” line. But despite his closeness to the events, there is no indication that Wallace intended to make a statement on geopolitical events.
“Those lines contain a metaphor, which compares seemingly different ideas to create one powerful image/idea,” explains Rap Genius contributor “TANSTAFFL” in a notation painfully deliberate even for the site. “Getting paid + blowing up like the world trade = an image of money expanding rapidly.”
It was, simply, a great rhyme.
While Biggie’s second, posthumous album Life After Death would go diamond in the U.S., “Juicy” was initially just a modest success, peaking at No. 27 on the Hot 100 in Nov. 1994. Did the reference to a recent deadly terror attack stir consternation?
“No,” says DJ Enuff, a longtime disc jockey for New York’s Hot 97 station. Enuff, who was born Ephram Lopez, worked for Biggie as his road disc jockey in the 1990s and is now, due to his long tenure, the station’s unofficial historian. “Nobody cared about it. It didn’t mean anything.”
Just three years after his debut single, Biggie was murdered in Los Angeles in 1997; his songbook became rap canon and he achieved cultural immortality. The “Juicy” lyric remained untouched until Sept. 11, 2001.
After the attacks, media companies erupted in a riot of self-censorship. Marvel edited trailers for Spider-Man, slated for release in May 2002, and removed a scene of Peter Parker trapping a helicopter between the towers with a web. Rockstar Games delayed the release of Grand Theft Auto III, which takes place in a fictional version of New York, in part to remove a mission involving terrorists.