Friday Jukebox: Thoughts About “Mo Money, Mo Problems”
Here are some thoughts about the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Mo Money Mo Problems.” It features Ma$e and Puff Daddy. That’s something I’ll be discussing.
1. I am a huge fan of music that puts me in a pleasant state of mind. This song is one of the all-time greats. It reminds me of the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. There’s nothing any of us can really do about the way in which some songs emotionally connect with some memories. There’s a reason I don’t listen to Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” and there’s a reason why I’ll get a smile on my face whenever I hear this.
2. The song works despite the presence of Puff Daddy, who is now know as Vodka Guy, and Ma$e, guys who consume two of the three verses and inexplicably star throughout the song’s absolutely inane video. It works because of this: the first hook gets me absolutely sucked in, excitedly saying to myself, “YES! ‘Mo Money Mo Problems’! This is gonna be awesome!” and Ma$e’s verse immediately starts and I start thinking to myself, “Yeah, well, okay, that’s weird, I remember Ma$e being huge but I don’t really hear it here and he’s still got that limp though and oh, it’s hook time again!” and then Puff Daddy ominously inserts himself and instead of thinking, “This man is a lyrical nightmare who ought to be tried at the Hague, especially for saying that he ‘rocks all rocks’ and also for rhyming yours with yours as if it was interesting and did he just rhyme stop and stop too and his lyrics are the desperate concoctions of a man who had no idea what he was doing…” I think, “Sweet! Here comes Biggie’s absolutely awesome part!” and then its the hook again and then Biggie’s part begins and despite being the stiffest white guy you’ve ever met, I can get through about ten seconds of Biggie’s verse before badly bungling the lyrics and yes, “…no info for the DEA, federal agents mad because I’m flagrant, tapped a cell and a phone in the basement…” is my favorite part because it just flows and also, he just keeps going and going and going and it is entirely unlike Ma$e’s and Puff Daddy’s verses and then we get a bit more of the hook and its over.
3. That was a bit much maybe? What I’m saying is the song is brilliantly structured. Yes, we have to endure both Ma$e and Puff Daddy, but they’re done before we can get angry about it, and even if we were going to be irritated with the idea that either of them belonged on Biggie tracks, Biggie’s immediately got our attention. Our consideration abandons them. We’re taken with him and his long verse. By the end of the track, it’s almost easy to forget that Ma$e and Puff Daddy were mucking about for its first two minutes. Which means that every time the song is over, the most vibrant thing in our mind is what has just happened, not how we started off. I won’t say many good things about Puff Daddy, but I will credit him for getting both Ma$e and himself onto a track in such a way as our memories remain entirely positive.
4. This is the worst music video in the history of the entire world. Why on Earth would anybody assume we’d want golf highlights during our hip-hop song? Why on Earth would anybody assume we’d want prolonged breaks for golf commentary? Why on Earth would anybody assume that those times when golf wasn’t going to be featured should instead emphasize Ma$e and Puff Daddy in what appear to be garbage bags? Why on Earth would anybody assume that anyone anywhere was interested in that much fish eye lens?
5. But seriously, a fond recollection of a time in childhood? I don’t care if Ma$e and Puff Daddy are forgettable, and I don’t care about the atrocious video. I care about listening to this on a mixed cassette tape in a 1992 Toyota Carolla with the windows down. Here’s the song’s actual history. But it’s my personal history with it that makes it so memorable.