This video pops up in my corner of the internet with an astonishing regularity. It shows a 17 year old Notorious BIG freestyling on a Bed-Stuy street corner and absolutely annihilating some corncob in dark sunglasses who stands there crossing and uncrossing his arms while the assembled crowd oooohhs and aaahhhhs at Big’s verse. It is, I think, a pretty amazing piece of music history.
A while back I spent an afternoon trawling around trying to figure out where this video was shot but there isn’t much identifying evidence to pull from. That red and yellow bodega awning is really our only landmark and they’re ubiquitous to the point of anonymity so after some embarrassingly desperate posts on some rap message boards I mostly gave up.
Today I stumbled across the dedicated issue The Fader put out for the 15th anniversary of Big’s death and sure enough the spot is named. It is the corner of Bedford Ave and Quincy Street, just a couple of blocks from the Bedford Nostrand G stop—Big actually mentions the corner in Microphone Murderer.
In The Fader DJ 50 Grand, Big’s pre-Bad Boy accompaniment, recalls:
I started working with Big in ’91. I was 21, he was 15. I met him through a friend of mine. They hustled together on Bedford and Quincy. People in the neighborhood knew him as the hottest rapper around. Everybody that stepped in his path, he ate ’em up. He earned that stripe from that one battle he had on Bedford and Quincy. I was the one that was playing the music. This man used to live right upstairs from the pool room. Every day in the summer we’d play the music out. It just so happened that Big came around, so we brought the grill out, we brought the music out. They got on the mic and went at it. It went on from there. Cars stopped, it got real crowded out there. We rocked it ’til 12, one o’clock that night. It was a good look. Everybody that came at his back, he took out.
Interestingly enough, Bedford and Quincy is now home to Do or Dine: a well-reviewed fine dining restaurant where you can get an $11 foie gras doughnut.