The New York City hip-hop icon The Notorious B.I.G. (aka Christopher Wallace) was still some time away from his tragically early death when he started a profitable side hustle issuing tracks with his own group of Brooklyn mentees, Junior Masters At Finding Intelligent Attitudes (better known as Junior M.A.F.I.A.). Emerging in 1995, the year after the release of Biggie’s impactful first album, Ready To Die, the group chiefly comprised of Biggie’s spunky, raunchy girlfriend Lil’ Kim Jones, plus the diminutive Lil’ Cease (aka Little Caesar, Biggie’s cousin), Cease’s companions Cheek Del Vec and Nino Brown, and friends Larceny, Trife and Klepto. The ensemble also played host to an array of starry guests, including the late R&B star Aaliyah (on the single I Need You Tonight), Biggie’s labelmate Jadakiss, Mobb Deep’s Prodigy, Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man and the 80s veteran Special Ed. But they made their greatest impact with Biggie himself, on the tremendous, nihilistic hardcore song Player’s Anthem.
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A world-class bragging epic
Released on 30 May 1995, as Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s debut single, Player’s Anthem was produced by one of Biggie’s key studio architects, Clark Kent. Also acting as the first taste of their debut album, Conspiracy – where it sat alongside other tough tracks such as the Del Vec-featuring, ESG-sampling Realms Of Junior M.A.F.I.A. – it clarified the group’s intent by sticking to contributions from Biggie, Cease and Kim.
Opening with Biggie’s unforgettably fruity chorus, Player’s Anthem then gives way to Cease, who takes the world-class bragging epic’s quality first verse: “Got mad guns up in the cabin/’Cause Cease ain’t the one for the dibbin’ and dabbin’/I make it happen.” Stepping in with “I’m surrounded by criminals/Heavy rollers, even the sheisty individuals,” Biggie’s verse follows; quotable end to end, it’s a mass of internal rhymes and evocative imagery which peaks on a particularly bleak line about robbing a preacher in church and leaving him wounded, “his pockets like rabbit ears”. And yet, Biggie proclaims, “My mind’s my nine, my pen’s my MAC-10,” as he professes to be most interested in “Caviar for breakfast, champagne bubble baths”. Kim rounds things out by showing herself to be as tough as her male counterparts: “Proteins and minerals, exclude subliminals/Big Momma shoots the game to all you Willies and criminals.”