Biggie died March 9th, I was born March 10th, you do the math,” announces Ayun Bassa on his 2014 track “Yellow.”
Such boasts would be blaspheme to Hip Hop heads if not backed up by the dizzying display of lyricism, harmony and conceptual complexity that makes his debut “HUGs+SLAPs” reminiscent of The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Ready To Die.”
Born Ayun Bassa to Liberian emigrants, and known as Dashawn Cassell to the United States government, the 6’3 280-pound gentle giant has more in common with the late Biggie Smalls than just his size and shade.
Both introduced themselves to the game with autobiographical debuts that draw on the joy and pain of being a Black man in modern America. But while Ayun’s psyche proves to be less pessimistic than B.I.G.’s, whose doubt was colored by the chaos of the crack era, things haven’t changed much since back in the days when Biggie was rapping about Cazal shades and cornbraids.