Shea Serrano's latest book, 'Hip Hop (And Other Things)' : It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders Author and host of the No Skips podcast Shea Serrano gets obsessive about things — movies, basketball, and now, rap. In Hip Hop (And Other Things), he dives into Cardi B's explosive 2018, the early days of Missy Elliott's career, and the 1995 Source Awards, which he says remains — to this day — one of the biggest nights in rap history.

You can follow us on Twitter at @NPRItsBeenAMin and email us at samsanders@npr.org.

Shea Serrano answers existential questions about rap in 'Hip Hop (And Other Things)'

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SAM SANDERS, HOST:

The last time I had Shea Serrano on the show, we talked about movies and about how the pandemic meant that he and his kids couldn't see movies in theaters for a very long time. Shea did not like this. But things have changed since our last chat.

SHEA SERRANO: We have three sons. The twins are 14. So they're old enough to get vaccinated. So yeah, we started going recently. The last thing we saw was "Venom." Let there be carnage.

SANDERS: How was that?

SERRANO: Not great (laughter).

SANDERS: How was that?

SERRANO: Not great.

SANDERS: But Shea plans to go back to the movies again for another film he thought he'd enjoy much more.

SERRANO: We're going to go this weekend, and we're going to go see the new "Halloween."

SANDERS: Ah.

SERRANO: I love Michael Myers.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

SERRANO: I'm so excited about this one.

SANDERS: And here's the thing about Shea that you have to understand - when he likes something, it becomes an obsession. Shea does not just watch movies. He knows them and compares them and categorizes them.

SERRANO: I'm terrified of Michael Myers. He is, however - I think part of the...

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: ...Reason I like him is because he's one of the, like, two or three that I think I could get away from. Like, he couldn't - Michael Myers...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

SERRANO: ...Is not going to kill me. I know that because I've just watched...

SANDERS: Oh, yeah. Sure. OK.

SERRANO: Listen, I have a scouting report 'cause I've watched all of his movies. Like, so he does the thing that a lot of movie monsters do, like Jason Voorhees, where he never runs. Jason Voorhees never runs, either. But the way that Jason gets you is he, like, throws [expletive]. He don't have a problem picking something up and throwing it at you...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

SERRANO: ...Like a piece of an iron wrought (ph) gate. He'll throw it right through your chest.

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: Michael Myers doesn't throw anything.

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: He's got to get his hands on you, or he's got to get his knife on you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Sam Sanders. And today, Shea Serrano talks about another one of his obsessions - hip-hop. Shea's out with a new book called "Hip Hop (And Other Things)," a collection of questions asked, answered and illustrated. This book comes after his two previous books about two of his other obsessions - "Basketball (And Other Things)" and "Movies (And Other Things)."

In Shea's newest book, every chapter asks an existential question about hip hop, and Shea tries to answer them. What joke was it that DMX told that one time? Which was the most perfect duo in rap history? How many times did Lil' Kim tell the future on her '96 album "Hard Core"?

For this episode of IT'S BEEN A MINUTE, Shea is going to break down three chapters from the book - one all about Missy Elliott, one all about Cardi B and another one all about the 1995 Source Awards, an awards show that said more about the state of hip-hop and the future of hip-hop than perhaps any other single event. I am very excited about this one. Y'all are going to love it, I promise. Enjoy.

I'm going to open the book now - "Good Cop/Bad Cop: Did Anyone Have A Better 2018 Than Cardi B?"

SERRANO: Right.

SANDERS: Briefly lay out your thesis and the argument that you argued in this chapter.

SERRANO: OK. So 2018 was a really good year for rap. We got albums from a bunch of very talented people. Did anybody have a better year than Cardi did? Drake is, like, probably the first name you think of any time you're talking about successful rappers. So you could be like, well, he had an album that year. And did - you know, did he do this? Did he do that?

SANDERS: Which album was that for him?

SERRANO: Oh, that was "Scorpion." The - so that was, like, the (ph)...

SANDERS: Oh, yeah. That was the...

SERRANO: You remember that one?

SANDERS: That album did well.

SERRANO: Yeah.

SANDERS: And this Drake album had some really big hits. It had "God's Plan." It had - what was the other big single? It had "Nice For What." It had "In My Feelings."

SERRANO: It had "Nonstop" on it.

SANDERS: Yeah. So I mean, OK. So, like, Drake has that year with that big album, with so many big singles. And yet you still argue that Cardi had a better 2018. And you don't just argue that Cardi had a better 2018. You start this argument by saying part of the reason why is because of that song she did with Maroon 5. Please explain, sir. Please explain.

SERRANO: OK. So that's less of, like, this is why she had a better year. This is more of an example of how big of a presence she was.

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: Let's just go through the whole year. We'll do it really quick.

SANDERS: Let's do it. Let's do it.

SERRANO: So in January of that year, she shows up on the remix of Bruno Mars' "Finesse."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FINESSE")

CARDI B: (Rapping) Oh, yeah we drippin' in finesse and gettin' paid - eeow (ph).

SERRANO: And, like, that's really where the crossover...

SANDERS: Great song and a great video, too.

SERRANO: Great - it's great. It's so much fun. It's, like, exactly what Cardi B and Bruno Mars would do if you put them together. They figured it out.

SANDERS: Yeah. And this comes after she had released "Bodak Yellow" in 2017, a very hard single that went to No. 1 and kind of announced her arrival, right?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BODAK YELLOW")

CARDI B: (Rapping) You can't [expletive] with me if you wanted to.

SERRANO: Yeah, that was the big jump right there. This is when that one happened 'cause that song was everywhere. But a thing that happens when you put a song out that's that big is people are like, well, can you do it again? Can you do it on an album? You know...

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: ...That becomes conversation. So that's what she's showing up to 2018 with - all of those doubts - 'cause we know the album is coming, and everybody's like...

SANDERS: What you going to do?

SERRANO: They're looking at the trajectory of her career, yeah. And they're like, well, you started out as this, and then you became that.

SANDERS: You're a reality star.

SERRANO: And then you were the...

SANDERS: Can you be a real rapper?

SERRANO: Yeah, exactly. That was the things she was doing. So anyway, January she's on Bruno Mars' "Finesse," and that's where this sort of crossover into, like, her superstardom becomes - because she does that, and then she does some other guest verses. And she becomes, like, I believe, the third person ever in the Hot R&B and Hip-Hop songs chart to have five songs in there at the same time. She's the first woman ever to do it, only the third...

SANDERS: Wow.

SERRANO: ...Person ever to do it. So that's how January goes.

SANDERS: She was like T-Pain on steroids...

SERRANO: Exactly.

SANDERS: ...'Cause I feel like there was a moment in the 2000s where you couldn't have a song on hip-hop radio unless it featured T-Pain.

SERRANO: You had to have him on there, right?

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: So April rolls around. That's when the album comes out. And the album, it explodes everywhere. It's the top spot on Billboard's Top 200 charts, Billboard's Top R&B and Hip-Hop charts. Everything that she was doing just kept getting bigger and bigger. The song goes triple platinum. Every single song on there charts on Billboard's Hot 100. It becomes the most streamed album by a woman in the history of Apple Music. Like, every day, she was breaking some new record. Then that's like nothing to say of the actual quality of the album itself. Rolling Stone picked it as the best album of the year, so did The Ringer, so did Time, so did Entertainment Tonight. Billboard, Esquire and Entertainment Weekly had it as the second-best album of the year. And that's across all genres, not just rap. It was great. She was doing everything that you wanted for her to do on there. And that's - again, this is just - we're just through April. Every month she was doing a thing. Every time she stepped out of her house, she was breaking a record, and it was unreal. And she kept it up for the whole entire year.

You know, she ends up getting all of the, like, Grammy nominations, the BET nominations, the MTV nominations. She wins best rap album of the year at the Grammys. The like - she gets nominated for album of the year overall. She didn't win it, but she was nominated. It was an unbelievable run. You couldn't do anything with her. Of course she had the best year of 2018.

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: Nobody could keep up with her. No name you can throw out there...

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: ...Could keep up with what she was doing.

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: It was unreal.

SANDERS: So you have these two characters making this argument - having this argument in the chapter. And at one point, your good-cop character says, quote, "What I mean is Maroon 5, one of the biggest and most successful bands of the modern era, went well over half a decade without scoring a No. 1 hit. That's how hard it is to score one of those. And then Cardi B gave them a verse for a song in 2018 for "Girls Like You."

(SOUNDBITE OF MAROON 5 SONG, "GIRLS LIKE YOU")

CARDI B: (Rapping) I need you right here 'cause every time you're far, I play with this kitty like you play with your guitar.

SANDERS: And then just like that, they finally got another No. 1 hit because of Cardi B. I just - wow.

SERRANO: Mmm hmm.

SANDERS: What was the bad cop in that Cardi B chapter arguing that would justify any claim that she wasn't having the best year ever? 'Cause, I mean, once you lay out those stats, it's like, how would anyone disagree? How was the bad cop in that chapter disagreeing with Cardi B's best year?

SERRANO: So that's, to me, like, my favorite little sneaky trick in that chapter is that the bad cop in this case shows up automatically dismissing it without knowing anything. And it's just like it's air. It's a big box of air. He's just saying other names without providing any sort of information or any sort of detail or any sort of real argument. And that is often how arguing about rap, arguing about anything goes on the internet. You say a thing, somebody else says a thing in opposition of that...

SANDERS: Because they can, yeah.

SERRANO: Because they can - and you try to - well, can you explain it a little further? And they're like, no. That's all I'm going to say because that's just what I felt like typing into my phone and then sending it to your phone. You know what I'm saying?

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. Well, and then it's like when you start to think about some of the critiques of a rapper like Cardi B, easily some of it is gendered. You know, like...

SERRANO: Absolutely.

SANDERS: ...People thumb their noses that Cardi B became a successful rapper after having a career in reality TV. People don't ever talk about how Drake had a successful career in rap, posing as this kind of really hard, tough rapper after being an actor on a Canadian teen drama for years called "Degrassi." You know? It's like we see these paths and these trajectories and these careers differently based on things like gender a lot. So what I enjoyed about your Cardi B chapter, it was just like, no, no, no, baby, here are the numbers. Here are the facts. You cannot argue with this. You can't argue with it. You just can't.

SERRANO: Yeah. Once it's all laid out, there's no other conclusion to come to than she had the best 2018 of anybody. You can add that to, like, the list of the great individual years that anybody has ever had in the history of rap. Like, if we're just talking numbers plus quality of music...

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: ...She's up there.

SANDERS: I got to tell you - even though that song "I Like It" came out in 2018, there's a really great dance kind of trap remix from Dillon Francis that I still play at least once a week. The "I Like It (Dillon Francis Remix)" - listeners, it will make your head explode in the best way.

SERRANO: (Laughter).

SANDERS: It's so good. It's so good.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LIKE IT (DILLON FRANCIS REMIX)")

CARDI B: (Rapping) I run this shish like cardio.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: All right. Coming up, we will get into Missy Elliott's career. And we'll talk about the backstory of her iconic look from her music video for "The Rain" - you know, the big, oversized black leather garbage bag thing, a look which I love. Turns out, it was much deeper than you may know.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: I want to move on to another great woman in rap - Missy Elliott. Your Missy chapter was full of all kinds of feels, and I loved it.

SERRANO: Yeah.

SANDERS: And I think the best way to talk about that chapter and your thoughts on Missy is to open with a Missy story that I had never heard before until you wrote it in your book and I read that. She once wrote a rap song for a very young Raven-Symone.

SERRANO: Correct.

SANDERS: Please tell all of our listeners about all of that (laughter) 'cause I had no idea.

SERRANO: OK, so Missy - early in her career, she writes and produces this song for Raven-Symone. It's called "That's What Little Girls Are Made Of." Raven-Symone at the time was a child. She was a child rapper.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THAT'S WHAT LITTLE GIRLS ARE MADE OF")

RAVEN-SYMONE: (Rapping) Jump, Raven gonna pump from the fat beat-maker to the big rump-shaker.

SERRANO: In the song, there's a brief feature in it.

SANDERS: And a child star. Like, she was on "The Cosby Show" for a little bit...

SERRANO: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

SANDERS: And doing other stuff like that, right? Yeah.

SERRANO: Yeah, she's all over the place. They're doing the thing where they're like, well, let's cash in on this while we can. So they have her do the song. The song is great. It's, like, great for kid rapping, but it features a very brief cameo or feature verse from Missy Elliott.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THAT'S WHAT LITTLE GIRLS ARE MADE OF")

MISSY ELLIOTT: (Rapping) Like, why you need to tell me, friend?

RAVEN-SYMONE: (Rapping) Not trying to diss...

SERRANO: And when they filmed the video for it, Missy got replaced. They, like, didn't - they just replaced her with a thinner woman who had lighter skin. And this woman just sort of lip-synched to Missy's parts. And then Missy talked about it later on in interviews, that she got told after the fact that, like, per the record label, she didn't have the right look to be included in the video.

SANDERS: That is so awful.

SERRANO: Right? She talked about it with The Guardian in 2001. This is the quote that she had. She said, "They'd broken my heart. They said I could sing, I could write, but I looked wrong. That was the lowest thing you could say."

SANDERS: Wow.

SERRANO: "I didn't forget it." So that happens in 1993.

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: And then four years later, we fast-forward a little bit. Missy has parlayed her growing reputation as a songwriter and producer into this, like, unique situation. Elektra Records offers her her own label under the condition that she delivers them a solo project of her own, right? So that's what she ends up doing. That's how we get "Supa Dupa Fly" in 1997. And on this album, the very first video for it that Missy chose to make for it is "The Rain." It's probably her most famous song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE RAIN")

ELLIOTT: (Rapping) The rain hits my window. I take and (coughing) me some indo.

SANDERS: Which is one of the best music videos of all time. I feel like there was a good two years where MTV had to play it every seven minutes.

SERRANO: It was a pivotal moment in rap video history, unquestionably. The song is incredible here.

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: But so she makes her album. This is the first single. This is the first video that she's doing. And then later, like, the most iconic shot of her career, is of Missy in the inflated-with-air black leather outfit. And she's, like, center picture.

SANDERS: Which was, like, a big garbage bag.

SERRANO: It looks like a big garbage bag.

SANDERS: It looks like she's in a very big, shiny garbage bag.

SERRANO: Yeah, that's exactly what it looks like. It's on the cover of the book. It's one of my favorite rap images ever. So she's there, and she's in the big, inflated, leather outfit, center picture. This is a Hype Williams video. He's using the fisheye lens. It was just, like, such an interesting thing to see Missy, finally in, like, full creative control of her career, and the first thing she chooses to show everyone was an exaggerated version of the things that she'd been told were bad about herself previously. Like, everything they said was wrong with her...

SANDERS: Too big, too Black. Oh, I'll show you. I'm too big, I'm too Black?

SERRANO: She put it right on there. And then when you listen to the beginning of the song, she's just saying over and over again, me, I'm super fly, super duper fly, super duper fly.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE RAIN")

ELLIOTT: Me, I'm supa (ph) fly, supa dupa (ph) fly.

SERRANO: She says it 10 times in a row. She's showing you a picture, and then she's telling you, this is a good thing. This is a good thing. This is a good thing. This is a good thing. Right? And so this, like, whole set up - the imagery, the declaration, that unwavering confidence - very clearly to me, watching it afterward, is, like, a f*** you move. Like, I'm going to go out of my way...

SANDERS: Yes.

SERRANO: ...To prove this to you, sort of - I'm the only person on the planet who can do this kind of move. It was a perfect moment. It was undeniable. And then from that moment forward, from the first minute of the first video of her first album, everybody knew that Missy Elliott was special. Everybody knew that Missy Elliott was different. Everybody knew that she was going to do something incredible with her career. And then she went in, like - she did it.

SANDERS: Yes.

SERRANO: She called her shot, and then she did it.

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: And I love it.

SANDERS: Yeah. Well, and, like, this is yet another example of the book and what it did for me. I thought I knew all there was to know about Missy Elliott. I did not. And I think this video of hers that I love for "The Rain" - I didn't reconsider the imagery in that video until reading this chapter. And it's like, oh, of course. Like, there's some meta commentary here. Missy Elliott in a big, black, leather garbage bag means a lot more than just a person in a big, black, leather garbage bag. It is a commentary on race and size and gender and class, and she's saying, F all y'all. You will respect me. I am super duper fly. I love it.

SERRANO: Yeah, it's - when you spend that much time, like, just researching a thing or studying a thing, you're always going to learn stuff. Like, that always happens to me. And, like, you don't know any of the stuff until you learn the stuff, you know what I'm saying? I didn't know any of this...

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: ...Until I started researching. And then, oh, this all fits together. It all makes sense.

SANDERS: Yeah. I want to, if you're cool with it, spend a little time with two chapters in your book that get at a piece of hip-hop history that we should never forget, but I feel like not enough people remember.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: And now, people all over the world, it's the Source Hip-Hop Music Awards.

SANDERS: The 1995 Source Awards...

SERRANO: Oh, yeah.

SANDERS: ...Which were a hot mess, but it's also this perfect time capsule of where hip-hop was then and also this oracle which predicted where hip-hop was headed. Can we just spend some time and marinate in the '95 Source Awards?

SERRANO: I would love that. I was so excited when it showed up on the internet. A couple of years ago, it shows up on the internet in full. You can watch the entire thing, commercials and everything.

SANDERS: That's amazing.

SERRANO: And I was so pumped. I downloaded it 'cause I knew it was going to disappear eventually. I have it saved on my computer because that's the thing that everybody knows about. Even if you, like, are only on the very edge of listening to rap, like, you are familiar with the imagery from it. You're familiar with Suge Knight being up there, up on the stage. You're familiar with the come to Death Row whole thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SUGE KNIGHT: One other thing I'd like to say - any artist out there who want to be an artist and want to stay a star and don't have to worry about the executive producers trying to be all in the video, all on the record, dancing, come to Death Row.

SERRANO: I knew a bunch of pieces of it, but I had never watched it before. I didn't have cable at my house when this was a thing that was on TV, so I never got the chance to see it.

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: So...

SANDERS: You know what it felt like to me?

SERRANO: What did it feel like to you?

SANDERS: It felt like the hip-hop version of Oprah's Legends Ball.

SERRANO: (Laughter).

SANDERS: You know how, like, in the '90s...

SERRANO: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...At the peak of Oprah's Oprahness, she does this thing where she invites, like, 60 amazing, powerful Black women out to her compound for a weekend. She makes them all wear white and go through buffet lines. And she just has them give speeches to each other. And then there's a gospel concert.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: And it's crazy, but you realize when you finally watch it that you've been watching images and memes and moments from this Oprah Legends Ball your whole life. You just haven't watched the Legends Ball yet. And I had the same feeling reading your Source Awards chapter. It's like, oh, I know bits and pieces of the '95 Source Awards. I've just never watched the whole thing.

SERRANO: Yeah. And it was such an interesting, such a fun thing to sit down and watch it. This is what I was doing is I would watch a little bit of it, and then I would pause it, and then I would, like, try to learn everything I could about whatever it was that I had just seen. Like, I knew the people who were in there or whatever. But I was like, oh, why wasn't Nas nominated for any of these? It's like, this is '95. "Illmatic" had - came out in '94. He should've been all over this thing. But that wasn't the case.

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: So then I spent, like, a couple of days trying to hunt down why that didn't happen. Like, you just are searching through all of that.

And it became for me - like, I watched the whole thing in its entirety just one time through, uninterrupted. And then I went back and I rewatched it again, and I'm pausing it and trying to learn. It probably took me like two or three weeks to make my way through the whole thing.

SANDERS: Wow.

SERRANO: And by the end of it, I just felt so much fuller in my brain. Like, again, we just talked about the Suge Knight thing. Everybody remembers that moment, but, like, do you - like, what was the award that he was up there for? Why was Suge Knight on the stage?

SANDERS: Exactly.

SERRANO: You know what I'm saying? And I want to...

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: I want to know all of that stuff, too.

SANDERS: Exactly.

Coming up, we'll break down the 1995 Source Awards, which Shea says is one of the biggest nights in rap history.

So before we get into, like, a real ticktock (ph) of this award show, let's set up 1995 itself and what that year meant for hip-hop. So I guess to start, what was Source magazine, for folks who may not know?

SERRANO: By that time, by August of '95, it's the...

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: It was the biggest media voice in rap. Like, they were the bible of rap. They're not that anymore.

SANDERS: And if you could get a rapper on the cover of The Source, they had arrived.

SERRANO: Forget about it. Forget about it. This is like being on the cover of the Bible, if they put Jesus on the cover of the...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

SERRANO: That's what this was with The Source magazine. If you could be on the cover of that, that's what you knew (ph). It's so different to look back and see how we were consuming music - anything, really, in fact. It was like they would show up on your TV or, like, they would show up on the cover of Source or, like, Sway would tell you, hey, this is a person we care about now on MTV, and then you're like, OK, well, now we all care about this person. It doesn't work like that now with the internet.

SANDERS: And that's it.

SERRANO: The internet has atomized everything. Back then, we were all experiencing the same, like, six things at once.

SANDERS: There was a monoculture.

SERRANO: Yeah.

SANDERS: But, like, this was a big deal.

SERRANO: It was as big as it got. It was literally as big as it got in rap in this moment. You have all of the biggest rap stars on the planet, all gathered together.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: We got the Wu-Tang Clan in the house. That's right.

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: We got Jodeci there in the house, right? Salt-N-Pepa's in the house, right?

SERRANO: It was very clearly like, OK, this is Bad Boy versus Death Row, the two most powerful camps taking repeated shots at each other.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SNOOP DOGG: The East Coast ain't got no love for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg and Death Row? Y'all don't love us? Y'all don't love us? Let it be known, then. We know y'all East Coast.

SERRANO: And it was like - it was just so much. And then, of course, after that is when, you know, Tupac gets murdered, Biggie gets murdered. And then you look back and you watch it now, and it's like, oh, this is like...

SANDERS: It was foreshadowing. You saw it all in real time.

SERRANO: This is a way bigger thing than you thought. Twenty-six years later, it is still the biggest, most historic, most impactful award show night in rap history. Nothing will ever touch that moment there. And...

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: It got uploaded to the internet in its entirety.

SANDERS: You got to watch it.

SERRANO: And so now there's two chapters in the book about it. You got to watch it. I don't know if it's still there. If it's not, I'll email it to you. You can just have it.

SANDERS: Listen; I will hold you up to that. I will hold you to that, in part just to see the footage that you wrote about of Notorious B.I.G. really enjoying a live performance of the 69 Boyz doing the classic "Tootsee Roll."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Ladies and gentlemen, make some noise for the 69 Boyz.

SERRANO: Oh, man.

SANDERS: Biggie liked (ph) that song.

SERRANO: What a great little moment. What a great little moment. They're up there performing. 69 Boyz are performing. Just, like, they're doing their 69 Boyz thing. They're just dancing and having a 69 Boyz time.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOOTSEE ROLL")

69 BOYZ: (Rapping) To the left. To the left. To the right. To the right. To the front. To the front.

SERRANO: And then they show the crowd. And nobody's really that excited except for Biggie. He's just having a wonderful, wonderful experience. Watching that, just seeing, like, Biggie allowing, in that moment, himself to be, like, light and just, like, enjoying a thing, especially knowing what eventually comes in the, like, coming months or whatever, it was great.

SANDERS: Well, and, like, that song, "Tootsee Roll"...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOOTSEE ROLL")

69 BOYZ: Let me see the Tootsee Roll. Yeah, 199Quad.

SANDERS: It had major chicken noodle soup with the soda on the side energy.

SERRANO: (Laughter).

SANDERS: It was, like, a joke song. It was a dance song. It wasn't a hard rap song. It was, like, fun and light and, like, oh, my God, do this cool, fun dance. And to see Biggie, one of the toughest rappers of all time, bopping to it in the crowd, oh, what a beautiful thing.

SERRANO: Yeah. It was really wonderful. I imagine you and I are somewhere around the same age, so you were in school when this song was popular. Do you remember going to, like, the school dance and dancing to this?

SANDERS: Oh, yeah. And everyone - and it was tiring because the legs are getting a workout.

SERRANO: (Laughter).

SANDERS: And I'm just like, I can't make it the whole song with my legs doing that. Yeah. I don't have the quad strength. I don't have the quad strength.

SERRANO: (Laughter) Incredible.

SANDERS: One big takeaway, like, what do you think - from folks reading the chapters or watching the show, what should our biggest takeaway from The Source Awards be? What does it say most about hip-hop then and now?

SERRANO: Man, what a question. The thing that really stood out to me the most when I was rewatching it is that the way that we consume rap now is so different - well, not just rap but music. The way that we consume things now - rap, music, TV shows, movies, whatever - like, you can be a gigantic superstar in one corner of the Internet. And somebody two corners of the Internet over has never even heard of you. And that wasn't the case back then. That wasn't the case in the '90s. Like, my mom knew who Tupac was. My mom knew who - this little Mexican woman in San Antonio, she knew their names. Yeah. I'm certain she doesn't know, like, who Kendrick Lamar is or who Lil Durk is or Megan Thee Stallion.

SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.

SERRANO: You know, I'm certain that the - even though those are, like, three...

SANDERS: I don't actually know who Lil Durk is (laughter).

SERRANO: OK. Well, there you go (laughter).

SANDERS: All right. Yeah.

SERRANO: And rewatching the show, I was just reminded a lot of that. And I, like - I kind of miss it. I miss it a bunch.

SANDERS: Oh, yeah.

SERRANO: You know what I'm saying?

SANDERS: Oh, yeah.

SERRANO: I talked about my kids earlier. The twins are 14. This is right around when I was really - like, I had found rap. You do the thing when you're a teenager when you're like, I want to do what my parents aren't doing. So my dad was listening to, like, a lot of tejano music or classic rock, like Chalino Sanchez and Stevie Ray Vaughan and that sort of thing. My mom was listening to a lot of Motown stuff because she's from Michigan. And I was like, well, I want to find my own thing. And then I found rap. And I'm like, oh, man. All of the coolest people are rappers. This is what I'm going to listen to. It was about the age that my sons are now. And I can remember being in my room and, like, playing it on the radio. And then my mom would come in. And she'd tell me to turn the radio down. Or my dad would come in. It was, like, a thing they were watching me experience. And then my sons, I'm watching them now. But they always have, like, the headphones in. Or they're just playing it off of their phone. It doesn't feel as communal, you know?

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: And when I was watching the award show, I was thinking just a bunch about being 14 years old and so excited about this new world that had opened up to me and wanting to know every single thing about it - any kind of rap...

SANDERS: Yeah.

SERRANO: ...Didn't matter what it was. I would, like, go to the flea market. And I was just, like, buying whatever - I didn't even know, like, who anybody was. I'm just like, is this - what kind of music is this? Great. Let me have it. You know what I'm saying?

SANDERS: Yeah. Well, and, like, that's what I love about the book. It is making hip-hop and going back through this history communal. I'm reading the chapters and thinking about these great moments you're alluding to. And it feels like I'm there with you and there with other folks even though it's just me reading solo. And, yeah, I feel like in this era of streaming, this era of media fragmentation, it is so great to have something that makes me feel like I'm part of a larger community, where we can all talk about the same things in the same language. And, like, this book is giving me that. Like, talking about Missy Elliott, we all can do that together. I love that.

SERRANO: (Laughter).

SANDERS: And the book is giving me those vibes, so thank you for that.

SERRANO: Well, that's a very nice thing to say about a book. We should put that on the cover of it.

SANDERS: There you go. There you go.

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SANDERS: Thanks again to Shea Serrano. He's a senior staff writer for The Ringer, a No. 1 New York Times bestselling author, a San Antonio resident, which I love, and the host of the "No Skips" podcast. Shea's new book is called "Hip-Hop (And Other Things)." It is out right now. This episode of IT'S BEEN A MINUTE was produced by Audrey Nguyen. And we had fact checking the help from our intern, Nathan Pugh. Our editor for this one was Jordana Hochman. And we had engineering support from Neil Tevault and Josephine Nyounai. Listeners, we are back in your feeds on Friday. Until then, be good to yourselves. I'm Sam Sanders. We'll talk soon.

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