Mannie Fresh, Maximalism, and the Politics of Bigness

To make my introduction to the esteemed, venerable Epic Mail properly "big," it seems only appropriate, while our experts toil away at cracking the Chris Dane Owens code, to pay respects to the Godfather of Bigness, the Maven of Maximalism: Mannie Fresh. Former Big Tymer (c), Fresh in 2004 trumped his temporal bigness to release a banger examining the very reality of big itself.


Taken with the video (which for copyright purposes is unembeddable, but can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZ8Cpnjoggc), Fresh offers a framework for the signification of bigness. However, this is not an attempt to define bigness; for Fresh, bigness does not need smallness to offer contrast, it constructs its meaning by extension, not exclusion. What we see in the video are simulacra of bigness - oversized telephones, nearly impossible car modifications, exaggerated blue book values. Yet the axis of contrast is where this bigness intersects with the surrounding scene of urban poverty. Our first indication of Fresh's proportions of bigness come at the very second line of the song; the line "house real big" is met with an image strikingly different from our Cribs-influenced notion of rappers' residential grandeur.

I don't believe Fresh is making an ironic point that this house isn't big, for that would seem to contradict the very core of his maximalist philosophy. Merely that, compared to the barber shop we see later and the shotgun houses which Fresh sets as a backdrop for his street scenes, this house is, undeniably, big. It derives its bigness from dominating its own proportioned space, which is as close as I can come to a definition of Fresh's "bigness".

Consider also the example of the supposed "little person" Fresh's "king of the hood" persona takes as a sidekick.

This sidekick is not a foil of smallness to Fresh's bigness; he is, perhaps, an accomplice in bigness. This character, a Hervé Villechaize for the African-American South, is an inversion of bigness that in turn confirms the very action of bigness itself. When Fresh decides to trade his Maybach for a fleet of Cadillacs, this character is the first to receive one, before the large troop of Fresh's chums standing in the background. This character tells Fresh, "Boss, that's big, boss; real big." Despite all of Fresh's recitations of "real big" and its permutations, nowhere does this maximalist mantra carry more weight than when said by this small man. He embodies the very type of "littleness," yet in performance, in action he confirms just how big he is.

All this, I offer as a statement applicable to our own endeavors into epicness. Perhaps there is some concrete definition of epicness, but the best (and most bloggable) way to approach it is through an induction of things that are, recognizably, "epic." It is a peculiar linguistic extension that the attribution of this quality precedes the definition of it. Yet it is not incorrect or misdirected. Chris Dane Owens: undeniably epic; Lil Wayne: the very character of epicness itself (who, not coincidentally, makes an appearance with Fresh in one of the most epic party scenes of the "Real Big" video).

Epic Mail, then, exists as a prolegomena to epicness. It points towards that which is epic, and by doing so stumbles upon manifestations of epicness in itself. Epic Mail is the legitimate "king of its hood," without need for defining the boundaries of this hood. As we move forward in pursuit of epicness, perhaps it is appropriate to look towards Mannie Fresh as a guide, a parallel framework to understand the construction of bigness and epicness. And most assuredly we should look towards an elaboration of this philosophy in Fresh's next album, the promisingly titled "From Big to Huge."


Edgar Keats said...

oh shit, imeem.

You just turned it up a notch.

Andy said...

Epic post, Chris. I have some more thoughts on this, but i'll have to wait until I buy a gigantic keyboard

Coaltrain said...

I can't even being to express how happy this post makes me.

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