It's not every day that Dubai denizens have the opportunity to recreate one of the most iconic images in hip hop. But thanks to Sole DXB, Reebok Classic, and Barron Claiborne, the photographer who immortalised The Notorious B.I.G. in these seminal shots, attendees were able to do just that - gold crown included.
"I’ve been taking pictures since I was 10 years old," Barron tells Grazia. "The picture matters to me. I’m not putting anything above what I want to do in the photo."
Even if it means going up against Diddy, it would seem, as we learn in a new book, Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop (Clarkson Potter). "Every time I thought of Biggie, I always thought of him as a big West African king, but Puffy wasn't so into it," Barron reveals to author Vikki Tobak. "He kept saying that he was worried Big looked like 'the Burger King.' Big was laughing it off and was trying to reassure Puffy that it was a cool concept, and everyone finally got on the same page."
What then followed was the iconic King of New York shoot, which have become among the most enduring images in hip-hop culture after the rapper lost his life three days later in a drive-by shooting. "I’m proud of it because I actually really liked Biggie, and I’m glad that’s how people remember him. I’m proud of just that. He is the king, and no one can take that away from him."
"Biggie let me do what I wanted. He wasn’t trying to tell me what to do. He showed up, we told him the idea, he sat there and he did it," he recalls of the 1997 shoot taken on film prior to dawn of digital photography and camera phones. "The problem now is people want to look perfect. Everybody takes a thousand selfies. Everybody’s a photographer. Everyone is too into their image. A lot of the most beautiful images were not planned. They just happened. Nobody planned them. You destroy all the spontaneity. That’s what digital allows – it allows you to plan. Before you had to wait. The anticipation makes it better."
- Barron Claiborne portrait of The Notorious B.I.G. appears in Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop by Vikki Tobak (Clarkson Potter) out now. Visit contacthighproject.com for more info
Photos: Barron Claiborne courtesy of Vikki Tobak and Reebok