The Moment: Biggie at the Hoodshock Festival with the Bad Boy Family

The Moment: Biggie at the Hoodshock Festival with the Bad Boy Family-T Dot Eric

Back Story

Hoodshock was a free outdoor hip-hop festival used as a way to increase voter registration. Conceived and organized by Lauryn Hill, the NYC venue was in front of the Harlem State Office Building at 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.

The Photographed Moment

The day of the event, I had no urgency to get there. I was not on assignment to cover the show, just wanted to get a few shots to sell to magazines. This was pre-internet — no social media, no instant sharing, and no cellphone cameras.

I was not invited to the event, nor was I on the press or VIP list. By this time, having photographed so many events and dealt with numerous situations to get in, this was no different to me than going to a record industry party. You knew you would know everyone there and they would know you; there would be no issue getting in.

I arrived at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. building in Harlem. I went to the media check-in table and received a credential to walk around among the performers. My pass allowed me to get on-stage as well. I walked past security and went to the backstage area.

Biggie and the Bad Boy Family were the next act to perform. In the backstage area, I kept to myself. Because I was not the senior photographer of a magazine or a music industry insider, people knew my face, but never really knew who I was. I was just always around, taking pictures with the intent of getting the images into magazines.

As Biggie and the Bad Boy Family gathered to go on-stage, I ran into a childhood friend who was also performing at Hoodshock. It was as if we were back in the halls of Franklin High School. Keisha Spivey Epps came up to me with a warm smile and an energetic, “Wud-Up!” We laughed together, like we were about to go into math class again.

At this time, Keisha was in the group Total, signed to Bad Boy records. They had a hit song with Biggie, Can’t You See, that was also on the soundtrack of the movie New Jersey Drive. Keisha then said, “I’ll talk to you later,” as she prepared to perform with Biggie, Puffy (Diddy), Lil’ Kim, and the Bad Boy Family.

Biggie’s opening set was amazing. I loved watching him go from sweet lovable cuddly Big Poppa to energetic Big as he rapped along with Lil Kim and on to that Brooklyn gangster, complete with his fingers pointed and curled to resemble a gun. Biggie embodied his personas. His authentic nature and charm is what made Biggie loved, and feared.