Beanie Sigel (Dwight Grant)
b. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1974.
2000:The Truth. 2000:The Dynasty: La Roc la Familia. 2002:The Reason. 2005:The B.Coming. 2006:Public Enemy #1 (Mixtape). 2007:The Solution.
Beanie Sigel has yet to make a great album but rappers like Beans rarely do. Similar to Geto Boys, a big influence, the strains of self-destruction and depression in his music are so real that it makes sense he can’t get his shit together for an entire album. ‘The Truth’ and ‘The Reason’ have plenty of classics but drag. ‘The B.Coming’ is closest and with some re-sequencing and lopped-off guest spots, it would be perfect; but perfect isn’t why you listen to a guy like Beanie Sigel. The album was recorded right before Sigel went to jail and the dread is palpable. Flaws and all, it feels like a guy with nothing to do but rap, with anybody out there, over any beat (even chimpmunk Bon Jovi). ‘Feel it in the Air’ might be his masterpiece, one of the few homages to ‘My Mind’s Playing Tricks On Me’ that rivals the original.
His personal life continues to overshadow his talent (or are they one in the same?); his step-father was found burned to death in 2006, he’s been arrested numerous times since his release from prison, there are numerous rambling interviews where Beans, high on something, airs-out somebody. He seems truly unpredictable, the kind of rapper that I fear I’ll wake up one morning to read of his early death.
On particularly poignant or violent verses, that unpredictability is transformed into great, actual street rap. He also has a knack for giving great performances in straight-to-video rap movies (the ‘State Property’ series, ‘Paper Soldiers’) that feature otherwise atrocious acting. In a way, that defines Sigel, working equally hard on anything put in front of him, with little interest in saving or storing his talent: Beans never half-asses anything.
His place in real rap history is already established, as a part of the Roc-A-Fella dynasty in its heyday. While Jay-Z was the obvious leader, Beans is pretty much responsible for making Jay-Z the more complex, introspective person he’s become. Ever notice how every early “reflective” Jay-Z song, if you thought hard about the lyrics, it was Jay who was the asshole? Beanie brought a sense of self and morality that Jay picked up on. It moved him away from “thug em’, fuck em’, love em’, leave em”. I’d even go as far as to suggest that Jigga swiped plenty from Sigel’s flow (compare ‘The Truth’s ‘Mac Man’ and Jay’s ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’) and it isn’t a coincidence that with Sigel mostly out of his life, a pathetic version of maturity is found on ‘Kingdom Come’.