David Catalano’s web series The Smalls Family features a sitcom-esque suburban clan with one twist: Their dialogue is a word-for-word transcription of songs by platinum-selling hip-hop artist Notorious B.I.G.
“Some people wanna stick me like fly paper, neighbor!” teen Katie Smalls fumes to her parents over a pizza dinner in their upper middle class home. A jealous friend just texted her at “5:46 in the evening” and now she’s steamin’, “Why they wanna stick me for my cream?”
B.I.G.’s dark, witty, autobiographical lyrics and epic flow revolutionized the sound of hip-hop in the 1990s, and his famed rivalry with West Coast rapper Tupac brought a broader demographic to appreciate the art form. (Both were shot to death, in 1997 and 1996, respectively.)
One of those fans was Catalano, who related to Biggie’s aspirational, world-worn lyrics in his own life as a struggling New York filmmaker.
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“Biggie’s unique language and complex way of storytelling strikes right to my core and it always has,” enthuses Catalano, who found himself, years later, reciting Biggie’s lyrics while working around the house one day. He cracked himself up, thinking he probably sounded like a corny suburban dad lecturing his kid. And thus, the idea for The Smalls Family was born.
The show might seem like an incongruous mash-up, done merely for humor’s sake, but hearing Biggie’s lyric urban poetry removed from its original context actually accentuates its beauty. The three actors commit themselves to the emotions of his words, hitting home the universals to which decades of fans have connected. And why not have more Biggie Smalls in our lives? Next time your friend’s feeling down, tell him, “Wipe the cold out your eye.”