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Baylor Football in Hip-Hop: Episode 3

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Comparing memorable Baylor Football games to iconic Hip-Hop songs

Baylor v Oklahoma State
Was there ever a doubt
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

There are like 4 things I hold as absolute truths deep within the most pure and unadulterated pieces of my heart. One of those things is that the 2015 iteration of the Baylor Bears would have won a national championship if Seth Russel didn’t suffer the first of his two *incredibly* unlucky injuries. We had the juice, gang. No one was going to stop us. We still almost pulled off a third consecutive Big 12 championship up until the next 2 quarterbacks in line got injured as well.

Today we’ll take a 30,000 foot view of not only one of the greatest songs to ever be put into the universe, but we’ll also get a chance to show due respect to two artists who, in very different fashions, also never got a to realize their full potential in the hip-hop game. Pack a light lunch, put on your Sunday best, and take a stroll with me as we gaze upon the glory that is 2015 Baylor vs. Oklahoma State and Mo Money Mo Problems by The Notorious B.I.G featuring Mase and Sean “Diddy” Combs.

As always, I recommend taking a deep breath before ingesting either of these two masterpieces that I have so graciously linked for you below

The Bears

I say this without a single moment of hesitation: The 2015 Baylor football team (weeks 1-8 only) was the best football team that has ever put on the green and gold (or gun metal grey). They were as close to a perfect football team as I have ever seen with my own eyes. Seth Russel took over the offense from 2-time Heisman vote receiver Bryce Petty, Corey Coleman walked into his role as WR1 for the Bears, and Shock Linwood had reached his final form. The team was unbeatable. It took season ending injuries from their #1, #2, and #3 quarterbacks to keep this team from a 3rd consecutive Big 12 championship and 1st ever playoff berth for the Bears.

Up until that fateful October day against Iowa State when Seth was knocked out for the remainder of the season, the Bears had welcomed any challenger and instantly hit them with a dozen Stone Cold Stunners in the blink of an eye. In the 7 games that we were all so fortunate to see Seth take the field that year, the Bears averaged 61 points per game. Corey Coleman was the deepest anyone had ever been in their bag on his way to Baylor’s first ever Biletnikoff award (given to the best individual wide receiver in college football every year). KD Cannon had already established himself as an elite deep threat that you could only hope to contain because he was going to run past you and everyone you loved if you blinked. I’ll say it again just in case you missed it: This was the best offense in school history

The defense was littered with future NFL talent, including both Waco-born legend (and strongest man on the planet) Andrew Billings as well as current NFL All-Pro Xavien Howard. The true level of talent on display on the defense never got a chance to shine through on the box score simply because the offense refused to give them a chance to catch their breath after a stop. As soon as Billings & company would get to the bench and grab a seat, Seth would be walking off the field winking at the gang because he knew he probably could have done them a favor by stretching the drive a few plays longer. Seth wasn’t here to be nice. He was here to score points and to give all lanky white dudes hope that they might still have some gas in the tank after watching him embarrass defenders for 3 hours a week.

If we ever, ever get within 5% of the skill on this team again (and they manage to stay healthy), we will win a national championship. It’s that simple.

The Beats

I have written and re-written this section about 4 different times, and I don’t know how else to say this: It is impossible to overstate how much of an impact that the Notorious B.I.G has had on both hip-hop music and American pop-culture before his passing and especially after. At the time of writing this piece, Biggie has been gone for (give or take a 100 days ) exactly as long as we got to spend with him down here. Despite passing on March 9, 1997, we have been blessed with 2 chart-topping posthumous albums and an entire generation of lyricists owing their flow and cadence to one of the realest to ever grace a microphone.

Mo Money Mo Problems is found on the first of the two aforementioned albums, Life After Death, we all have been so lucky to hear since Biggie left us in ’97, and features two additional titans in Rap History: Mase and Diddy. The song topped the Billboard charts at #1 and was listed as the 85th best song (regardless of genre) of the 1990’s. Context aside, this song is infinitely repeatable and leaves you feeling equally hopeful and untouchable after every listen.

This song was B.I.G’s second #1 song (his first was Hypnotize) after his passing and actually supplanted “I’ll Be Missing You” from the top of the charts. For those who are unacquainted with “I’ll Be Missing You,” it was Diddy’s version of a public eulogy for Biggie Smalls and I can’t imagine a more perfect song to knock it off the top of the mountain.

To this day, Biggie is still the only artist in Hot 100 history to have two number one singles posthumously.

Zooming into the song itself, the instrumental is built off a sample of the Diana Ross slapper “I’m Coming Out” which is just a really, truly cool thing. We start off with a verse from a true rap “What-if” in Mase. As a quick refresher, Mase was damn near at the top of the hip-hop mountain at the peak of his career between 1996 and 1999. He had six Billboard Hot 100 top 10 singles and 5 #1 singles on the US Rap charts. His 1997 album “Harlem” went quadruple platinum – in other words the sky was truthfully the limit for his young career.

In 1999, Mase released his second album, Double Up, and it debuted at #11 on the US Top 200 chart. Shortly after the album’s release, Mase announced his retirement from music to pursue a “calling from God,” and all but disappeared from public life as he enrolled at Clark Atlanta University. While Mase has returned to music on-and-off for the last 20 years, and still managed to put out great music, his trajectory was markedly different after he stepped away to chase dreams outside of hip-hop.

A fun piece of trivia on Mase’s verse here is that on Drake’s 2013 banger “Worst Behavior” he pays homage to this song by verbatim copying the first half of it to open up the 3rd stanza. That’s the impact Mase had on the industry: A top 10 artist in the world in the last decade copy-and-pasted his words 15 years after he spit them.

After our ears are christened with the perfect chorus courtesy of R&B legend Kelly Price, we are offered a rare modern glimpse to what Sean “Diddy” Combs brings to the table as a lyricist. Diddy’s career was built on his ability as a rapper and a producer, but the last 15 years have been defined by his ability as a true media mogul and not just a lyricist. It can be easy to forget exactly how talented this man was on a track, but we really do get to see the best of him on Mo Money Mo Problems. His verse serves as essentially a victory-lap on the entire industry with direct quotes like “I call all the shots,” “10 years from now we’ll still be on top.,” and “I’m bigger than the city lights like down in Times Square.” This is actually a super accurate look at where Diddy was at in his career as well as the trajectory he was on, because he was better than your favorite artist, he knew it, and he wanted to make sure you knew it as well.

A few moments after the listener receives another quick reminder that the more money you come across, the more problems you’ll see we get what every person hopes for when they spin a record for the first time: a truly perfect moment in music history. Biggie sprints to the mic, hard stops, and provides us with an all-time sound bite: “B.I.G P.O. – P.P.A, no info for the D.E.A.“

(Do me a favor right here and queue up that song, fast forward to 2:04 so you can hear his brief “UH” and then those lyrics to get the full picture of how immensely this part rules thank you)

We get a full 16 bars of Biggie from the afterlife here and the entire verse serves as a retrospective on what he was about, how incredible the lifestyle he got to briefly live was, and how his innate ability to put pen to paper was unmatched both then now. The world is better because we got to spend 25 years with Christopher Wallace and his impact reverberates in hip-hop today just as much as it did in 1997. I could give you another 1500 words right here about what he meant to American music, how your favorite hip-hop artist grew up idolizing him, and how his impact on rap music is literally incalculable, but that still wouldn’t do his memory justice. This is a perfect verse in every sense: the cadence, the flow, the delivery, all of it.

The Battle

Yep, we’re unpacking the Chris Johnson game today, team. Fresh off their 1st loss of the season (and only their 4th conference loss in 28 Big-12 games), Baylor hit the road and attempted to get back on track in a freezing cold matchup against the #6 ranked Cowboys. Baylor had not won a road game against Gundy’s crew in over 70 years, and with their starting quarterback out for the year they were not expecting to waltz out of Boone Pickins Stadium with an easy victory by any means.

Mase & Diddy

After taking a big hit early in the game the week before, Jarret Stidham (the third-highest rated recruit in Baylor history) took the field under center amidst rumblings that his ankle was still not 100% recovered. He quickly (or at least we thought) quieted all of those doubts with a 48 yard heat-seeking missile to Corey Coleman. Three Shock Linwood gut punches later and the Bears were up a score in Stillwater. I’m not sure exactly how well we all remember this game, but the following drive by the Cowboys included a fumbled jet sweep that Baylor took to the house. After a lengthy review, the officials *somehow* called the Cowboy player down and in the process took away an incredible play from Grant Campbell. Haven’t heard that name in a minute, have you?

After a quick 3-and-out from the Cowboys, Stidham and company trot back on the field, and 3 plays later we were back in the end zone, 14-0. This score is probably one of the most fun scores lodged in my memory. This route was something that KD Cannon had thrown out there a few times but never was it ever this beautiful. He runs 6 yards, throws a head fake and a stutter-step at his defender, then immediately sprints downfield. The defender bit and precisely one second later, Mr. Cannon was 7 yards behind the defense with a football under his arm on his way to the promised land.

Regretfully, Stidham’s ankle still wasn’t up to snuff and while he had the arm talent to unlock any defense, he left the game after half time and would never take another snap as a Baylor Bear. Similar to Mase, he stepped away for a while at the top of his career before making a comeback a few years later under a different offense and end up still finding success. Stidham was the starter at Auburn in the 2017 season and gave ole Nick Saban his annual dose of cold water to the face as Auburn took down Alabama 26-14. Stidham is now the backup quarterback in New England so it’s safe to assume things panned out for him.

The Notorious B.I.G.

Let’s make sure we are on the same page before we move further: I am absolutely not comparing the careers of Biggie and Chris Johnson. What we’re going to do here is quickly peek at how Johnson’s herculean performance in the second half of this game makes me feel exactly the same way Biggie’s verse does on this song.

His performance in the second half in this game is why this game will be forever remembered as the Chris Johnson game. Man walked into the season as a third-string quarterback behind what should have been two of the best to ever do it in green and gold, put his head down, and got the hell to work. Third string quarterbacks typically will get some garbage time snaps early in the season and then if things go right, we don’t hear from them again until spring camp. Buddy, let me just tell you: things did not go right for us, and Chris was thrust into a top-10 road matchup and asked to manage a game that could have easily slipped out of our hands. All he did was buckle his chinstrap and score three touchdowns en route to Baylor’s first victory in Stillwater since the Roosevelt administration.

Let’s look at all 3 and relate them back to lines biggie blessed us with here, team:

My team supreme, stay clean

Baylor’s first drive of the second half was going to make-or-break the game. The defense had done their job and bottled up the Cowboys, and now it was time to see if we were going to be able to weather a 30-minute storm in Stillwater. The drive should have been only two plays as Johnson threw a *perfect* pass to KD Cannon down the seam that a diving defender just got a fingertip to the ball to keep us from pay-dirt. A few short runs, quick passes, and a fourth down conversion later Johnson found a streaking Jay Lee and threaded the needle between 2 Cowboy defenders to open the scoring in the second half.

Not only was Johnson capable of managing an 11-play drive with efficiency, but he could also drop dimes on your head no matter how hard you tried to stop him from doing it. Scary hours in Stillwater, gang.

Me lose my touch, never that

After an impressive but ultimately fruitless drive from Oklahoma State, out trots Johnson again with his eyes in one direction: KD Cannon. Two runs apiece from Corey Coleman (how fun was it to see him in the backfield that year???) and Shock Linwood later, Chris threw probably a top 10 prettiest pass I have ever (and I do mean ever) seen and hit Cannon 45 yards downfield as the bears hit 607 offensive yards on the evening and were now up 38-14 in Stillwater. This play also provided us with one of my favorites still images in Baylor Football History

looks its blurry but you get it

Where the true players at? Throw your Rollies in the sky

As expected, Oklahoma State clawed their way back and cut the lead to 10 points with 5 minutes left in the game. Now more than ever we needed someone to step up and put those bums in the dirt. Johnson was able to come in, make great decisions and eventually took the ball on a read-option 4 yards to the end zone. The game was over, and Chris Johnson made that choice for all of us. Oklahoma state did get a late touchdown, but after a failed onside kick Johnson took a kneel down and sealed the biggest road victory of my lifetime.

That Baylor team, injuries, and all, is still my favorite team of all-time. They started the year with legitimate national title aspirations, had a ridiculously unlucky streak of injuries to the entire quarterback room, and still fought their way to 10 wins on the year. Not to mention they walked into the Russell Athletic Bowl and ran for 645 yards on a very good North Carolina team. This year gave us a glimpse at what could have been with Seth, the ballad of Jarrett, and the Chris Johnson game. Similarly, Mo Money Mo Problems gave us not just a perfect song, but was a legitimate victory lap for Mase, Diddy, and the late Notorious B.I.G. I love both pieces of art dearly, and I hope you do too.