B.G. - Biography
By Eric Brightwell
Rapper B.G., with his signature mix of street tales and celebrations of luxury both defined and noisily heralded the dirty south’s dominance with a trademark, “bwah!” With an almost comically narrow focus (e.g. the Feds, the police, Valence & Magnolia, the streets in general, realness, breaking bread, and chopping or getting chopped), all delivered with a laidback flow that borders on nodding off, B.G. has throughout his career attracted large numbers of both fans and detractors. Listeners who delve beyond his singles are treated to other sides of B.G., self-aware, philosophical and even self-deprecating. Though he inevitably tends to load his prolific output with some filler, even his most minor releases have contained at least a handful of out-and-out classics.
B.G. was born Christopher Dorsey on September 3rd, 1980. Raised in Uptown New Orleans’s 13th ward, by most accounts he lived as normal a childhood as one can expect in that rough neighborhood. Like many of his peers, he originally began rapping purely for fun. However, when he was twelve years old, his childhood was shattered by a single event. After spending the weekend at his father’s home, he was picked up by his mother and taken to hers. When they arrived, they were notified by police that Dorsey’s dad had just been killed during a robbery, moments after Dorsey and his mother had left. Not surprisingly, a despondent Dorsey lost interest in school and turned to selling weed and dope. On the side, he continued to rap with premature world-weariness and his barber was impressed enough with the young one’s skill that he recommended an audience with two of his other clients, Brian “Baby” and Ronald “Slim” Williams, the heads of the then fledgling Cash Money Records. They liked what they heard and added him to their tiny roster and agreed to help look after him after the Dorsey family moved to New Orleans East. For a short while, B.G. went to Abramson High School but soon dropped out.
By fourteen, B.G. was a dope fiend, later alleging that his addiction was actively fostered by his employers at Cash Money. Originally known as Lil Doogie (and sometimes Gangsta D), Dorsey was paired with another young rapper and new signee, a twelve-year-old from Hollygrove who’d rapped on the playground as Shrimp Daddy and pestered Cash Money into giving him work. Shrimp Daddy, rechristened Baby D, and Doogie became The B.G.z, short for The Baby Gangstas. They released their debut, TRU Story (Cash Money) in 1995. In reality, it was primarily a Doogie solo effort, with Baby D (the squeaky-voiced, future Lil Wayne) only appearing on three tracks. Somewhat remarkably, although just fourteen, Dorsey already sounded much as he sounds today: hard, street, exceedingly confident and possessed of an accomplished and unique sense of flow.
Shortly after recording his debut, Dorsey was picked up and charged as a juvenile for possession of a firearm, crack and marijuana. Found guilty on all three, he was mercifully only given probation. But when he violated that, he ended up locked up for two months. After going home, he was once again devastated to find his best friend had been killed. Things got worse when he was pulled over and charged with possession of thirty valiums and two ounces of weed. This time he went to jail for a lengthier term. When his three year sentence was reduced to eight months, the freed B.G. made a decision to get his mind right. Although he would struggle for years to kick heroin, after deciding to devote himself to his music in earnest, he embarked on a period of prolificacy that he hasn’t approached since.
After having accidentally shot himself in the chest with his stepfather’s .44, Lil Wayne wasn’t active on the Cash Money for the next four years. Although Chopper City (1996-Cash Money) was credited to The B.G.s, it was in reality even more of a Dorsey solo record (the cover pictures the teenager standing calmly by himself as enormous bullets rain down around him). As a result, listeners began to associate the name B.G. with Doogie and he formally adopted the moniker. In 1999, both of The B.G.z albums were re-released and re-credited, this time solely to B.G. Although B.G.’s rapping is again in fine form, a lot of the credit for Chopper City’s success has to go to producer Mannie Fresh, who was at the time helping break Cash Money out of its earlier bounce mold by creating rich, varied, electronic backdrops that updated old school electro for the post-gangsta age. After this new direction was used on U.N.L.V.’s Uptown 4 Life to great, regional success, Chopper City furthered the new direction and the label’s rising reputation to near flawless effect. Whereas TRU Story remains interesting primarily as an artifact, Chopper City is a magnum opus. Even with virtually no distribution, it still sold 100,000 copies around the city.
By 1997, the entire, original Cash Money roster was gone except for B.G. and The Big Tymers. The label’s cash cows, B.G. and Mannie Fresh were both given busy work schedules. It's All on You (1997-Cash Money) was followed four months later by It's All on You - Volume 2 (1997-Cash Money). Both were surprisingly solid records. The same year, The Hot Boys were formed, mainly to capitalize on the fame of B.G. and newly signed Juvenile whilst introducing a just-returned Lil Wayne and another new signee, Young Turk. Yet again B.G. and Mannie Fresh delivered the goods. After Cash Money signed a major deal with Universal, B.G.’s Chopper City in the Ghetto (1999-Cash Money) perfectly balanced accessibility and inventiveness. His first record to benefit from Cash Money’s national distribution with Universal, it spawned the airwave-dominating “Cash Money is an Army” and the even bigger "Bling Bling.”
For better or for worse, overnight “bling bling” became a household term, immediately and annoyingly overused as shorthand for jewelry by anyone trying to (jokingly or not) be down. Not surprisingly, B.G. became the symbol of all that was wrong with rap for Native Tongues-worshipping youths too young to remember the equally materialist celebrations of Eric B & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J, Dana Dane and nearly every other rapper of the 1980s. B.G. didn’t seem duly concerned. With his newfound success, B.G. was now actually able to afford some of the things he’d previously just rapped about. In typical new money fashion, he began flaunting multiple Rolex watches, necklaces and flashing his grill in defiance of haters’ protestations. At the time, Cash Money’s album covers were done by Pen & Pixel; crudely rendered, garish, digital collages portraying their artists living in gilded halls with multiple luxury cars, gem-incrusted furniture and adoring harems. Gold teeth are hardly new in the south - turn of the century New Orleanian pimp/jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton flossed in diamond encrusted gold fronts. But for non-southern, regionalist haters unaccustomed to cornrows and grills, they became an emblem of all that they despised in this sudden invasion of southern rubes. Not taking time to worry about so complaints, B.G. instead devoted his time turning in a naturalistic performance as an uptown D-boy named Chopper in the film, Baller Blockin’.
In 2000, B.G. released what would prove to be his final album with Cash Money, Checkmate. On it, B.G. occasionally fades into the background as Mannie Fresh gamely experiments with some of his most insane productions. Occasionally the results are dazzling, other times they fall a bit flat. Though still a minor, at this point B.G. had six records under his belt. He also felt that he was being cheated out of his share of the royalties on some of the label’s biggest successes. In early 2001, B.G. became the first artist to leave Cash Money in a second wave of departures, ultimately followed by Turk, Juvenile and Mannie Fresh. As a free agent, B.G. quickly dusted himself off and entered a drug treatment program in Minnesota. He also started a new label, Chopper City Records, and signed a deal with Koch Records. After treatment, he ended up moving to Detroit where he had family and people.
Since leaving Cash Money, B.G.’s musical approach has been rather different. B.G. now seems to be attempting to show his range and broaden his appeal with albums that employ various producers to create a broader variety of songs. He still raps with his instantly recognizable syrupy croak but the records generally feature a larger roster of guests. The results are less consistent but all contain some gems. His first post-Cash Money release was Livin' Legend (2003-Koch). At 35 tracks, it can’t help but seem a bit thin. However, Life after Cash Money (2004-Koch) is much more concise. Though it has numerous highlights, “Geezy Where U Been” stands out as one of the greatest tracks B.G.’s dropped yet. The Heart of tha Streetz, Vol. 1 (2005) was more uneven but not without highlights like “Where da at?” and the heartstring-tugging, goosebump-causing “U See Why.” The Heart of tha Streetz, Vol. 2 (2006) saw the return of the post-Cash Money Mannie Fresh on the poppy single, “Move Around”. Since then, B.G.’s been strangely quiet although he’s been said to be working on a new album, tentatively titled Too Hood 2 Be Hollywood. Don’t be surprised if it’s followed by a volume two.