Hopefully, this guy is doing OK
Beanie Sigel‘s The B.Coming, which came out earlier this year, is an understated masterpiece of anger and dejection and loneliness and tension. Musically, it’s a gorgeous example of East Coast soul-rap: moaning saxophones, warped metallic bass, twisted-up dusky 70s R&B samples. Recorded shortly before and released slightly after Jay-Z broke from fellow label founders Damon Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke, it also works as an elegy for Roc-A-Fella Records, the last album to feature most of the label’s roster before it broke into two rival factions, Beanie and Peedi Crack and Young Chris yelling out “State Property” at the last moment that the crew’s name would mean anything. More importantly, it’s a document of one of Beanie darkest moments. Sigel recorded the album just before going off to prison to serve a one-year conviction on a federal gun charge, knowing he’d have to stand trial on an attempted-murder charge just after his release. And so Beanie’s sadness and fear are right there on the record in the heaviness and regret of his voice and his words: “I do my dirt so my kids see heaven on earth / but the pain in my heart weighs heavy; it hurt.”
Since The B.Coming dropped, I’ve been wrestling with my feelings about it, figuring out where it’ll end up on my end-of-year list (music critics start do this), and I’m almost certain it’ll end up in my top ten for the year. Beanie was in prison by the time the album was released, and he wasn’t around to promote it or State Property 2, the movie he starred in before going to prison. (He didn’t even get to see State Property 2 until he got out of prison.) Neither was a commercial success; the movie went from theaters to DVD in just a few months, and the album still has yet to go gold.
Beanie came home from prison on August 9 after serving about ten months of his one-year sentence. He started working quickly, appearing in Young Jeezy‘s “Soul Survivor” video as Jeezy’s boss at a laundromat and then adding a verse to Sheek Louche’s “Kiss Your Ass Goodbye” remix, appearing on a track for the first time with former nemesis Jadakiss. He refused to pick sides between Jay and Dash in the Roc-A-Fella split, opting to start his own State Property label rather than choose between his friends. He’s apparently had at least one meeting with 50 Cent, and rumors are swirling that he’ll sign to G-Unit Records. Beanie says that he won’t sign with G-Unit because he doesn’t want to be under another artist again, but he’s talked vaguely about a “co-venture” with 50.
Most importantly, Beanie was acquitted of attempted murder on September 26 after two days of jury deliberation. Sigel was alleged to have shot a man named Terrence Speller twice outside a Philadelphia Nightclub in 2003, and the acquittal came shortly after Speller’s friend David Aimes changed his testimony, saying that he couldn’t remember seeing Sigel shoot Speller. Aimes and Speller had both testified earlier that they had received threats against their lives, and I certainly don’t want to believe that Aimes changed his testimony out of fear, but the whole thing is really weird and sketchy. But a jury found Beanie not guilty, and I certainly hope that’s the case.
In any case, this should be a great time in Beanie’s life: out of prison, winning a huge court case, ready to find a new record deal and finally become the star he always should’ve been. And then his stepfather was murdered. Last week, Sam Derry’s body was found in Philadelphia. He was dead from multiple gunshot wounds, and his body had been badly burned. The next day, Derry’s friend and former cellmate Wallace Moody was kidnapped and tortured. It’s unclear right now whether the two crimes are connected or if they have anything to do with Beanie, but Allhiphop.com reported last night that a federal grand jury subpoenaed Sigel in an unrelated case. The chaos in this guy’s life never seems to slow down.
I don’t know much of anything about Beanie Sigel as a person; I’ve never met him or seen him perform or anything. But he’s made music that I love, and it’s hard to read this constant parade of bad news about his life. I was talking to Riff Raff yesterday about his Clipse piece and how I’ve found myself enjoying coke-dealer rap without putting any thought whatsoever into what they’re talking about, what kind of impact that drugs and violence and poverty have on people’s lives. Things are different now that I live in Park Slope instead of Baltimore, now that I don’t have to deal with the threat or the effects of violent crime on a daily basis, now that I never see people on the bus with pictures of their dead friends on their T-shirts or read stories in the local paper about people being murdered over pocket change or because someone stepped on someone else’s shoes. In this Allhiphop.com interview, Sigel says that the image people get of him from his movies and his music isn’t the real him. I hope it’s true. I hope he finds peace.
Voice review: Raquel Cepeda on Beanie Sigel’s The Truth