Vibe Speaks To Cheo Hodari Coker On ...     

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3/19/2004 3:31:55 PM
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VIBEOnline: What inspired you to write this book?

Cheo: I was approached by Rob Kenner, who was my editor on my original cover story that I wrote about B.I.G. in March of ’97. I was pretty much around B.I.G. that entire month and was with him up until 36 hours before he was killed. I also felt a personal responsibility to do the book because of the fact that B.I.G. gave me his last interview, because of the fact that I had interviewed him in ‘94, because I had written the Rolling Stone record review, because I had always followed his career and got to know him a little bit. Other books came out that didn’t capture anything about the man—they only captured elements of the murder investigation. According to these other books, the biggest thing B.I.G. did in his life was die. It really bothered me that people didn’t attempt to get who he was behind the persona. I really wanted to capture the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful of the Notorious B.I.G.

VIBEOnline: How was it different researching and writing this book as apposed to your various cover stories and reviews?

Cheo: A book is a cover story on steroids—it’s the same process but larger. If you talk to some of my editors, the one thing that you’ll hear about me is the fact that I always overwrite. When I do write a cover story, I write the way a director shoots footage. Even for a 4,000 word cover story I write 10,000. A: because I’m crazy. And B: because that’s how I find the story. The great thing about Rob Kenner is that he understands my process because he’s been my primary editor for nine years. Every chapter was like a cover story. That’s how I broke it down because it was less intimidating. I was scared. I’ve never written a book.

I can’t wait to revise this book. I really hope that Unbelievable has the kind of life that a biography like Catch A Fire had, where every year or two you can come out with another edition that has more interviews or a different appendix. I really see this as a book that has the potential to live far beyond the three-to-five month cycle that your average book has. A big part of that is the fact that B.I.G.’s fan base, like Marley’s or John Lenon’s, grows every year. The coolest thing about the way music and life works is that every day somebody’s having their first B.I.G. experience.

VIBEOnline: Were there any particularly hard interviews?

Cheo: The hardest thing for me to write about was the murder investigation. As open as people were about B.I.G.’s life, I think it was painful for people to talk about his death. I think it was frustrating to some of them. The frustration I had was the same frustration that Ms. Wallace has. Those that know don’t tell, and those that don’t know want to talk. It’s been seven years and people unfortunately know more than they’re saying and you hope that one day they’ll come forward. I’m one of the minority that believe that Christopher Wallace’s murder will be solved one day. I don’t think it’s going to happen when people want it to happen. It might take ten or twelve years but I do think it’s going to happen. I didn’t let my book become dominated by that because of the fact that I really wanted to find out who he was. I wanted readers to understand who he was and why we care about it seven years later, not just that he died in this horrible way.

The book is 85 percent about his life because I know that if I did do a follow up to this book it would be all about his murder and I would feel free to do that because I’ve spent so much time establishing his life. He deserves an entire book.

VIBEOnline: Can you tell B.I.G. fans something about him that maybe they don’t already know?

Cheo:A lot of people don’t know that he could draw; that he was a very good visual a

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