Eli Ybarra is a fan of Notorious B.I.G., to the point that he was up at 3 a.m. to be the first in line at Big Poppa’s, a pop-up cafe that opened at 5:46 a.m. at Take 3 Burgers on Fulton Mall.
Today marks 20 years since the rapper’s death.
“I got the wakeup call,” says Nicole Perez, who joined Ybarra and about a dozen other fans as the first to eat the Biggie breakfast. That’s a T-bone steak, cheesy eggs and Welch's grape juice – a la lyrics from the the song “Big Poppa.”
After breakfast, Perez was headed to work and Ybarra to school.
Everything about the cafe, from its opening time, to the menu and the art on the walls, is based on Biggie lyrics.
For the hardcore Biggie fan, it's a way to show how serious they are with their fandom, says Sam Hansen, who partnered with Desirae Washington-Reed and Take3 Burgers on a similar Biggie tribute last year. They also did the popular Tupac-themed cafe .
“If you wanna one-up your friends, you can hang out and live a Biggie lyric,” Hansen says.
The Biggie breakfast has actually been a tradition for Hansen for almost a decade. He took the idea from his dad, who would make fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches every year on Jan. 8 in honor of Elvis Presley.
Hansen wasn’t into Presley. He was into hip-hop and Biggie is one of the all-time greats.
“He’s gonna be in the top five at least,” says Kay Rich a local DJ and promoter, who was at the turntables in the back of the cafe providing music for the guests. That included “The Warning,” which he played at 5:46 a.m. in keeping with the song’s lyrics.
At every party, at every event he plays, there’s always at least one Biggie song on the play list, Rich says.
Or, someone asking for it. That’s the kind of love people have for the music.
You may debate whether Biggie was the best emcee – and get serious push back from Tupac fans – but there is no denying he was one of the best storytellers in hip hop, Hansen says. While Tupac left detailed instructions for Powamakka Cafe, Biggie left his words.
The tribute carries on this evening with Big Poppa’s Afterparty, a Biggie-themed concert art show will happen at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Full Circle Brewery. There will be peformances from Ray Yung, Omar Aura and Otis Reed, Patrick Contreras, The Box, Ben Luciano and MC Wicks doing his best Biggie impersonation.