The End Of The Biggie Belt Saga



If you followed the saga of the Biggie belt, then you know I’m a bit of a geek about the whole thing.

I want to find the belt.

Don’t even know why I’m obsessed over it. It’s silly, really.

So what? Big gave Riggs Morales a belt and told him to leave it hung up on a nail in the offices at The Source. And Riggs told me when I moved in. And I told Jermaine when he moved in. And Jermaine told Thomas when he moved in. And on. and on. and on.

The legend of the Biggie belt seems to end when The Source moved offices.

No one can remember if the belt was packed up and brought to the new office.

Honestly, I don’t believe that. I can’t imagine people packing up The Source and not making sure they knew exactly where the belt was. I firmly believe that someone took the belt either before The Source moved or while they were in the process.

At any rate. It’s gone.

Today is the twelfth anniversary of Big’s death. I invited all of the Keepers of The Belt to meet at 215 Park Avenue South, where this saga begins. Not sure what I wanted to do. Just thought it would be cool to meet some Keepers face to face, share some Source memories. Maybe take a flick together.

There’s something about the story that gives me chills. This small piece of hip-hop history changed hands so many times, through people who never met, while all having a shared connection to a place with so many secrets and drama. If you’ve ever worked at The Source, you belong to a very special fraternity. And Big’s belt was one item that passed down from the OG’s like Riggs Morales, all the way to folks whose names I didn’t know until I started this search.

I think part of the reason why I’m drawn to the belt is because like many Black folks, there is so little I know about my own history. I don’t have much passed down to me from earlier generations. I have a photo taken with my maternal great-grandmother holding me. She died soon after I was born. I don’t even know her maiden name or where she was from. I wear my maternal grandmother’s wedding band as my own. But that’s it. I can’t trace my roots back any further than three generations. There is no family Bible, scribbled with details from a hundred years ago.

I don’t even know why my last name is King.

On some level, the belt represented being a part of something that should last and be passed down forever.

And the few times I whispered the secret of the Biggie Belt to someone, I remember how their eyes would widen. They would cover their mouths with their hands. And they’d reach out and touch it. Wanting to be close to Big. Even though by then, he was far away from all of us.

The belt’s gone now. The least we could do would be to meet up and face a camera on the anniversary of Big’s death. To remember that we existed. So at least the story would not be lost.

I spoke to Riggs Morales, the original Keeper of the Belt. He said he’d be there. I asked my boy Mike Schreiber to shoot the flick. He said he was under the weather but that if he could make it, he would.

And several Keepers reached out and said they would come through.

I never got in touch with Jonathan “Gotti” Bonanno. Reached out via facebook, email, cell phone. Nothing.

Told my assistant to come through as a back up in case Mike didn’t show up. Then last night, my assistant told me he couldn’t make it. (Del, you’re still in Big Trouble. Rare for you. But still.)

It’s cold, raw and rainy this morning in New York City. It feels even more gross than usual because it was so sunny and beautiful on Saturday. Feels like Mother Nature is teasing us, saying “please. I gave you a nice day. Now take this.”

My camera is broken. My assistant flaked. If anyone did show up, I’d have no one to shoot the picture and no camera to use.

While I’m driving into the City, I change my Facebook status update to read:

Aliya has an assignment for an up and coming writer in NYC who is available at 9 AM today. no money. just experience. send me a direct message. now.

I got a response immediately from a young man named Antonio.

What do you need? I’m there.

Sidebar: A lesson to my aspiring writers. Respect Antonio’s gangsta. I don’t know this boy from a hole in the wall. He called me back immediately. I gave him a rushed, abbreviated breakdown of what I needed as I was driving in the pouring rain into the City. He was at the spot before me. By the time I pulled up, homeboy had his tripod set up, a video camera and a still camera ready and a notepad and pen. Dude was already interviewing one of the Keepers of the belt before I got out of the car. That boy is going places.

This morning, a few of the Keepers of the Biggie belt met up outside the door Big walked through thirteen years ago.

Twelve years ago today he was shot and killed. He’d never return to The Source to get his belt back.

We returned. Some of us meeting for the first time. Some of us reconnecting after years.

Riggs overslept. Mike was a no-show. Don’t know where Gotti is. I called J. Pablo at 6:30 am to remind him. But he wasn’t there either.

I can’t front. I kept hoping Gotti would come running down the street at the last minute holding the belt.
Then we’d all go over to wherever The Source is today and hand it over. We’d tell them the legacy of the belt and making sure they kept it safe until 2019, when Big becomes eligible for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

That didn’t happen. It was just a few of us. A few Keepers. Trying to keep warm and dry.

No matter.

It’s the end of the saga. But we all hold a piece of history with us. And always will.


The Keepers of The Biggie Belt. From left: Thomas Golianopolous, Kimberly Burgess Wilson, Aliya S. King, Joel Randell, Jermaine Hall. Shot exclusively for on March 9, 2009 at 9:35 AM. photo credit: Antonio Thompson.

The Keepers of The Biggie Belt. L-R: Thomas Golianopolous, Kimberly Burgess, Aliya S. King, Joel Randell, Jermaine Hall. Shot exclusively for on March 9, 2009 at 9:35 AM. Photo credit: Antonio Thompson

25 Responses to “The End Of The Biggie Belt Saga”

  1. Heather Says:


    Noooooo. It can’t be over. *crosses arms and pouts lips

  2. Tarana Says:

    Why do I want to cry a little? I am so filled with things ending and the permenance of it all this morning. A homegirl of mine from HS passed away over the weekend and it is really bothering me. I tore through my house looking for the one and only picture I KNOW I have somewhere of her and couldn’t find it. I am just really, I guess, open about things and memories and connections. In any event, this is nice. I know that belt will turn up eventually and it will have a helluva story to tell. In the meantime you all can rest well knowing that you did your jobs.

  3. Heather Says:

    @ Aliya: Did you have to look so gansta/pissed? Geez!

  4. Joel Randell Says:

    job well done Aliya. nuff respect to you on this endeavor.

    that’s a mint ball in my jaw, by the way lol.

  5. Antonio Says:

    Fun times. Great story. Even awesomer photo! lol. Glad to be a part of it. R.I.P. B.I.G.

  6. Ann-Marie Nicholson Says:

    dope Aliya! 215–the memories are still with me (some good, some bad)

  7. Hassan Munford Says:

    R.I.P Christopher Wallace and the belt.

    I hope they find it. Im over here watching my tape of when I did BIG in the talent show our senior year 95! I just found the tape the other weak and I will keep it as my keepsake.

    I hope you all find the belt.

    PS I almost faked sick at work once I saw your FB status this morning but I only have 2 sick days left until July :-(

    @Antontio – You stole my gig! Lol

  8. carlito Says:

    I caught Watchmen last night.

    “…There is no end…”

    Just as Christopher Wallace’s children, his music, his legacy, live on, twelve years later, our lives become a testament to our existence. The Biggie Belt might be “gone,” asking, but the story will never be.

    Props, kudos, accolades and an ice-cold Corona w/ lime to you and the crew who showed up — especially Antonio, who sounds like a junior Riggs in the making.

    (ps. I wasn’t a Keeper, but best believe I’da been there if not for being 90 miles down the Turnpike at the moment.)

  9. Bryan R. Adams Says:

    Props to you and those who showed up on a Monday morning. Much props for trying to keep a tradition going. As many times as I used to roll through the various Source offices, I wasn’t aware of the Biggie Belt.
    Good job, Antonio.

  10. Tremaya Says:

    So very touching and timely.

  11. Robyn Says:

    Love this Aliya. You all look too cool in front of 215. (Scratching my head — did I go to school with Joel? Jermaine? They look so familiar.)

    Anyway, kudos Queen — RIP Big.

  12. Tanisha Says:

    What an exciting morning! It was so wonderful seeing you make mention of some of the pioneering names in Hip Hop journalism. What a thoughtful thing to do as a writer and a person to mark this day Aliya. Kudos. (You too Antonio!)

    BIG’s death hit me hard. I was mad at hip hop for a minute. The writer in me got mad enough to send a letter to The Source. It got published too. I got the cover and letter framed and put it up on my wall. Everytime I look at it I am reminded that BIG STILL remains an inspiration to me, aspiring MC’s and to Hip Hop.

    RIP Christopher Wallace

  13. Gregory Johnson Says:

    Nice shot yall…keep the faith, the Belt though submerged will emerge!

  14. Ms 20 Somn Says:

    It’s sad that it ended that way. But on the bright side at least you were apart of it, lived it, and passed the story along!

  15. clove Says:

    you were in the city??! ahhh. I wish we could’ve met up. lol.

    sad story, indeed. at least it’s one you can pass along to your daughters and so forth

  16. Retha Says:

    Timely! And great shots!

  17. Chris Wilder Says:

    @Aliya: If Gotti had come running down the street at the last minute with the belt and you guys went down to The Source, who would you have have given the belt to now? Who would be deserving? Who would be worthy of keeping the tradition, the faith, the belt? I sure don’t know.

    @Carlito: Aliya referred to Riggs as an OG. [smirks]

  18. brook Says:

    got to document that gangsta! yours collectively and dude with the camera!

    but the game is afoot…where IS the belt?

  19. carlito Says:

    @ C-Wild: re: Riggs the OG [wink! wink!]

  20. Yesterday and Today | What Would Thembi Do? Says:

    […] Aliya tells the tale of the Biggie Belt Saga […]

  21. Gene W Says:

    Wow, I had a feeling it would end this way, but I am disappointed. I was always a huge BIG fan, and I was thinking it would be cool to have something as simple as his belt out there amongst regular people would have been awesome.

    Too bad though……. Much love to BIG

  22. ketchums Says:

    I checked the old thread you linked to, and it’s really an incredible story. Really makes me wish that I was older and a part of the legacy over there (as opposed to me getting in the hip-hop/journalism game in 03, during my freshman year in college). Incredible story though, even though th belt was never found :-\

  23. kimosorio1 Says:


    the belt made its way to 28 West 23rd street when we moved. As much as we all cherished it (adila and I used to rub the belt as a good luck gesture to try and reverse the fate when we thought someone was about to get fired), we made sure that the belt came with us. It made it along with the sweaty yellow visor that I stole from Redman after a show one day, the autographed white Jay-Z sneaker (the ugly ass Reeboks that no one ever wore) and Abubaca (pronounced “A Boo Ba Ka”–I’m not sure who actually knows the truth about the office being haunted by Abubaca). But i digress…

    the last time i saw the belt it was hanging up in an office at 28 West 23rd street. so basically there were other keepers and you might find it if you talk to them. when you find out who stole it (because i’m sure someone took it as the legend of the biggie belt was always passed on), please see if that thief (unless they took it to protect it from the forces of evil) has my autographed jayz sneaker, redman hat, and my CD collection.

    i never did have the chance to go back and collect my belongings. :)

  24. Aliya S. King Says:

    @kim: holy crap. I have been assuming that it never left 215.

  25. Jovi Says:

    I too wanted Gotti to run down the street with the belt.

    It’s not over until the belt is found. Looks like you have some more follow up to do.

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