On closer examination, Barney the purple dinosaur and Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace, a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G., had a few important things in common. Both exerted enormous influence over young people in the 1990s. At the same time Biggie was dominating the airwaves with the Isley Brothers-sampling single “Big Poppa” from the Ready To Die album in 1994, the gentle, magenta-hued tyrannosaurus was ruling the world of children’s television with his enormously popular PBS series Barney & Friends. Biggie and Barney were both large and in charge during the Bill Clinton years. Now, these two titans of an earlier era are united in a video mashup from Mylo The Cat, who specializes in combining children’s programming and classic hip-hop. In this clip, Barney is Biggie, performing “Big Poppa” with his usual panache. Barney’s little yellow sidekick B.J. plays the role of Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs. And those kids who were always hanging out with Barney? They’re the Junior M.A.F.I.A. Baby Bop is here, too, possibly as an analogue to Faith Evans.
Biggie’s brief but brilliant rein in the 1990s was marked by intense professional and personal rivalries, especially with West Coast rappers like 2Pac. That motif is carried over into this mashup, too, in which Barney throws some serious shade at Sesame Street and those wannabe punks from ABC’s Dinosaurs. Whether it’s hip-hop or children’s television, someone’s always gunning for the king. Heavy lies the crown. The video also offers proof of Barney’s considerable dance prowess. Despite his bulky frame, he is remarkably agile. At least here, he has some decent music to dance to. “Big Poppa” marks a tremendous improvement over, say, “Yankee Doodle” or “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” The video even makes a case for Barney as a style icon. In the Barney & Friends excerpts shown here, the dinosaur is seen wearing a variety of fashionable hats, scarves, sunglasses, and other accessories. Conspicuous consumption was not really part of his brand, but he obviously cared about his appearance. Check out his teeth. Always immaculate, as befitting a true player.