Biggie is officially dead. In the final episode of Marvel’s Luke Cage, Mariah hires two lackeys to remove her cousin’s infamous Biggie Smalls painting from her new office. She has them replace the painting with a Basquiat painting of two folks with crowns — probably meant to represent her and her fucked up paramour Shades Alvarez. Luke Cage showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker says the original choice for Cottonmouth’s office painting was Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Charles the First,” but that spot went to Biggie due to copyright issues.
Here’s the deal with Mariah choosing Basquiat’s “Red Kings”: Basquiat originals are multi-million dollar pieces, and even if “Red Kings” isn’t at the top-tier price level, it’s likely still worth at least a couple million. Given that Cottonmouth left Mariah and Shades in a great deal of debt, and now that she’s out of a job, it would probably behoove her more to sell her insane painting collection rather than prop it up as a power move. But hey, mama owns Harlem’s Paradise now, so you do you.
Of course, including Basquiat’s “Red Kings” is just another example of Coker running Luke Cage like a well-oiled and well-informed machine. The artist, who grew up on the Lower East Side, is a mainstay among black art, hipster communities, and though Basquiat isn’t a Harlem native, you could argue that his work represents the blending of street-level culture and high art evident in Luke Cage, a superhero show peppered with philosophical and literary allusions, a complex soundtrack, and a tapestry of socially relevant images and controversies. Coker, to his credit, chose wisely by featuring Basquiat.
Mariah, on the other hand, may not be the most financially savvy person in the MCU. Sell the damn painting!