Notorious B.I.G.'s fans, friends and family still remember the rapper as the "greatest of all time." His memory and legacy lives on in hip-Hhop history books. In Biggie's honor, VIBE plucked some of our favorite studio stories from the late rapper's remarkable career. Read on to hear what it was like to record with the last king of New York.
"Notorious Thugs" (The Notorious B.I.G. Feat. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony)
Layzie: “Puffy called us and said, ‘BIG want y’all on a record.’ We are like, ‘Hell yeah…we coming.’ We end up being in the studio with Biggie all night. We did all of our verses and then BIG was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to take this home.’ When BIG went home we did not hear that record until after he passed.”
Flesh: “Hearing Biggie do our style was incredible. I understood why he had to take it home and study it for a minute. He put his own spin on our Bone flow.”
Krayzie: “It was bitter sweet. Biggie ripped it but we didn’t have the opportunity to tell him how much he ripped it. He came out and did his thing on the song to where he put another notch under his belt because our style is not easy to where you can just say, ‘I’m going to rap like these dudes.’ Especially back then when we were first coming out. For a New York rapper to do our style was a risk. But when he did it that nigga killed it. New York showed us a lot of love off of that record. ‘Notorious Thugs’ and ‘Crossroads’ are the only songs they played in NYC by Bone. It was Bone and Biggie.”
"Last Day" (The Notorious B.I.G. Feat. The Lox)
Sheek: “I still remember the day we were in the studio making 'Last Day' with B.I.G. Of course, the first thing that sticks out is the big-ass Hellman's mayonnaise jar of Branson. [Laughs] It was love from day one with B.I.G. and The Lox. We just got to the label and he was asking us to get on all these records because he thought we were nice. Puff would have us in this little ass B-room and Biggie and all his other artists would be in the big studio. He would bring all these other rappers and try to have them semi-battle us or just hear us rap, that’s why we were spitting so hard on that. Around the same time, we did that 'You'll See' freestyle. We didn’t even get hear B.I.G’s part 'til after it was finished. In those days, we would just spit on any record we could. Little did we know it would make Biggie’s album.”
DMC: “When I got asked to do a record with Biggie, I was shocked. I got a phone call from Puffy and my manager Eric like, ‘Puffy is looking for you.’ I’m like, ‘Puffy???’ Why the hell is Puffy looking for me for? I don’t dance and I don’t drink Cristal…I drink Ole English [laughs].’ But Puffy calls and says, ‘Yo, Biggie wants you on his chorus. He doesn’t want to sample your voice.’ Biggie thought my line, ‘That’s not all, MC’s have the gall, to pray and pray for my downfall’ was dope. A lot of the really lyrical MC’s like Biggie, Rakim, and Freddie Fox told me, ‘Yo, D…you wasn’t that dude that had to have three 16 bars of fire. You would have one or two statements that could shut motherfuckers up.’
So I go to Puff’s Daddy’s House studios to meet producer Nashiem [Myrick]. When I finished my part, I was soupped! I’m a humble dude, but I was fucking soupped because Biggie was huge. Of all the people Biggie could have called Big Daddy Kane or Slick Rick. But he called me. When I spoke to Puff he told me, ‘Imagine Biggie is doing a show and goes, I got a surprise guest for you…a legend!’ And I come out. That would be getting hits on YouTube right now! But unfortunately Biggie passed away, so we never got the chance to perform [‘Pray For My Down Fall’] together. Still, I got to make a record with Biggie Smalls. It was an honor to do that record.”
Pete Rock: “Due to people just doing business a new way and me being young and not understanding the publishing side of things, I let certain things fall through the cracks [when it came to ‘Juicy’]. Puffy came over with Big and I had the drums playing and Puff was interested in what he heard. He asked me if I was making it for CL Smooth and I was like, ‘Nah.’ Big was standing there, but he was more interested in seeing how I made beats. He was requesting certain interlude beats. He was like, ‘I want this song you put between these two songs on your album.’
I made this beat called ‘In The Flesh’ that was on the Main Ingredient album. And I made that beat in front of Biggie. He was like, ‘Oh shit…I just wanted to see how you did it, son.’ He was bugging. But Biggie wasn’t even interested in ‘Juicy.’ Next thing you know, ‘Juicy’ comes out and I don’t get credit. I really felt a way about it after Big passed away. We didn’t get to have the relationship that Premier had with him. I had a lot of music for Big, but it just didn’t happen.”
“We’ll Always Love Big Poppa" (The L.O.X.)
Jadakiss: “This song was really serious because we were actually at that party in L.A. with BIG before he was killed. When we saw him at the party, BIG was having so much fun. He was so happy to be there. He was even going to stay in L.A. for another month. Just think about the whole irony of that. That was our first time in L.A. as well. So imagine how we felt when BIG died. We are going through it. We were thinking all kinds of thoughts. At that time Puff was still handling BIG’s funeral services. We were at Powerhouse studios and Sheek, Styles and myself decided, ‘Yo, we should just do a song for BIG.’ Dame Grease produced the beat and Puff added the kids singing. And it just came out beautifully. ‘We’ll Always Love Big Poppa’ was a real heartfelt statement. There were no gimmicks to it. We wasn’t trying to sell it and have it become this huge hit. When we finished the song and sent it to Puff, D-Rock and all of Biggie’s loved ones we heard there was a lot of crying in the room. There was a mix of sadness and joy”
Faith Evans: There are lot of things that were very similar about [Notorious] B.I.G. and myself. I came up in Newark, so I wasn’t that far removed from the type of surroundings where Biggie grew up in Brooklyn. His mom was a devout Jehovah’s Witness and my grandparents were devout Christians. But most of all, I loved his spirit. I was never someone who liked to date the pretty boy or the jock. I like people who make me feel good about myself. The very first time I met BIG it was more of a funny connection. We were at an early promo shoot for Bad Boy—just BIG, myself and Craig Mack. I happened to be with Hurricane Gloria that day, who used to be down with Redman. I had just come from Red’s house. People don’t know, but Red was my 9th grade boyfriend [laughs]. Red was the church drummer at his mom’s church. This was before the music industry. He’s my daughter’s Godfather. So back to BIG…he and his crew knew Hurricane and they were looking at me like, ‘How do you know this chick?’ I ended up dropping BIG off in Brooklyn. He told me he was going to call me when he got out the car, but I hadn’t given him my number [laughs]. We got married a few weeks later.