NOTORIOUS Writer Cheo Hodari Coker Talks About Biggie's Last Interview, His Legacy and the Man Behind the Music

There are only a handful of journalists who were lucky enough to develop personal relationships with The Notorious B.I.G. Fifteen years after his tragic passing, the heart of hip-hop still mourns over the loss of one of its prodigal sons and he remains a rap legend that will never truly die. Biggie’s legacy been has been continuously immortalized in countless documentaries, short films, books, records and of course the big screen film, NOTORIOUS. To obtain a closer look into the life of the beloved rhyme innovator, also known as Biggie Smalls, VIBE tapped one of the writers from his biopic, an accomplished journalist/writer/producer by the name of Cheo Hodari Coker. We wanted to gain insight into who BIG was as a human being. Cheo conducted countless interviews with Biggie from the time his debut album hit record store shelves to days before his murder. Read on to discover what really made The Notorious B.I.G. an unforgettable figure.

Purchase: UNBELIEVABLE The Life, Death, and Afterlife of The Notorious B.I.G.


VIBE: Let’s start at the very beginning. Do you recall the first time you met Biggie face-to-face?
Cheo Hodari Coker: The first time that I met BIG was in 1994, summer of '94, I believe it was August. I think it was right after Ready to Die came out. I was doing a piece for Spin that never got published. The reason it never got published was because they were mad that I wrote a Ready To Die record review for Rolling Stone and they were so competitive at the time, and mad cause I wrote the Rolling Stone record review that they killed my piece. My best friend Rob Marriott ended up writing that piece.

Anyway, I got to meet him for the first time, and I actually met him on St. James in Brooklyn. He was just a laid-back but compelling interview. It was funny because like every car driving by was playing a different song from Ready to Die.

Years later I ended up writing the first solo screenplay assignment I ever got, which was the Bob Marley story for Warner Brothers. There’s interesting parallels between Biggie’s life and Bob Marley’s life, besides both of them dying incredibly young and of course both of them being Jamaican [Laughs]. What was interesting is when Bob Marley lived at Hope road and would basically come outside to gatherings of people waiting for him. It was the same thing with Biggie, everybody knew where St. James was. Everybody knew where he was on the corners near the train stop. If you wanted find Bob you would just go right to 56 Hope Road, for Biggie you went to Fulton. Literally from the time when he started rhyming and selling weed and what not in front of that train, everyone from Dream Hampton and Bonz Malone would come through there. If you wanted to find Big you knew exactly where to go, it was almost like going to the neighborhood barber shop.

He was just like this person you would see, and when he immediately became a star that didn't change. It was funny because I asked him about it, about leaving Brooklyn, and he said he was afraid honestly to leave his block because he didn't know how he could and what he would rhyme about. Big said his environment was waking up smelling Chinese food and hearing his record playing around the block, and that was just kind of how he was. He talked about his daughters, Faith and him and just got married and he was already having a little bit of drama. He was hilarious and we tried to capture that in the film but if you really knew him he was so much fun to be around. His personality was completely different than his image was.

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