“He was real, real picky with the beats though. Even in the early stages, he wasn’t just jumpin’ on anything. I can still hear that voice ‘Come on Mo, don’t be holdin out on me. Where them joints?‘”-Easy Mo Bee
Two years ago I wrote a cover for The Source magazine’s 10th Anniversary memorial of Christopher “Notorious B.I.G” Wallace. Given the amount of copy devoted to Biggie’s life and death in the decade prior, I was searching for an angle that hadn’t been taken yet. Given that I’d just ended my tenure at Scratch, the producer/DJ perspective was still in the forefront of my mind. So the approach I took was to speak to the producers and DJs that worked with Biggie to get a unique perspective, like the way he used his voice, his breath control in the booth and his influence on today’s MCs. Found out some really dope stuff.
I had less than a week to turn it around but I was able to track down DJ Mr. Cee, Carlos Broady, DJ Premier, Easy Mo Bee, and one of the Hitmen, Nashiem Myrick. You can read the full PDF of my prose at my blog, JerryLBarrow.com. Given that today is the 12th anniversary of the passing of Mr. Wallace, I’ve provided the transcript for each interview below.
Easy Mo Bee: “Flavor In Your Ear,” “The What” “Warning” “Party & Bullshit”
As an MC, lyricist and as a writer, the thing that stood out about him was tone of voice, cadence or what we call flow. As tone of voice goes, a lot of people don’t know, anybody that entered the music life of Biggie…by the second album he had matured vocally into a really secure MC. He was so sure of himself that you heard it in his voice. In the beginning, “Party and Bullshit,” ” Gimme Da loot,” there was that loud, hard screaming voice. You can tell from the vocals that Fifty took were from that period. We heard the voice calm down a little on “Warning” but I really noticed it on “Big Poppa.” I was like yo, is this new Biggie? I liked it because it was confident. All of those people looking to be the next MC of tomorrow need to take notes to what he was doing. He matured a lot. By Life After Death he’d have never done “Gimme The Loot” type vocals. No one has ever compared him to LL Cool J. LL took the same path. He was like “I’m baad” “Can’t live without my radio” “Momma Said knock you out” was satirizing his old self. He started to tone himself down on “Boomin System.” As an artist you have to realize where you’re most comfortable. Biggie found that special place in his voice and that separated him from everybody else. ’93 and ’94 was all about screaming. Onxy, M.O.P…A lot of people are just copying people a lot right now. People are just concentrating on sounding like Jay-Z as opposed to what you’re saying. Big had it covered on all levels; the voice, the choice of words…you pick any topic and there’s probably 25 different ways to say it.
He only did two albums, but he did a lot of miscellaneous material. He worked so hard while he was on this earth, and gave me enough to last me my whole life.
All of that material was WORTHY. He was consecutively bangin’.
I never heard Big run out of breath or gaspin. If anything you might have heard it in his live shows, but his poise, the way he paced his breathing for rappin was unreal. You would think a lot of that stuff was punches, but it wasn’t. Singers will tell you they sing from the stomach…and I think he was rappin like he was singin.”
Kane is the first person I gotta chance to work with in like ’89. “Another Victory” and “Calling Mr. Welfare.” Biggie reminded me of Kane, I couldn’t think of a corny rhyme that Kane every came with. Biggie gave that dependability to Bad Boy. When you saw the logo you picked it up.
I think he influenced a lot of what we hearing today, but I don’t think anyone can emulate what he did. Aint none of ya’ll aint ever gonna be like him. Mo Bee said that. He said “Mo Bee got beats” I was so happy. He just straight certified me right there. You talking about the hottest rapper at the time just saying “Mo Bee got beats.” You know how many calls came in off of that?
“Flavor In Your Ear”
The remix wasn’t made in a day. I’d say maybe two, maybe three people came in on the same day. LL came and did his first, then Busta did his first. Big recorded his first…when he dropped that I was like damn. A DJ appreciates everything upfront in a record. If a part gets run the most, it’s the beginning. So Big’s first go on over and over. That just shows you the acumen of this dude. He’d just take over people’s records. He was that able. Like Robin Harris said “why, cuz I can!”
I watched Biggie drop verses and see people say they had to do their joints over. He created a level of competition in the studio.
He was real, real picky with the beats though. Even in the early stages, he wasn’t just jumpin’ on anything. I can still hear that voice “Come on Moe, don’t be holdin out on me. Where them joints?”
A lot of people remember Biggie as an ex-drug dealer or what not, but that man took a lot of people out of the streets. His thing was, if I’m eating, you eatin. He gave them something brand new to do. He ain’t forget his people. I wish whatever happened between Lil Cease and Kim never happened because after Biggie passed, they were next in line to hold the torch. It made it harder to carry out that legacy. I’d have loved to see Junior Mafia continue to do their thing. He’d have loved to seen them carry on his name. I don’t know what happened, but I wish it didn’t.
DJ Mr. Cee:
The importance of who he is and still being the greatest rapper of all time is still evident, but I think the one thing we need to start being concerned with is continuing to educate the younger generation on who the Notorious BIG is. As the years pass by there is a younger generation that is going to start not knowing who the Notorious B.I.G is. And it may sound funny that I’m saying this, but I DJ in these clubs all the time and it’s getting to the point where I can play “One More Chance” for an 18 year old audience and they almost don’t know the record. If we do not continue to pass that torch and really not just alking about BIG every March, what’s gonna happen is…the Tupac’s, Biggie’s, and Big L’s and Big Pun’s start turning into, and no disrespect, into Grand Master Flash, The Cold Crush Brothers, etc…If you ask an 18 year old who Grand Master Caz is they don’t know them. Why? Because we did not continue to educate and keep those legends alive. I can DJ a party in New York City for kids 18 and older and they do not know “Eric B for President” is. They do not know that song. Some of them don’t know who Rakim is…and this is not too long ago. An 18 year olds old school IS Biggie, Onyx, Nas.
We’re doing the interview today and it’s Aaliyah’s birthday. As long as I’m on the radio, I’m gonna represent for her. There’s kids that don’t now who MC Lyte or Big Daddy Kane [are]. People don’t know about me and Kane, cuz they’re not educated. Somehow we have to break that cycle. In 2007 we should be much smarter in our education of the hip-hop generation. They don’t cover Pun and Big L as much as Big and it’s not fair. Big L really paved the way for a lot of cats. If you wanna tell a story about Big L you use Cam and Mase to connect the dots.
DJ Premier, “Kick In The Door,” “Unbelievable” “Ten Crack Commandments”
Well, me personally, I don’t’ think he’s an influence at all on these new MCs cuz the skill level has gone way down. Biggie never said any dumb rhymes. His worst rhyme is better than anything to come out now. I don’t hear artists pushing the envelope. Other than Royce and maybe The Game, he had the most consistent album of 2006.
His voice was an instrument. Biggie was like Maceo Parker playing playing with James Brown. Plus his voice matched his image. The first time Mr. Cee wanted me to meet him, he looked like his records. With Big, the whole look, his style, pre-Puffy, this was when Puff was still trying to convince him to work with him. Puff used to pick him up and take him to the studio..to see him come up, on top of that, Big would share his songs with every body.
Once he passed his albums should have stopped. It should have stopped after Life After Death.You don’t want to ruin what was left behind. They did it to Jimi Hendrix, Tupac and Big. I hope they’re done with that…the song with 50 was good, cuz that was a verse that wasn’t always out there. But all that other stuff…
Carlos Broady “My Downfall” “Niggas Bleed” “What’s Beef” “Somebody Got to Die”
I think Biggie’s influence has survived because if you look at the style that Big had, the creativity…what I liked about Biggie is that he’d rap over any type of beat.When I hear cats like TI and hear them flip their lyrics, I can kind of hear it. I hear it in Lil Wayne as well. I’m from the south, so to see hip-hop doing what its doing makes me glad. We’ve been doing this for a long time and now we can do the things we want to do mainstream. I can definitely hear Big in Lil Wayne, the flyness. That’s just me.
I used to love to hear his voice, especially when he told those stories. I don’t think there’lll ever be another voice like that. A lot of southern rappers dub their vocals, lay em and stack em so you don’t get to hear the true essence of their voice. I like to hear emotion in a voice and those dubs cover it up a lot.
If you really look at “What’s Beef,” it’s a southern beat to the heart. It’s an east coast sample with strings, but the beat pattern is on some southern shit with the 1/16th triplets high hats and shit. The dude was just worldwide. I don’t think rappers today can do that. There are very few that can do that.
I don’t think biggie had the influence of the people like Pac. Pac talked that revolution shit and cats was ready to do it. But Biggie spit that shit. The way dude came up with the shit was incredible.
My favorite moment was him vibin to the “Downfall” beat..he had on some white and yellow AF-1s, a yellow polo, a Yankee fitted…and to see that cat bobbin to my beat was incredible. We were buggin in Daddy’s House. I was in the presence of greatness. The thing about the new generation of rappers of producers, we came from the era of digging in the crates, now cats are sampling other hip-hop records that have samples and cats don’t know their history. I’m a beat head, so these cats really know, its not that important to them. We live hip-hop. I’m 35 years old, a southern b-boy. Right now we getting’ fast food. We used to get home cookin.
My thing was…it’s funny how biased people are [toward Gorilla Black] Cuz everybody can mimic Pac, the way he dubs his vocals, the way he dressed,..I thought it was flattering. To me the cat sounded just like him. I didn’t think he looked like him. When I heard him on the phone it was scary. When I talked to Black I was telling my wife that’s scary. But I didn’t think there was nothing negative about it. I caught some flack, and some producers didn’t want to work with him, but dude can’t help how he sounds. I think Shyne was signed because he sounded like Biggie. I think cats would have accepted Gorilla Black more if he had been from New York.
Preemo was close to BIG so I understand why he didn’t want to do it. I think GB was a capable MC but people didn’t give him a chance. I definitely thought he could hold his own. It was fun to do. He doesn’t write his rhymes down either. I thought it was flattering to Big. If you an MC coming up you’re either pattering yourself after Pac, Biggie, Jay or Nas. This is supposed to be fun, this is our escape, our voice. There shouldn’t be no problem. People are so serious over some bullshit.
Nashiem Myrick “Who Shot Ya?” “Somebody’s Gotta Die”
I knew him pretty good, we spent so much time together. I first met Biggie at Puff’s crib in Scarsdale. I was interning and he came through with D-Rock.
Big is a throwback, a realy old school nigga to me. He was wild funny. As an artist he was the greatest that ever did it. He made my tracks sound more than I ever thought it would sound like. I can’t say he ever did anything wack.
I think people want to be connected with Big and will take whatever they can take from the man. He left us so early that he had us fiending for more. They’ll take half a verse to make a hook just to be in his presence. He’s timeless. He didn’t do as many songs as Pac but his stuff still radiates. Big wasn’t the type of MC to do a million songs at once. Big wrote in his head and needed something to create from. Big was picky with the beats but he had a lot to chose from. He turned somethings down, but then again, he got his point across.
Big was necessary. He put the quality level up so high and MCs coming up now have a standard to live by. Things he said were so in your face. Look at the influence he had on Jay-Z. Listen to the younger MCs and how they structure their rhymes. They borrow his flow and his wordplay.
Take “Dreams”look at all the songs done off of that concept. Jay-Z’s “Girls” 50 Cents “How to Rob” that was Biggie.
Shyne started off in his early days influenced by Big but he has his own thing now. It’s just a voice, but that’s influence. You have to recognize your past. It’s not a bad thing, he was a great MC. Somethings are a blatant jack, but I don’t see it as disrespect. To base your whole career on someone else, that’s ultimate respect. Big is living vicariously through a bunch of people.