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No high-pitched man, no beef needed to sell ...

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The 300-plus pound hoodfella is crowned king, and how the West kept winning. ...

Jermaine Dupri Talks Ready To Die

Nas: The Genesis

1994 Essential Albums

In Their Own Words

  A Look Back At 1994

  Remembering Biggie Photo Flipbook

Notorious B.I.G.: The Last Interview

Nas: Stillmatters

Tupac: Reconstructing Tupac

Outkast: Black Dog/Black Wolf

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Here's what some of 1994's most important artists had to say back in the day about the musical and personal issues they were facing that year. ...

Notorious B.I.G.: True Playa For Real?
B.I.G.'s career went next level when he changed from ashy to classy with the single "Big Poppa." He was still thought of as "the illest" on the mic, but when he started to spread the word about the balla side of his lifestyle, his popularity went over the top. He was smooth with his Versace shirts, he was fly in Kangols, the fellas wanted to imitate him and the ladies loved him. One lady in particular he loved back — his wife, Faith Evans. Here, Big and Puff Daddy explain why rapping about macking a slew of honeys didn't get the Notorious one in trouble at home.

MTV: In a lot of your lyrics you talk about [sleeping with many] women. Do you ever think, "Damn, I'm dissing my wife by saying stuff like this"?

Notorious B.I.G.: Honey knows she's the only one, she knows that's just like acting. [In acting] you go out there, you may have to kiss somebody, you may have to do a sex scene. It ain't nothing real. It's just part of the game. Puff wanted an ill flow and what makes my flow so ill sometimes is that I just don't care. I will just say anything. She knows I don't really want all the chickenheads from Pasadena to Medina. She knows that, so it's all good.

Puffy: It's not necessarily what he's doing. It's more that he's saying that's out there. He's basically describing that feel of the vibe that's out there and the lifestyle right now.

MTV: But even with "Big Poppa," you're representing that same thing of "I just want the honeys." Does she ever get a little insecure or maybe like, "Is he in the clubs looking?"

Notorious B.I.G.: All that was done before I got married. No ... not "Big Poppa." She helped me write that. When we were in the studio listening to the beats, I was like, "I don't know what I wanna write about." She's like, "Write about your honeys."  So I just wrote about my honeys. That's my baby, man. She knows she number one.

Mary J. Blige: Put On A Happy Face
Back when Mary J. Blige was solidifying herself as a hip-hop and R&B icon with the release of her second LP, My Life, the singer was putting up a front. She sang about wanting to be happy, and she told MTV News back then that she was. It seemed that everything was in her favor so no one questioned her. The album was selling millions and, more importantly, she was touching people's souls with her music.

Earlier this year, she came clean and said it was really her soul that needed to be touched.

"It makes my stomach hurt when I hear the My Life album," Mary said in August 2003. "Although it's one of my favorite albums, it's just so dark. I mean, there's a real bad suicide spirit on there. It was straight out 'Bam! I'm ready to go.' It was out there like, 'I can't take this anymore, I don't know what to do. I'm afraid to do it, so what do I do?' "

Take a look at what Mary had to say during the My Life era about the man in her life who gave her joy and why she proudly called herself a bitch.

MTV: Why did you choose "Be Happy" as the lead cut?

Mary J. Blige: It's time. Be happy! What else you need? I'm happy now. Even when I didn't have anything I was happy because I had me and I had God first. I just want to spread the love and spread the joy. We're living today, let's appreciate that. Let's thank him for that and keep moving on because tomorrow is not promised. If you notice, I'm very happy on the inside not because of material things, but because of my heart. I'm happy with Mary and just with blessings, the strength and the knowledge. That's all I can say. I'm not saying I'm a religious fanatic, but just to let you know, it's on, it's real, he lives.

MTV: As happy as you say you are now, that hasn't always been your reputation in the industry. There have been stories of lateness to photo shoots, cattiness ... Some people have used the word "diva" when describing you. Some people have even used the "b" word.

Blige: I'll be a bitch. I will be it till the day I die because you won't get nowhere being soft and wimpy. You just gonna get stepped on and walked on and bent over. You'll be what they want you to be. Be what you want to be. From the jump street I never had an attitude. I was just me. It's messed up for people to even cry like, "Oh she has an attitude." So what? If I'm feeling like that that day ... that's just how I'm feeling.

MTV: You've been so successful at not just making hit records, but also in conveying a presence to the masses that fans find endearing. A lot of record companies are going out and looking for the next Mary J. because of this. How do you feel about that?

Blige: It feels just like everything else ... It's another blessing. That's something where everyone looks at me and says, "Ooh, I wanna look like Mary, I wanna sound like Mary." Thank you. I love it. I love it. I'm happy. That makes me feel real good. Keep doing it. Keep doing it. There's enough for everybody. Let's do it!

Method Man: Yo! Bum Rush The Show
Before he dropped Tical, Method Man had a leg up on all the other "new" MCs that had debut albums in 1994. Meth was already a star. As part of the Wu-Tang Clan, who introduced themselves the previous year, Meth was an integral part of the Shaolin Soldiers' musical movement and his charisma stuck out like the matted braids on his head. His brothers may have rivaled him lyrically and stylistically, but the Ticallion Stallion had the most engaging personality; he jumped off stages, danced in buses and talked with a lisp and growl the ladies found sexy. Back in the day, he told MTV News that fame wasn't getting to his head, though.

MTV: Wu-Tang have become a phenomenon. Did you ever think your group would blow up this big?

Method Man: It's like they couldn't stop the bum rush. It's just like when they tried to stop us from voting. Eventually they had to let us vote. Now it's time for us to use that strength and apply it. Word!

MTV: How do you deal with coming from Staten Island not too long ago and evolving into a major celebrity?

Method Man: Nah. I can't front and act like I'm some major star and that I'm used to all of this. I'm not. I don't even consider myself a star. The way it hit, yeah, it was fast, and if you ain't got it up here [in the head] you could get addicted and get caught up in all the attention you getting. But if you got it up here, and eight other individuals are watching out for you, you gotta keep your feet on solid ground. When good things happen, so be it. We only stress when it comes down to the bad things and how we can make it better. We're preparing for the bigger picture outside this rap music.

MTV: But that's not difficult with everything happening so fast?

Method Man: It depends on who you have around you. If you have phony people around you, eventually you gonna be fake and phony. I got my same girlfriend from when I was back on the block without sh--. She's still with me. That's my foundation, if I cut my roots, my tree is gonna die.

Outkast: Same Ol' Song.
When "Ice Cold" Andre 3000 was just plain old Dre, he and his partner Big Boi had the same mentality they have today — take the road less traveled. In 1994, the ATLiens did for the South what Snoop did for the West Coast and what Nas and Biggie did for New York — they reintroduced their area to the masses, with the gripping allure of poetic tour guides. They weren't trying to copy other rappers' talk of driving in Lex coupes or rolling in '64 low-riders. The Kast just stuck to what they knew, staying away from samples and being playas in Cadillacs.

MTV: What's your main goal musically?

Big Boi: We're nonconformists. We just want to be different from anything else.

MTV: A lot of people see you guys as playas, but they don't know that it was a struggle to get where you are now. There wasn't much playing around on your come-up.

Big Boi: We hooked up with [our producers] Organized Noize through another mutual friend and we rhymed for them on the sidewalk. Rico [Wade] and them was like, "Y'all come back to the Dungeon," and we been kicking it ever since. We were sleeping on the cold floor, preparing ever since. Molding ourselves, trying to get everything tight. We did three or four showcases for LaFace and they signed us. They were a little nervous because they were strictly an R&B label. We were the first hip-hop act. They put the faith in us and "Player's Ball" was #1 over six weeks in a row.

MTV: What has it been like working with Organized?

Dre: It's dope. I'm not just saying that because we're like family. To me, those are the best producers since Prince and Quincy Jones. It's that serious. A lot of producers are doing tracks over, taking something that's old and redoing it. All our music is original.

Big Boi: They brought forth the originality. We was always for it, but they instilled that in us. "Y'all stay this way. Don't ever think we can get out there and get laxed." We stayed dedicated in what we do. We don't get no pleasure in doing somebody's song over.

Dre: We're artists, man. We make music. We enjoy making music, creating bass lines, playing chords, coming up with something new where our kids [one day] will say "they made real music."

MTV: What do you think the impact of your album is?

Dre: We try to be as innovative as possible. When you do something innovative, people will try — not to copy you — but they'll be influenced to do their own innovative thing. You can see when you listen to Šcadillacmuzik. You can see how hip-hop changed.

Big Boi: Everything turned playa.

Dre: We opened doors for people like Biggie Smalls, for the Luniz. We tried to be innovative. Hopefully it will be a whole lot more creative.

— by Shaheem Reid

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Photo: MTV News

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