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 "I was a hustla and then boom! I was a rapper." ...

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 "I found something I was good at and I'm just trying to keep it going."

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Biggie: Excerpts From The Life
— by Shaheem Reid, with additional reporting by Bridget Bland and Tim Kash

It's been 10 long years. March 9 officially marks a decade since the death of Christopher "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace: the lovable, lyrical, timeless hip-hop icon. His accomplishments and talents are legendary and will last forever. For this year's tribute, we decided not only to let some of his friends tell a few never-before-heard anecdotes, but we thought we'd have Big tell his story himself. So we went through the MTV vaults and found some archival Big footage dating from 1994 to shortly before he passed away in 1997. Those friends include Busta Rhymes, Keith Murray and Chris Rock; Big's former manager Mark Pitts (now with Zomba Label Group); his DJ, Clark Kent; and Damien "D-Roc" Butler, a member of Big's Junior M.A.F.I.A. crew and former manager of Lil' Kim. And without further ado, here are the Notorious B.I.G. and friends.

Notorious Thugs

Christopher "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace: Growing up in the streets of Bed-Stuy, it was hard, yo. Being on the corners in Brooklyn in January and having to sell drugs? Come on. I hustled, that was my game. Either you was stealing, you was hustling, you was a nobody, or you was playing ball, trying to be some college-pro-type fella. But it was hard, man. Everybody was scrambling. Everybody's still scrambling. Ain't nothing changed. The second time I went to jail, I was like, "OK, this is not the move." What I was doing wasn't cool.

I'm definitely glad that I'm out of the [drug] game because it don't bring nothing but death. [Puff Daddy, a.k.a. Sean "Diddy" Combs] schooled me to that a long time ago. But at the same time, I can't knock it because I learned a lot from it. I learned how to handle myself in the streets, I learned how to stack that paper. It's like street knowledge, it's all a part of the game, but it's something I wouldn't advise anyone to get involved with, because if you ain't got your eyes open all the time ...

The transition from selling drugs to the [rap] game, it's been sharp. I mean, I was a hustla and then boom! I was a rapper. So, you know, like when I was in the 'hood and I'm hustlin' and a car pull up [with people inside] staring, I'll probably grip up on my [gun], not knowing what's the deal. But now, me being a rapper, a car pull up it could be a fan, they could want an autograph. It's kinda shaky, but it's cool.

Just like you take a big amount of work from a big-time drug dealer: you work it off, he gets his PC [profit], you get your PC. Puff hit me off with a budget, told me to go make a album: I get my PC, he get his PC. If he wants to get shysty [shady] on me, he could get shysty on me, just like a drug dealer could get shysty on his worker. But son don't get down like that, he's a real player in the game.

You gotta mature, you know. When you brought up around that type of lifestyle, where you totin' guns all your life and then you get a record deal, it's kinda hard to break that habit. Until something may happen to you like you going to jail or you catchin' a case or somebody trying to do something to you. I know some people that just can't leave their gun [at home] no matter how much money they got. It's just the way they was brought up.

Busta Rhymes: Me, Big and Jay-Z went to school together. Big wasn't even rhyming then, he was just hustling. So it was weird to see him become so incredible lyrically when he was the last one to become an MC. He was the first one to have the biggest success.

Damien "D-Roc" Butler: As far as his days of hustling, he would start off hand-to-hand. He was on the everyday grind, trying to get out there. He did what he could do. It wasn't too much, really. He was getting his harassments, caught his jail cases, the basic [street] corner sh--. He used to hustle on Bedford and Washington [Avenues in Brooklyn, New York]. DJ Mister Cee was cool with 50 Grand, and Biggie used to do tapes in 50 Grand's basement. But the tapes were for us: It wasn't a demo, we just knew he knew how to rhyme. We would make the tapes for us to listen to and Mister Cee got ahold of one of them and put it out. Big was upset Cee got the tape. He wasn't looking for no deal like that. If you put Big on the spot like he could rhyme, he was like, "Nah, man." Big was shy. He would say, "I ain't one of them dudes looking for no deal."

Puff heard about him, wanted to sign him to Bad Boy. Big was out of town doing his thing and got the phone call like, "Puff is checking for you." He was like, "Whatever, if he want to get at me, get in touch with Cee." When we went out of town to get with Puff, [B.I.G.'s usual hustling spot] got raided. That was a sign.

When Big signed, we talked about him going gold. He would be like, "Damn, if I could go gold and get a [Toyota] 4Runner ..." 4Runners were hot back then. It took for him getting his first real taste of the money to get used to the game. Even when he did "Real Love" [with Mary J. Blige], he only got $500. I remember that plain as day. He was honored to even be asked to get on the joint. Once the money start coming, that's when he was like, "Yo, we need to get focused up."

NEXT: 'What makes my flow so ill is that I just don't care: I will say anything.' ...
Photo: Bad Boy/ MTV News

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