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 Bands A-Z: Notorious B.I.G.
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 "I was a hustla and then boom! I was a rapper." ...

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 "What makes my flow so ill is that I just don't care: I will say anything." ...

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 "Once you achieve the success you want, that's when the playa hating starts." ...

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

Photos of Big with Diddy, Lil' Kim and more

 Notorious B.I.G.: Still The Illest

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Biggie: Excerpts From The Life
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"In '94 or '95, his biggest competition was Jay-Z and Nas. [Jay's] 'Dead Presidents,' I remember Big heard the record and was like, 'Son is about to put it down.' " — Damien "D-Roc" Butler
Damien "D-Roc" Butler: In '94 or '95, his biggest competition was Jay-Z and Nas. [Jay's] "Dead Presidents," I remember Big heard the record and was like, "Son is about to put it down." Big was stuck on that record. He used to listen to a lot of Snoop. Dogg Pound was poppin' back then too. He would listen to Redman, but people he was worried about was Jay and Nas and the Dogg Pound. Big and Nas was cool. I remember Nas coming to the dressing room at the first Source Awards [in 1995]. But they would go at each other indirectly with rhymes. They knew when the lines was meant for each other. Big was on some real get-money type of stuff. Nas was more political. Big was never a real political type of dude.

Busta Rhymes: My last moment with Big was out of town, Jay-Z was staying in that same hotel. Jay-Z wasn't there but Big was laying on the bed. The whole crew was there. He said, "Yo. My favorite MC, the most dangerous MC, is Jay-Z." I said, "What?" Jay-Z had Reasonable Doubt. Big was at 2 million with Ready to Die, but he still felt that Jay-Z was the dude to keep your eye on.

Damien "D-Roc" Butler: At the first Source Awards, he got rewarded. I remember that night clearly. That was a tension-filled night because you-know-who [Death Row] was in the house. Big was on top at the time, but we ain't think he was gonna win everything he was nominated for. We was thinking about winning just one, but he just kept coming up, coming up. He was like, "I got four joints already, this is real." That's when he came up with the "King of New York" [nickname]. He was like, "I won everything I'm nominated for." It was a good night.

Notorious B.I.G.: I knew I was gonna win something. Album of the Year, that's what I wanted more than anything. The best performance, I ain't think I was gonna win that. And I definitely ain't think I was gonna win best lyricist, with Nas [nominated]. But best album, I wanted that. I worked hard on that piece. When I put the album together, I knew it was tight: I knew it was lyrically tight, I knew it had some cool songs, but I wasn't thinking multiplatinum. I thought I was gonna do good like everybody else.

Damien "D-Roc" Butler: 'Cause Big was [into] getting money and getting fly, some people would come at him. They made it seem like that's all he would talk about. He didn't really care, he kept doing what he do. He had the formula. He was like, "I know how to do it; I know how to make the records. It's a certain formula you need."

Chris Rock: Ready to Die, parts of it are really classic! I used to see Biggie outside of McDonald's on Fulton Street [in Brooklyn] all the time. He never drove — it was always somebody driving him. This was around the time "Juicy" came out.

"I make music about what I know. If I'd worked at McDonald's, I would've made rhymes about Big Macs and fries." — Notorious B.I.G.
Notorious B.I.G.: I make music about what I know. If I'd worked at McDonald's, I would've made rhymes about Big Macs and fries and stuff like that. In Brooklyn, I see hustling, I see killing, I see girls, I see cars that's what I rap about, what's in my environment. Everything I did on the album was all about me. Me and Brooklyn. My Brooklyn representees know that. All that everyday struggle, waking up, check-cashing place, it's 9 o'clock in the morning, that's all Brooklyn, baby. That's all real. As far as somebody else not liking it, it's on them, man. I got love from the peeps, it's all good. I look at myself as the eyes of the world. At the same time, I know what people want to hear and that's not all I rhyme about. If it's one thing I heard about Ready to Die, it's that it's a full, rounded album. I got songs for the girls, I got songs for the thugs, I got songs for the radio. I try to put a little bit of everything into everything. I'm not a one-sided person.

I'm still shy, I'm a quiet dude. I say the things I want to say in my music. When I first started off, I just wanted everybody to close their eyes and just listen to what I'm saying and picture everything. I think I came across with that. When I came out with the "Juicy" joint, it was like an introduction to let everybody know how it went down with me as far as the hustling and [how I] got in the rap game, and it was all good. "Big Poppa" is a joint for the honies and the willies and the players out there. You know, that seems to be thing right now, everybody got their Kangol they want to be players all the honies in the house, it's a party joint. Puff said, "Let's get the money," so that's what we went for, get the money. The video [for "Big Poppa"] is just the way we do it. If you was with me and Puff on the regular at parties, you would see: We go to clubs, we buy out the bar, we just have a good time. Nothing but dancing and chillin' out.

On "Suicidal Thoughts" [I was] stressed, living in that back room. It gets like that, yo, it gets like that. I really can't speak for nobody else, but I can speak for [Junior M.A.F.I.A.'s Lil'] Cease. Because I know when you dead broke and your baby moms is yapping and your daughter's crying and your moms is yapping and you stressed out, man, anything can come to a head. It's critical! Sometimes a n---a just be like, "I wish I was dead so I don't have to go through the problems." That's how I was feeling, so I just dropped a line on it. What makes my flow so ill sometimes is that I just don't care: I will say anything, you know what I'm saying? I knew that that would be a bugged line to say, so I said it. I ain't killing myself though gettin' crazy lucci [money].

I heard [some people] that said my career reminded them of Big Daddy Kane's, how I came out hard and strong at the time, which is all good, but I'm just trying to stay above water, stay busy, stay working. Puff told me the key to this joint, the key to staying on top of things, is to treat everything like it's your first project, like it's your first day, you know what I'm saying? Like he was [as] an intern you just stay hungry.

Busta Rhymes: It takes most people a lifetime career to establish what he established with one album.

NEXT: 'Once you achieve the success you want, that's when the playa hating starts.' ...
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Photo: Diverse Images/ Getty Images/ MTV News

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