Streets Is Talking: News & Notes From The Underground
OK, it’s the first Mixtape Monday of 2009, and we’re switching up our whole format — at least for this week. We do it big every week, but for this special edition, we went on a tour of Brooklyn with Lil’ Cease and Jamal “Gravy” Woolard, who stars as the late, great Christopher Wallace in the Biggie biopic “Notorious.” One of the stops that day was to Biggie’s home in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn — it was a hip-hop pilgrimage, if you will.
It’s not officially recognized as a city landmark, but 226 St. James Place definitely sits on some sacred soil. For starters, it’s the home where Wallace grew up to become the Notorious B.I.G. And to hear Cease explain it, there were some other icons who put in time on Voletta Wallace’s stoop.
“Nas and Big was cool,” Cease told us while standing in front of Big’s old building. “Nas would come right here, and we’d go out to Queensbridge.”
Biggie knew how to spread love the Brooklyn way, of course, but he also welcomed his fellow MCs, despite their locale. There was Nas, and then Cease said him and Big would go into Manhattan to catch Redman shows.
“Big was a dude that listened to everybody,” Cease said. “We didn’t just vibe out only to his music and Junior M.A.F.I.A. That’s how I know a real hip-hop artist: They listen. They listen and vibe to other people. You find your energy from listening to other people.”
The hip-hop gods didn’t have it in the cards for Big and Nas to collaborate when God’s Son visited BK, but there were some certified bangers created at 226. All Big needed was a beat tape and a pen — he was writing back in the beginning, Cease said — and it would be on.
“Before I’d come up, Big used to throw me down $20,” Cease said of the routine, motioning to the Wallaces’ upper level. “From the third window right there. I’d go around the corner and get a bag of that brown, a couple Pepsis, some chips, some Dutches [cigars]. We’d go right in there. And I’d sit with him when he wrote the music. I was there when he wrote ‘Warning’ and ‘Juicy.’ ”
A Mixtape Monday Special Report
We defy you to find an MC with a catalog as deep as Notorious B.I.G.’s in the short time frame he was making music. Last year, DJ Mister Cee, who is credited with discovering Big, dropped the definitive Frank White mixtape with his 10th-anniversary tribute tape. Cee put his weight on it and had all types of obscure gems and street classics on there. In honor of Biggie and his upcoming biopic, we decided to make our own fantasy mixtape. We reached out to several top party and mixtape DJs, asking them to pick one song to put on a Biggie mixtape. Obviously, all responses came back with more than one answer.
” ‘The Whut’ had everyone around my way saying, ‘F— the world, don’t ask me for sh–,’ ” DJ Green Lantern said. “It was Big and Meth rapping back and forth in the real EPMD way of finishing lines for each other. Sh–, that don’t happen anymore. … I liked early, hungry Biggie that rapped about struggle and hard times a little more than the champagne and name brands that popped up after he got paid. ‘The Whut’ was him in the hoodie tied tight. … Black hoodie rap!”
” ‘Who Shot Ya’ — huge record and was never originally on an album,” DJ Drama chimed in. “That was a big song in the streets in ’95. Huuuuuge!”
” ‘Victory,’ because he gave it to n—as,” DJ Khaled offered up. ” ‘What’s Beef,’ because it’s so real. Straight up!”
Well, all three DJs and their peers gave us more choices as we put together a track list for our own B.I.G. tribute tape.
“I’m just glad that I was there when this record first hit the clubs! It was crazy! Packed clubs would scream when that classic intro would start the song. It made me feel like I was ballin’ and paid in my own way. If you had a job and you could afford to get a bottle and girls are around you in your own VIP world, this song was the finisher! Damn, I miss B.I.G.! These loser rappers out now ain’t got sh– on him.” – DJ Whoo Kid
“Mo Money, Mo Problems”
“When I first heard that record … I was in the studio with Big and Puff at Daddy’s House, and they played the whole album. … They told me to choose two songs for my mixtape. I chose ‘Hypnotize’ and ‘Mo Money, Mo Problems.’ Clue’s ‘Show Me the Money’ was the place the world first heard those songs. Radio stations added the record in rotation with my voice on it. That’s how urgent the records were.” – DJ Clue
“Wow, when did that come out? Like ’95? I’m gonna be honest with you: When I first heard that record, I thought there were only two members in the LOX. This was my first time hearing them, and to me, Styles and ‘Kiss sounded real similar on that joint. I think everyone ripped that track, but when Big came in — ‘Talkin’ it, but ain’t livin’ it/ Cristal pop, I’m sippin’ it.’ — nuts! At the time, I wasn’t even making mixtapes, just a fan back then, and hearing tracks like this and the LOX ‘Silver Spoons’ joint are what made me wanna make mixtapes in the first place. Classic material. You just came to expect this type of joint from Bad Boy at the time. I wish the LOX and Big had made more tracks together, man. And it just shows how Big could do it for the streets and/or chicks at any time.” – Big Mike
“Can’t You See”
“The first time I heard ‘Can’t You See,’ my reaction was: ‘This is dope, and who are the girls?’ Big performed on it like it was his song, and that’s what stood out to me! The impact it made on hip-hop and in the clubs is he put the stamp on Total and made them official to hip-hop heads. That ‘New Jersey Drive’ soundtrack had some heat on it, period!” – DJ Kut
“You Can’t Stop the Reign”
“That was Shaquille O’Neal featuring Biggie. Big had to write [Shaq's verses] for him. I thought it was crazy. Big’s line about ‘condos with elevators in them,’ bonkers!” – DJ Envy
“The impact on that joint, it held two crowns for two different reasons. One, it was a misunderstanding between Big and Wu-Tang. I think Big and Raekwon had a misunderstanding, but it wasn’t really nothing blown up. So to have Big and a Wu-Tang member on the same record was huge. The other thing, Meth was phenomenal back then, and so was Biggie. Then that hook! Anybody from the ‘hood, that’s how they feel when they got something: ‘F— the world, don’t ask me for sh–/ Everything you get, you got to work hard for it.’ We come from not having nothing. That was right there in the hook. They was saying it for us.” – DJ Kay Slay
“Real N—as” freestyle
“Too many choices. But if I had to choose one, ‘Road to Riches’! Especially if it’s to put on a mixtape. That’s the quintessential mixtape joint from Big, to me, and him at his best with a crazy story. … He really painted you a vivid picture of everything he says, and I love the West Coast beats. … When the ‘Black Superman’ beat comes in, it’s over! I remember playing that nonstop as a kid. One of my fave songs ever.” – DJ Skee
“Big Poppa” So So Def remix
“A classic remix that not many people are up on. JD did his thing with the beat, and Big doesn’t redo all the verses. He just re-spits them over with a couple of extra saucy lines.” – Nick Cannon
“I love that record. He tells his story so crazy, and when it ends, you look at everyone in the car that’s riding with you to the record, and everyone says, ‘Wow!’ ” – DJ Khaled
“The beat is crazy, his rhyme is crazy, and he tells a story that people can relate to.” – DJ Infamous
“That song embodies the real essence of street life and gives a true account of what young, black, poverty-stricken and disenfranchised males and females go through on a daily basis in our society. The lyrics Biggie spits in that song will never get old or outdated.” – DJ Chuck T
“One More Chance” remix
“That [DeBarge] sample is incredible, the way they incorporate the original hook with the song.” – DJ Greg Street
“Classic Premier beat with the R. Kelly sample. I knew Biggie was a problem, but I’ll never forget first time I heard the song. It was on Cosmic Kev’s Power 99 radio show. I knew Biggie was a hip-hop legend in the making.” – DJ Drama
“B.I.G, Lord Tarik and Pudgee tha Phat Bastard — where is he?!? The record shows the grind Biggie was on in that short window where he was doing records with everybody before Ready to Die came out. Classic early Biggie verse: ‘Big Poppa throwin’ n—as off the cliff/ Smoke a spliff, disappear with my bi— in a Mitsubishi Eclipse/ Read my lips, I kill you!’ ” – DJ Green Lantern
MTV News has some B.I.G. things on the horizon surrounding “Notorious” — stay tuned for more this week!
For other artists featured in Mixtape Monday, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines.