The Notorious B.I.G. had plenty of hit singles, like "Big Poppa" and "Hypnotize," but more often than not, his album cuts were just as memorable. He may have only given fans two albums before he died on March 9, 1997, but Biggie crafted a catalog that is still celebrated 15 years after his death. Songs like "Gimme the Loot" and "Ten Crack Commandments" resonated with fans without music videos or radio play.
Till this day, one of Lil' Cease's favorite B.I.G. songs is "Everyday Struggle," from Big's 1994 debut, Ready to Die. "I'm sure I was about 13,14," Cease said, recalling his age when his friend first tracked the record. "I was too young to understand everything in it, but I understood everything in it."
On "Everyday Struggle," the Notorious B.I.G. rapped with a hustler's remorse. Rather than brag about his crack sales, like rappers often do, Big painted a picture of the downside of the street life. He rhymed about his mother's disappointment with his lifestyle, the murder of his close friend "Two Techs" and horrific dope-fiend binges.
"I don't wanna live no mo'/ Sometimes I hear death knockin' at my front door/ I'm living every day like a hustle, another drug to juggle/ Another day, another struggle," he rapped on the hook.
"Just that right there was our story. I was out there 11, 12 years old trying to do that, trying to hustle, trying to get out there and make money," Cease said.
Lil' Cease estimates that Biggie was 19 years old when he recorded "Everyday Struggle"; to be able to paint such a vivid picture at such a young age was a rarity. "Just the music, the beat, the production and then the way Big was rhymin' — me knowing Big was only 19 years old when he was writin' all that stuff," he said. "I watched Puffy listen to it, I watched [Hot 97 DJ] Mister Cee and [former Source magazine editor] Matty C and 'em listen to it. They was lookin' at Big like he was a robot.
"It just made me feel proud because I was actually a part of that," Cease said.
Join MTV News as we celebrate the Notorious B.I.G.'s life on the 15th anniversary of his death. From now through Sunday, we'll be rolling out exclusive and commemorative content from Biggie's closest friends, collaborators and biggest fans. To join the conversation on Twitter, hit @MTVRapFix using the hashtag #biggie15.