March 9, 2012

The Notorious BIG: Ready To Talk

Originally published in Ego Trip Magazine #10, 1997
The following are excerpts from conversations with Biggie Smalls from January 22nd and 23rd, 1997.

In light of the media’s coverage of you and the rumors that have followed you, what does it all tell you about people in general?
Notorious B.I.G.: [Laughs softly to himself] I mean, they hungry, man. They just… I guess it’s a form of love, because it’s me. “Oh, Biggie did this, let me talk about it”-type shit. But then again, I think if they tryin’ to big theyselves up, if they know that’s a hot story, then they gonna speak about it, you know what I’m sayin’? One thing Wendy [Williams, New York City gossip radio DJ] did say which was true was if you [as an artist] are gonna put yourself out there like that, she ain’t got no choice but to speak about it.

Because you’re in the pubic eye.
Notorious B.I.G.: Exactly. You in the public eye. There’s two things you can be: you can be a star or you can be a superstar. And once you decide you wanna be a superstar and you wanna sell two-and-a-half million records and be on TV shows and award shows and everything, you puttin’ yourself out there. I put myself out there for straight lies. There’s been things [written or said] about me that’s completely false. What can I do? Grin and bear it. I’m not gonna be the one all stressed out. Cryin’, flippin’, wildin’ out. That’s just gonna make matters worse.

Your life’s evolution has been much discussed, going from the street life to doing the music. Did your past prepare you at all for what you’ve had to go through now? It seems like you’d have similar foes just with different weapons.
Notorious B.I.G.: See, it was the different weapons that fucked me up. In the streets, if you hear, “Yo, blah-blah down the block heard that you got tall caps and you gettin’ more money and he gonna do this and this and this.” If you have a problem with that, we handle it right then. Right then, the whole problem could be squashed instantly. With this type of situation [in the music industry], you’re like, “Damn, I can’t do this ’cause he gonna call the police, and then it’ll be in every newspaper. I can’t do this because then they’ll never play my music again. I can’t do this because then they won’t book me for no more shows.”
What it all boils down to is in the streets, you don’t gotta think. It’s a bloodsport. Whatever goes down goes down. In this business, you gotta think. Because the wrong move could be the wrong move. You could be fucked up for a long time behind some little shit that you thought was nothing. You gotta think before you do things. You get caught up. Sometimes you gotta just chill and handle it. Worry about it later or take the bad situation and try to find a good situation. 

The title of your new album, Life After Death…, reflects your change in maturity and growth from then to now, but are people gonna doubt it coming from you because they’re aware of you catching cases for various other things?
Notorious B.I.G.: Nah, they ain’t gonna doubt it ’cause it’s real, man. You can hear the sincerity. It’s all real with me. First of all, it’s an elevation on many things, not only with me just being smarter and wiser to what’s going on. But lyrically, the jump from Ready to Die to this is just crazy ’cause I stepped up so much on the rhyme skills it’s bananas right now. When they get the album, they gonna be like, “Yo, we really feel like duke really was dead and just came alive.” ’Cause I just completely stepped up. That’s how I really look at it more than anything – besides knowing that there’s little snakes in this game, that there’s player-haters and scandalous bitches. Of course, you gonna always know that. But I just talk about [how] musically and lyrically I’ve come out of the grave. That’s what I’m really about. “Fuck the world, fuck my moms and my girl.” That was Ready to Die. That was just me being so pissed at the way my situation was I just felt like I was dead. That’s why on “Suicidal Thoughts” I tried to kill myself. Because I just thought of death as a better place. But after going through [everything], I feel like there’s more. With [my daughter] T’yanna being born, with [my son] C.J. being born, there’s something to live for. With my mother finally being proud of me, finally sayin’, “Damned police is not comin’ to my house lookin’ for my son no more.” When she hear gunshots in the streets and wakes up out of her bed screamin’ and I’m not in the house, she don’t have to worry about, “God, I hope that wasn’t my son.” Now I got a life after that. I got a comfortable home. I’m safe. I’m with family and they got my best interest at heart.

Tell me a little about your newborn son.
Notorious B.I.G.: Christopher Jordan Jr. He chillin’. He a little cool dude.

What does Dad want him to be?
Notorious B.I.G.: Chris? I don’t know. Chris can be whatever he want to be, really. I’m not gonna be the one. When I had my daughter, it was just like a little girl, so it was kinda like…

… you spoil her.
Notorious B.I.G.: Yeah, you know. But with a son, it’s just like you wanna be able to school your son the shit that niggas was schooling niggas to. I want that to be like my little partner right there. Put him on to everything. So nobody could never get over on him. ’Cause my pops jetted out on my moms when I was like I think one-and-a-half. I never really got to feel duke at all. So my moms never schooled me about fucking or none of that type of shit. I had to learn that shit on my own. I mean, of course, she told me the basics about the eggs and sperms and shit, but I’m like, “I wanna know about all this other shit that I’m hearin’ about.” She was a teacher, so she just did the encyclopedia way about shit. I wasn’t with that.

So I don’t want my son to ever be in that position either. I want to just be able to just snatch him up and we just kick it. I want him to be able to always feel, “I can tell my pops anything ’cause that nigga’s just the coolest nigga ever.” That’s what I wanna be. I wanna be the nigga’s best friend more than anything. Whatever he wants to do in his life it’s completely his choice. I definitely want him to be able to learn from his mistakes. But at the same time I would never want him to feel like he would have to sell a drug or do anything out of the ordina
ry for anything, because I’m here.

Didn’t having a mom who was a teacher help you?
Notorious B.I.G.: Yeah, she schooled me to a lot of shit. But at that time I think I was like more in the realm of wanting to have street smarts. I wanted to know what was goin’ on on the outside. My mother was from Jamaica, so she came from a strict home. She was on her own doin’ her thing. And havin’ to raise a son, she didn’t really have time to school me to shit. She just left me a lot of room to roam. My curiosity was at an all-time high. I really wanted to know what was goin’ on in the streets. And I really had to know and she couldn’t tell me because she wasn’t from the streets of Brooklyn. So at certain times I used to think I was smarter than my mother when it came to certain things.
She’d see me with jewelry and clothes. Say I got a thousand dollars worth of clothes or a thousand dollars worth of jewelry, she’d ask me where the jewelry came from. “Oh, it’s fake. It’s not real.” Where the clothes came from? “Oh, this guy was sellin’ it in the street for $20.” She didn’t know, so what could she do? But my son couldn’t do that to me. I’d look at him and laugh like, “You bananas, I know how much all this shit cost!” So I think I’m always gonna be a step ahead of him. I mean, you supposed to.

Ideally. I guess if you’re not…
Notorious B.I.G.: You turn up like me. Or how I was about to turn.

What’s the next turn? What do you see for yourself down the line?
Notorious B.I.G.: I don’t wanna be the one to sit there and talk about, “Yeah, I’m gonna be here ten years from now.” I don’t wanna be the 30-year-old rapper, man. I really don’t. I wanna break down [my recording] contract a little bit more, probably do another two or three albums. I wanna be the emcee to bow [out] gracefully. I came in the game, I gave you guys five or six decent albums, I gave y’all a good ten years of my life. I appreciate the success, I appreciate the fans for doin’ what they do and I’m passin’ it along to the next man. Y’all do what you gotta do. I would still wanna be involved with the music, getting the money from it, because it’s basically my life. It’s really all I know. But I definitely don’t want to be an artist too much longer.
I figure like this: I started rappin’ when I was 20, 21. If I ain’t seen what I want in nine years in the game, what am I in the game for? I don’t wanna be the rapper sittin’ there like, “I really need this advance for this album because my mortgage is due.” Or, “My phone will get cut off if I don’t get this advance.” If I ain’t got everything I want out of the game being in the game for so long, obviously this is not the right game for me.
After this Life After Death double CD I got a title for my new joint – it’s Born Again. Because Puffy had made a good point [when he told me], “You don’t wanna be rhyming about guns and drugs forever.” I really gotta sit down after of this and figure out how I can do it again without doing anything I’ve ever done. That’s a big challenge, because I always used to be on the vibe of, “Fuck it, if that’s what everybody likin’ that’s what I’m a keep doin’.” But then again, I could look at it another way like, “Aw, that’s the same old shit.” I’m not gonna make the transition from the Big Poppa to the Hare Krishna, you know what I’m sayin’? I’m not gonna completely flip out. I just wanna make every album seem like, “He’s progressed.”

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