DJ Clark Kent Details How In Awe Biggie Was Of Jay Z When They Met (Video)
DJ Clark Kent is one of the people who was incredibly close to The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay Z at the same time. In the mid-1990s, Clark was working tightly with Jay on Reasonable Doubt. Years after the former Dana Dane DJ and longtime radio personality first heard Jay lyrics alongside Jaz-O and Original Flavor, he crafted a debut album with the fledgling Roc-A-Fella Records. Meanwhile, in another facet of his extensive 30-plus-year career, the Brooklyn, New York native was Biggie’s DJ for much of the mid-1990s. Clark produced three of the 14 tracks on Reasonable Doubt, after completing four joints on Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s Conspiracy debut the summer prior.
Speaking with VladTV, Clark Kent spoke about the fast-growing friendship between Biggie and Jay. While both Brooklyn, New York Rap kings grew up nearby and each attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School, they became friends, on the spot, as music peers in the mid-1990s.
“I wouldn’t say I ‘discovered’ Biggie, I was just cool with him,” Kent explained in contextualizing his early ’90s relationship with The Notorious B.I.G. “[We all] knew about Big because he was rhyming in the street. We all knew about him.” Clark Kent, DJ Mister Cee, and Stetsasonic’s Daddy-O were very much around B.I.G. in the early ’90s. Around this time, Big was offered a deal by Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs at Uptown Records, and later Bad Boy. In those days, Biggie began working with Clark Kent professionally. “When it was time to go on the road, he was managed by somebody whom I taught the music business to [in Lance “Un” Rivera]. So he was just like, ‘Yo, if we gonna go on the road, we gotta go on the road with a professional.’ Then it was, ‘We gon’ go on the road with Clark.’ It was all, because we already was fam.”
Around this same time, Clark Kent began working with Jay Z. First encountering Jay early on, Clark created a place where Jay and Roc-A-Fella could create music, outside of using others’ studio time on Kent’s budgets. “I’m involved in the whole process [of Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt], because the [album] started in my house. I built a studio in my house because I wanted Jay to rap. It might sound a lil’ crazy, but I was tired of bringing him to studios and abusing somebody else’s budget. [Previously], I would remix a record; I’d take a 24-hour [studio] block. I’d remix the record in 12 hours. Then, the rest of the 12 hours I was making records on Jay. One day I was just like, ‘I’ma take this money and put a studio in my crib.'” Not only Jay, but Reasonable Doubt producer Ski Beatz and others used the equipment. “It became the hub for where Ski was making records; he made a couple of Camp Lo songs in my house.”
With roots in Hip-Hop since the 1980s, Clark Kent recalls his astonishment in watching the pride of Marcy Projects’ rhymer. “I knew since I met [Jay Z] that if he makes an album, it’s gonna be trouble, for everybody. I’m dead serious. I don’t know if I was on some Confucius shit, but when I met him, I knew he was the one.” DJ Clark Kent continues, “His rhymes were amazing, like amazing. Like anytime somebody rhymes next to him or on the same song, they always seem [to] pale in comparison. This was happening, a lot.”
Vlad asks Clark how familiar Biggie was with Jay entering their first collaboration. “They knew of each other [before ‘Brooklyn’s Finest’]. I’m on the road with Big explaining how good [Jay Z] is. He’s like, ‘Yeah, he’s cool. Yeah, he can rap.’ I’m like, ‘No, he’s it!’ He’s like, ‘Aight, whateva’. Yeah, he’s nice.'”
The track Clark made upped the ante. “Then, [The Notorious B.I.G.] heard the [beat], it was, ‘I gotta be on the record.’ He wasn’t gonna let [the beat] go.” The two BK natives met in the lab. “When I introduced them, it was at the studio when Jay was making the record, which was an hour after Big heard the beat, by accident.” At the time, Jay had recorded the track as two iterations: “No More Mr. Nice Guy” “Once We Get Started.” These were intended to be solo records. As the DJ/producer showed the guest MC the beat, he wanted on the song. As Clark tells it, Biggie was outside the studio in a car. Jay Z and manager Dame Dash were in the studio, recording. Clark proposed adding B.I.G. to the song. At the time, he says he was laughed at—as Dash said Roc-A-Fella refused to pay Puff Daddy and Bad Boy Records if they could land the feature. As Clark tells it, he urged the Roc boys to worry about that later, and get the record done now. Moments later, the producer brought in the superstar guest.
“They met each other. It wasn’t even like they had a conversation; they just started to laugh, clap hands—because there was an insane amount of respect for each other’s craft,” recalls the industry veteran. “You don’t really have to talk in those moments. I played the song; Jay [asked me to play] the beat for like 20 minutes. Jay goes in the booth and changes everything [from his previous version]. He goes, ‘You ready?’ Big is like mystified. I was like, ‘I told you: he don’t write no rhymes.’ And from that point, Big stopped writing rhymes. He’s like, ‘I’m not gonna be the guy that’s gonna be here writing when this guy can do that.’ Even though I told [Biggie] a bunch of times, ‘he don’t write his rhymes down,’ he thought it was impossible that he could say rhymes that good without writing them down.”
In closing, DJ Clark Kent playfully hints that he may still have the sessions to Jay’s original verses over the track, before Biggie joined to make it “Brooklyn’s Finest.”