Mister Cee Explains Why Biggie’s “Ready To Die” Sounds Like 2 Different Albums
This morning (March 9), Brooklyn, New York DJ/producer/radio personality Mister Cee appeared on Sway In The Morning. On the 19th anniversary of The Notorious B.I.G.’s tragic (and unsolved) murder, Cee recalled his hand in turning a street-corner MC into arguably Rap’s greatest ever.
Beginning the interview, Mister Cee recalls friend DJ 50 Grand sliding him a tape of The Notorious B.I.G. Then a producer and DJ for Big Daddy Kane, Cee was just hours away from embarking on 1991’s Taste Of Chocolate Tour. However, hearing Biggie Smalls rap over the same sample used for “Ain’t No Half Steppin’,” Mister Cee heard something and immediately took heed. The day he returned from the Kane tour, he connected with the bulky bar-spitter from Bedford Stuyvesant.
“We need to redo your demo, ’cause it’s very airy and hissy,” Cee recalled telling the MC almost immediately. The demo recorded in 50 Grand’s basement studio would be re-recorded by Cee at his own studio. In retelling that aspect, the DJ explained, “What a lot of people don’t know about Biggie was that before I got a hold of him, he was working with Daddy-O from Stetsasonic.” Stetsasonic had just recorded their third and final album for Tommy Boy Records in 1991. Like member Prince Paul would do with De La Soul and 3rd Bass, Daddy-O would begin his own artist development, including Mary J. Blige.
Continuing, Cee says, “[The Notorious B.I.G.] was like, ‘I’m supposed to be working with Daddy-O, but whatever you want to do, yo.’ So we redid the demo, and Matty C who was working at The Source did this thing called ‘Unsigned Hype,’ where he was featuring rappers. I submitted the demo to Matty C, and we got in The Source. Then a young man named Sean ‘Puff Daddy’ Combs went to Matty C and said, ‘I know y’all doing this “Unsigned Hype” thing, who’s the best rapper you got [in it]?'” Matty C, who would become an acclaimed A&R, pointed Combs in Big’s direction. “The first thing Puff’ asked him, ‘But how does he look though?’ [Chuckles]” Then the head of A&R at Uptown Records, Puff Daddy took a meeting with The Notorious B.I.G. and Mister Cee. B.I.G.’s mentor recalls the young exec demanding the Brooklyn MC get right to exhibition, quoting Puff as saying, “‘I want you to rhyme right now.’ After he finished rhyming, Puff’ said, ‘I can have a record on you out by the summer. Would you be cool with that?’ Big was like, ‘Just talk to Cee.'”
As a result, The Notorious B.I.G. would join Heavy D & The Boyz, Mary J. Blige, and Guy at Uptown Records. However, the party would not last.
In 1992, Mister Cee reveals that contrary to many reports, the MCA Records-distributed label got out of the B.I.G. business. “They dropped him off the label. They went to Andre Harrell and said, ‘Y’all gotta drop five rappers.’ They dropped Big, Lil’ Shawn, [and three others].” However, this decision greatly affected what we now know as Biggie Smalls’ classic debut. “Half of the Ready To Die album was already recorded for Uptown, where Big was signed. If you really listen to ‘Ready To Die’—the song—and ‘Gimme The Loot,’ Big’s voice is mad young, because those songs was recorded in . The Ready To Die [sessions between Uptown and Bad Boy Records were] recorded a year and a half, two years apart. The first part of the album was recorded in 1992. Then, we got to do ‘Big Poppa,’ ‘One More Chance,’ [and non-album single] ‘Who Shot Ya?,’ his voice sounded more mature.” The later sessions came in 1994, when The Notorious B.I.G.’s subject matter, delivery, and inspiration had greatly evolved from his early twenties. Cee explains, “When Puff did the deal [for] Bad Boy [with] Arista [Records], he had to buy the masters from Andre Harrell. [The rumor is] that he bought half of those masters for $1,000,000, ’cause half of the album was already recorded.”
In the Sway In The Morning interview, Mister Cee spoke about Biggie’s affinity for MCs like Scarface and King T, and his personality coming across in music videos, and more.