10 Reasons Why Jay-Z & Biggie’s “Brooklyn’s Finest” Almost Didn’t Happen (Video)
DJ Clark Kent is a legend. In addition to being a renowned DJ, he is also a producer exrtraordinaire, having made such tracks as Troop’s “Spread My Wings,” Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s “Player’s Anthem,” and Mariah Carey’s “Loverboy.” However, perhaps his most respected contributions in Hip-Hop circles were the records he made for Jay-Z, including “Cashmere Thoughts” and “Brooklyn’s Finest,” on his Reasonable Doubt album. As the first of two collaborations between Jay and The Notorious B.I.G., “Brooklyn’s Finest” is widely regarded as one of the finest collabos in Hip-Hop history and, in a recent interview on the Ebro In The Morning show, Clark revealed that the record’s existence is pure happenstance.
Starting at 19:30, Clark casually reels off 10 reasons why “Brooklyn’s Finest” easily would not have existed:
1. Jay-Z and Biggie did not know each other prior to the record being made: “I introduced them in the session” said Clark, in reference to a recording session for the song.
2. Biggie was only interested in being on the track after hearing it by accident: “I was in a session with Big and he heard the beat by accident. It was purely accident. I didn’t want him to hear it ’cause I figured he would like it, and he did, and he wanted it. And, he was like ‘Let me get that.'” After explaining to Big that the track was already committed to Jay-Z, Biggie was insistent, saying “Nah, man. Fuck that. I need to be on that record.”
3. Despite Biggie’s insistence, Clark had no intention of facilitating a collaboration: “I still don’t know what made me say ‘Alright, just come to the studio and wait in the car.'”
4. Despite being one of the biggest stars in Hip-Hop at the time, Biggie actually complied with Clark’s demand that he wait in the car outside the studio: “Who says that part,” said Kent acknowledging the audacity of demanding that to major star like Biggie wait outside. “If I wasn’t his big homie, would he have waited in the car?” In explaining his rationale for the move, Clark said “I wanted to make sure that Jay would say yes, and I just couldn’t walk in and go ‘Yo, Big want to get on the song.'”
5. Jay-Z had already completed the entire song: “I get in the studio, I lay the beat, Jay goes in, and he does the whole song,” said Clark of that time while Big was waiting in the car. It wasn’t until after the record was done that Clark casually suggested “Yo, you should let Big on the song.”
6. The legalities of putting together such a collaboration should have gotten in the way: “In nowadays times, you damn near have contracts written up before going ‘Y’all are going to do this song together, and the splits are going to be…’ before the beat is made,” said Kent, again reiterating that Jay had already finished the song.
7. Damon Dash did not want to pay the customary royalties and fees that accompanied the participation of a major artist like Biggie on the record: “Dame was like ‘Nah. Fuck that, ’cause we ain’t giving Puff no money.'” Given Roc-A-Fella’s completely independent status at the time of Reasonable Doubt‘s recording, they likely were operating within an extremely restrained budget, despite allegedly having significant backing from the streets.
8. Even if they were to agree to the collaboration, Jay-Z and Dame Dash did not expect it to happen that day: “Jay was like ‘Well, we don’t know him.’ and I was like ‘Well, you know I know him.’ Clark then excused himself from the session, acted like he was going to the bathroom, and came back moments later with Biggie, who he had retrieved from the car. When he came back to the studio with Big, Clark said “The whole room goes ‘You a funny nigga.'”
9. Jay re-wrote his rhyme, on the spot, but Biggie was not prepared to follow him…: Kent says after some small talk “Jay stood there for 20 to 25 minutes, listening to the beat, and then goes in the booth and does what you hear, and comes back out and goes ‘Are you ready.?’ And, Big’s like ‘What the fuck are you talking about?’ And, then he looks at me and goes ‘What the fuck did he just do?'” After Clark explained to Biggie that Jay wrote rhymes in his head, curiously, a trait that often was attributed to Big, Clark says Biggie responded “Clark, that shit was crazy…Nah, I’m not ready. I’ll come back for this.” Clark said Biggie returned two months later and laid the rhymes that now have been immortalized.
10. The original track Kent did for Jay was originally going to be called “No More Mr. Nice Guy” (which Jay says on the record) or “Once We Get Started,” so a record titled “Brooklyn’s Finest” was not even being contemplated, at its inception.