Puffy Daddy Details How He Helped Biggie Walk The Line Between Hardcore & Mainstream
During his life, The Notorious B.I.G.’s three Top 10 solo singles were all produced by Puff Daddy. The founder and CEO of Bad Boy Records worked with his “Hitmen” on each of “Big Poppa,” “One More Chance (Remix)” and 1997’s “Hypnotize.” Those three records, as well as 1994’s “Juicy” (which peaked at #27) are some of the very singles that put Christopher Wallace in the mainstream years before he would become one of Hip-Hop’s handful of diamond-certified MCs.
Appearing on Drink Champs, Puff Daddy spoke about his hand in bringing a hardcore MC from Bedford Stuyvesant Brooklyn to the to top of the charts. At 7:30, Diddy tells N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN, “It didn’t take a lot of convincing. I was like, ‘Yo, if you want to be big…first of all, when we did ‘Party & Bullshit,’ he didn’t know how to write a song, just like most [new] rappers. Everything was like 60 bars.” Puffy, who had worked with Heavy D & The Boyz and Father M.C. at Uptown Records, mentored the newly-inked act. “Once I kinda broke down the whole song structure to him, he was like a genius. So he would take it, and he just really was strong on making songs.”
In describing this learning session, Puffy also reveals that Biggie Smalls did actually write some of his rhymes down. “This is breaking news: a lot of people don’t know that. The first year, he would write [lyrics] down. By the second year, he would just do it, and say nothing for maybe two-three days, and just go in…and do it from head-to-toe,” recalls Puff’. “No punchin’ in. Nothing like that [except] maybe a couple of times.”
Puffy says that the sample choices on those hit records began in his own upbringing. “As far as the big records, going after the ‘Juicy’ and the ‘Big Poppa’ with the Isley Brothers [sample], it was a vibe that I was in, that I had already seen work to some degree.” Parts of Ready To Die were produced by Gang Starr’s DJ Premier, Lord Finesse, and another of Biggie’s mentors, fellow BK native Easy Mo Bee. Puff’ believed that music had its place. “I knew that with [Easy] Mo Bee and [DJ] Premier, we had the harder edged tracks. I knew that there was just this opportunity. ‘Cause the West Coast was doin’ it their way, their style of sampling more commercial-type hits. But I knew that these joints here, these were the things that I grew up to in Harlem. When I had to do my chores in the morning, these records were really, really deep to me.” Those aforementioned hits included popular samples by Mtume and Debarge.
Puff Daddy says that this negotiation was based on Biggie’s dreams. “I knew he wanted to be fly. I told him, ‘This is the road to the flyness, or else you’re just gonna be really dusty, doin’ videos in abandoned buildings.’ He was like, ‘I wanna be fly.’ He always wanted to make sure his gear was flyer than somebody that was slimmer.”
N.O.R.E. brings up that in return, Puff Daddy was present on some of Biggie’s famous album cuts and B-sides. Noreaga specifically brings up the mid-’90s 12″ cut “Who Shot Ya?,” which features some famous Puff Daddy ad-libs on an EZ-Elpee-produced cut. “It was more of a respect thing, of I knew what he wanted to do. If we was going to have this partnership and he was going to follow me down the road of some of these bigger records, then I’d follow him down the road of making more of the hardcore records. There’s only one line I made him change, where he went too far for me.” Naturally, the Drink Champs host ask for more information. Puff says, “I think he talked about raping Mary. It was crazy. I just couldn’t do it. And he respected that. This is just a freestyle, and it eventually came out.”
Assuming the reference was to the Biblical figure, N.O.R.E. points out that Nas had popularized that brand of religious condemnation in 1991, when he disrespected Jesus on Main Source’s “Live At The Barbeque.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Puffy speaks at length about confronting Suge Knight in 1995 at The Tunnel, as well as his famed “Don’t ask me if I write rhymes, I write checks” lyric.