Biggie Smalls’ Demo Tape Collaborator DJ 50 Grand Has Passed Away
DJ 50 Grand played a pivotal role in the career of Biggie Smalls. The Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn native born Kevin Griffin has reportedly died over last weekend at the age of 55. No cause of death has been made public. Junior M.A.F.I.A. member Lil’ Cease, Revolt, and Andscape‘s Justin Tinsley have publicly mourned the Brooklyn, New York DJ and producer.
It was 50 Grand who produced Biggie’s demo tape in 1991. That tape would subsequently travel through the hands of DJ Mister Cee, The Source‘s magazine’s Matteo “Matty C” Capoluongo, and eventually, an enterprising Uptown Records executive named Sean “Puffy” Combs. By the end of the chain, Christopher Wallace was recognized as one of Hip-Hop’s greatest talents and biggest stars.
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Growing up, 50 Grand was a part of a Lafayette Gardens Brooklyn crew called The Old Gold Brothers. Griffin represented the squad into recent years. He also was raised just feet away from Calvin LeBrun, known to Hip-Hop Heads as DJ Mister Cee. Cee would go on to DJ and produce for Big Daddy Kane by the late 1980s and early 1990s.
According to Justin Tinsley’s research, Damion “D-Roc” Butler, a friend of Griffin’s who would later co-found Junior M.A.F.I.A., eventually introduced him to a budding talent named Biggie. “I started working with Big in ’91,” 50 Grand told The Fader in 2011. “I was 21; he was 15. I met him through a friend of mine. They hustled together on [the intersection of] Bedford and Quincy. People in the neighborhood knew him as the hottest rapper around. Everybody that stepped in his path, he ate ’em up. He earned that stripe from that one battle he had on Bedford and Quincy. I was the one that was playing the music.” In a recent conversation, he expounded, “I took [Biggie] straight to the basement. We smoked. We drank,” Griffin told Tinsley. “And ’bout an hour later we came out with that demo.”
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In 2010, Mister Cee detailed that demo with MTV News‘ Shaheem Reid. “‘Microphone Murderer’ is the main demo [song],” Cee said. “It’s the demo that I took to Matty C from The Source magazine for the ‘Unsigned Hype’ article. Diddy heard about The Source magazine ‘Unsigned Hype’ situation. So the ‘Microphone Murderer’ was the demo song Puff’ heard and got him signed. Besides ‘Microphone Murderer,’ [the demo tape included] ‘Guaranteed Raw,’ ‘Live In Action,’ and another song called ‘Love No Ho.’ And when we say demo, it wasn’t a four-track. It was just  DJing on two records in his crib.”
That demo material, prompting a chain of events involving Mister Cee, The Source, and Diddy, eventually landed Biggie Smalls a major record deal by 1992. Despite the rise, 50 Grand and Biggie remained close. Andscape reports that 50 Grand was present at Quad Studios the night that Tupac Shakur was robbed and shot. Biggie and 50 were together in linking with Nas, Treach, and Tupac other times. The artist suffered emotional toll when his collaborator was tragically murdered in March of 1997. That demo material landed on 2009’s Notorious soundtrack (as “The Hitman DJ 50 Gran”).
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On “Let Me Get Down,” a song eventually released on Biggie’s posthumous Born Again, the multi-platinum MC shouted out DJ 50 Grand, his former drinking buddy and first studio partner. “To my mothaf*cking man 50 Grand, the alcoholic man / Inject a tall can in his bloodstream if he can,” said The Notorious B.I.G.
In recent years, 50 Grand remained associated with Hip-Hop artists. His Instagram featured photos with Lil’ Cease, Smif-n-Wessun’s Tek, Easy Mo Bee, DJ Enuff, and others.
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Ambrosia For Heads extends condolences to the family and friends of Kevin “DJ 50 Grand” Griffin.
#BonusBeat: A 2022 interview with DJ 50 Grand by The Scoff Chronicles: