While its been 10 years since The Notorious B.I.G. was tragically murdered in Los Angeles, CA, his legacy has grown to unparallel heights. DJ Mister Cee, one of the first individuals to discover Biggie, has played a big role in making sure Biggie is as relevant today as he was a decade ago. Cee, a Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn native and former DJ for Big Daddy Kane, was one of the first people to hear Biggie’s home brew demo in the early 90’s. The tape, ironically, featured B.I.G. rhyming over the same “Blind Alley” sample [by The Emotions] utilized on Big Daddy Kane’s “Ain’t No Half Steppin’.” Impressed by his polish for a young artist, Cee helped B.I.G. cut a new demo and arranged for his first photo shoot. Puff Daddy, then an A&R at Uptown Records, heard the dynamic demo and signed Biggie to Bad Boy Records.
Cee continued to play a major role in Biggie’s career after his signing to Bad Boy. He was the Associate Executive Producer on Biggie’s debut album, Ready To Die, and released, arguably, the best B.I.G. mixtape of all time, Mister Cee Presents: The Best of Biggie. Then, just a few weeks before the release of his sophomore album, Life After Death, Biggie was gunned down in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997. It was a tragic blow for hip-hop and Mister Cee, who vowed to carry the torch for Biggie and continue to promote his music and legacy.
Now, on the 10-year anniversary of Biggie’s passing, Mister Cee reminisces with XXLMag.com about his days with the King of New York, his tragic death and his impact on an entire generation of listeners. Biggie may be gone, but Mister Cee will always make sure he’s never forgotten.
Its been 10 years since Biggie’s death. What are some of your fondest memories of him?
One of the funniest stories I have is when we did a show in Greensboro, NC. This was right after he made “Party and Bullshit” for the Who’s The Man? soundtrack. So, I was driving down there on I-95 and Biggie’s like, “Yo, I’m hungry, man. Please pull over. I gotta eat.” And I kept telling him, ‘B.I.G., we can’t stop, we have to get to the spot.’ But he just kept stressing it, like, “Yo, please, I’m hungry! Please stop.” It actually got to the point where tears were almost coming out of his eyes because he was that hungry. So we finally pulled into Popeye’s and I when I tell you he tore that chicken up, I really mean it. He tore that chicken up!
Biggie was just a funny guy who always had something humorous to say. I remember when Diddy first heard Biggie’s tape and wanted to have a meeting. I told B.I.G. about it and he’s like, [Cee starts mimicking Biggie] “Yo, man, I ain’t going to be talking to this dude. You know, you’re going to be doing all the talking, man. I ain’t going to be talking to duke.” He wouldn’t even call Puffy by his name at that time. You would have to be there to witness how he’s talking and how he made a joke out of it. That’s the type of guy he was. He always put light on the situation.
Is there anything about Biggie that people don’t know?
He was really a student of hip-hop. He knew everything about the history of rap —from Grandmaster Caz to Hieroglyphics. He knew about the people that paved the way for him.
So B.I.G. was listening to Souls of Mischief?
There was a freestyle that we recorded a long time ago and he was rapping on Casual’s “I Didn’t Mean To.” He picked that song. He was very knowledgeable. He was also following what Scarface and Rap-A-Lot were doing. He did his homework. He loved rap and really studied it.
Where were you when he passed away?
I was asleep in New York and I got a phone call, like five or six in the morning, from Mr. Magic. He said, “Did you hear anything about Biggie being shot?” I was his first phone call and I told him, ‘Magic, that’s not true,’ and I hung up. Then, he called again and was like, “I just got a phone call from Fred Buggs [radio personality], you need to find out what’s going on.” I hung up again. It was one of those situations where you hear something but you don’t want to believe it. I literally tried to go back to bed and sleep it off. I’m tossing and turning, really trying to force myself back to sleep. Then I turn around, open my eyes, and Biggie is looking at me through the darkness. I had one of Biggie’s plaques on the wall opposite of my bed. It was the “Juicy” plaque. So that’s what I saw. His eyes were cutting through the darkness of my room. It was like we were looking at each other. Once that happened, I just got up and said, ‘Let me call the station [Hot 97 in New York].’ I don’t remember who was on the radio at that time, it might have been Lisa Evers, but that’s when they told me what happened. I didn’t get out of my bed for three days. I literally just stayed in bed with the TV and phone off. I didn’t shower, shave or do anything.
Did you feel any sense of guilt about it? Did you feel like you could’ve done anything?
No, I didn’t feel any sense of guilt. But there was apart of me that was like, ‘If I was running that ship, maybe it would have went down a different way.’ Because there was a time when Biggie asked me to be his road manager or DJ—just to be on the road with him. And I turned it down. I said to him, ‘I had my time to be on the road with Big Daddy Kane and I want you to enjoy this. This is your turn and your time. If I go on the road, all of this shit y’all are doing [will stop]. I’m gonna run a tight ship.’ Because the things that Kane and I did, I wouldn’t let Biggie do. That’s the only thought I had. That’s no disrespect to anybody, to whoever his road manager was at the time. But if I was on the road with B.I.G., maybe it could have been different.
How did you think Biggie’s passing would affect the people around him?
It was a devastating blow to everybody involved. There were so many people he was responsible for. I knew it was going to put a dent in a lot of people. And some of those people still haven’t recovered. Biggie took care of everything for everybody. It was a good and bad thing. He took people from the hood and tried to help them. But those people never got to experience what it was like to take care of their own business. So when Biggie passed, they weren’t business savvy and had no idea how to continue on. There are some people that haven’t recovered yet and I don’t think they ever will.
Are you angry that 10 years later there hasn’t been justice in his case?
I don’t think about that. I feel bad for Ms. Wallace about that situation. But I don’t really think about that because whoever did it has to answer to their maker. If I sit here and really think and worry about that, then I’d probably be crying everyday. What I try to do is keep his life and legacy alive. Everybody still wants to be Biggie. Everybody is still trying to be the King of New York. Everyone wants the title but what a lot of rappers don’t understand is that you don’t make yourself the king. The people of NY crown you. Biggie didn’t claim that, he was appointed.
How do you feel about everyone borrowing his lines? You come from an era, where, if you did that, it was frowned upon.
There’s a part of me that feels it’s a form of flattery and another that feels when a rapper doesn’t have something to say, they listen to a Biggie or 2Pac album and quote a line. So I’m torn between the two. As long as rappers are doing it with taste and class, I don’t have a problem with it. But I think it’s a case-by-case basis. You have a lot of new rappers with no albums or credibility, they are just making mixtapes, and they’re quoting lines. That’s annoying because I’m not hearing the real you. If Jay-Z, Nas or Eminem does it, then I don’t have a problem. They have credibility.
How do you find yourself accepting his death 10 years later?
It’s not easy. But the one thing I realized this year is, in 10 years, there’s a new set of hip-hop fans that, at some point, are going to have to be enlightened on who The Notorious B.I.G. was. With each year, there’s another set of kids that probably will not know who he was. And its up to people like myself, and the writers, to keep his memory alive. Biggie has, and always will be, the greatest rapper of all time.