FEATURE HIGHLIGHTS ’08: Lil’ Cease: My Life Is A Movie, Pt.1
[Editor’s Note: With the new year around the corner, XXLmag.com looks back at some of our greatest stories and video features of 2008.]
James Lloyd, 30, of Brooklyn has led a life usually reserved for men with balding scalps and graying beards. But Lloyd, better known as Lil’ Cease is no ordinary man. When he was just a young teen he clicked with Christopher Wallace and a few other neighborhood kids to form the Junior M.A.F.I.A. Wallace would go on to become The Notorious B.I.G. and usher in a rebirth of New York hip-hop, spark the rise of the Bad Boy empire, and cement a legacy as one of greatest rappers of all time. But the plot didn’t play out exactly as they planned. Biggie and Co. became embattled in an ugly coastal feud with the California-based Death Row Records and his former friend, Tupac Shakur. It played out like a movie the way headlines were made with each taunt, dis record, and ultimately the deaths of Biggie and ‘Pac. Cease was on the front lines for everything, including the aftermath that saw him, Lil' Kim and the M.A.F.I.A. part ways. Now, with the production of next year’s Biggie biopic “Notorious” wrapped, Cease-a-Leo looks back on a story that can make a young man feel old.
XXLMag.com: By the time the movie hits theaters, 12 years will have passed since Biggie’s death. With this movie, though, it’s still fresh to a lot of people and every detail is sure to be scrutinized. To you, is the film as close as a representation as you would like it to be?
Lil Cease: Yeah, you want things to be 100 percent real as possible. But you know, when you’re doing things in a movie form, some things are going to get tweaked. It's somewhat real, but it may not be exactly what we said because we might have to change certain words for TV. ‘Cause once I was up there, there was a lot of stuff I would look at and go: ‘Nah, we wouldn’t say that.’ But the director [George Tillman, Jr.] would tell me, This movie is coming from the perspective where there are 45 million other people who might not have known who B.I.G was. You want everybody to be able to understand what's going on. So instead of using all this slang that they might not understand, you have to use language that everyone will get. So a lot of times that happened, but a lot of times you had your freedom [as a consultant]. So that's a good part of it. But I was there everyday on set to make sure everything was there. When they shoot certain parts, for them to know it was right, they have to go, Cease, is this how it happened? And I'll tell them.
XXL: At the time, the East Coast/West Coast rivalry was mostly covered in magazines, today it would have been online daily. Is there still more details to unearth?
Cease: All the dots will come [together]. Now people will really get to see everything. It's different than reading it, to see it visually and see how it happened. The incident at Quad, the whole B.I.G. and Tupac relationship; so people really get a chance to see what happened. Maybe it'll change their perspective about the way they think about things. Because even to this day, people have things to say.
XXL: Like Chuck Philips. Although he recanted his story about the Quad incident, he still stands by his story on Biggie being behind ‘Pac's killing.
Cease: When I heard about it, I was just...I don’t know man. I look at people like that and I try to understand. What's your reasoning of doing these things? Both of these people are not here. These people got parents and kids, why do you want to stir something up that won’t make things better, they'll make things worse? Why would you do it and you're not a 100 percent sure about these things. What's your purpose on doing that? What are you trying to get out of it? What's your angle? When he tried to put B.I.G in Vegas, like, Damn, you don't understand, people can get hurt by the things you're putting out there.
XXL: And now he's working on a story about who killed Biggie. One day you’re gonna wake up to calls about that story.
Cease: Nowadays, it's been so long....It's just more of a regular thing. I try to stay as far away from it as possible. There's a certain time in my life, where I say, you know what, I'm gonna leave the B.I.G. thing alone. It's been 10 years since my man been resting. I want him to rest in peace. After 10 years, I didn’t want to do interviews anymore about B.I.G.. If they want to know anything about B.I.G., ask his mother, or ask his son. Ask his daughter. ‘Cause it was to the point where some people didn’t understand, he was a friend of mine. The first few anniversaries came about and I did it off the strength. But I’m a grown man now. I don’t want it to seem like that's my kick. Every year you call me about B.I.G. Ask me what I'm doing. I didn’t want to talk about B.I.G. anymore, let him rest. He's going to be my man for life, but I didn’t want to keep talking about him 30 years from now. But when the movie came about, that was a reason to talk about him. But I just want to stay away from certain things. I want grow out of thinking about all that….I just want him to be my friend. I’m gonna miss him, I'm gonna love him, I'm gonna hold that down all day. I want to focus on my situation. People don’t understand a friendship. People think, ‘Oh, Cease has been trying to use B.I.G. for the longest.’ I gotta do that. I'm gonna support him all day. They get it twisted, ‘Oh he wants money, he can’t get his own thing together.’ People get the perception wrong. I never did anything to make money off it. I was still getting checks from him [from the Conspiracy album], but I wouldn’t accept them. I'd give them to his kids.
XXL: Friendships can grow apart because of adulthood and other responsibilities. But those younger years, you can still talk about them forever. For you, though, that person who you shared those times with isn’t here. And the rest of you crew have gone separate ways, too.
Cease: Yeah. A lot of it, that's how it is. When we started shooting the movie I would see people I didn’t see in years. Money L, that’s my man. We used to be on the road everyday together. But like you said, you get older, and not purposely, you grow apart. I was used to living with all them dudes, all my life. Then next thing you know, you don’t see it happen or you don't plan it, but everyone goes separate ways. You grow out of it. Once one thing happens, it all opens after that. But it’s like everybody gets older, you have your girlfriend, you have kids, you move on. Now it’s like, ‘I’m not living with no dudes, I'ma live with my girl.’ Some dudes got married, some dudes had kids, some dudes just did their own thing. But on set, you see people you haven’t seen in a while. And that’s the good thing about it. It takes you away from thinking about the sadness and bullshit of things. You caught in that zone and you take it back. It puts a smile on your face. We just trying to make it as positive as possible. Some parts, of course, are like, 'Damn, I wish B.I.G. was here.' But also, you know what, things happen for are reason. He ain’t here, but he's still here. It’s a movie about my man's life. That's big, that’s B.I.G.!
XXL: When was the last time you saw Biggie’s kids or Faith?
Cease: I saw his son for the first time in three years and that made my day. And I saw him on Fulton Street. [Laughs]. On my old block and he was playing his father. It was just like, wow! I cried tears. Not for sadness, but it was just wild. His son, playing him when he was little. I don’t think people understand that. But that cheered me up. And seeing all my M.A.F.I.A. members outside, in the old neighborhood, Ms. Wallace was there. Faith was there, I hadn’t seen her in three years. Just to see them, we talked about things we did four or five years ago. And Faith seen the other M.A.F.I.A. members she ain’t see in a while. It just felt like back in the day. It’s something to embrace. It’s a once in a lifetime experience. And it feels like a blessing to be a part of. That’s something I can really brag about; you tote guns, you keep it real. Nah, I’m 30-years-old and I can say: My life is really a movie. It'll be out in January, full swing. [Laughs].
Catch part two tomorrow where Cease discusses Lil’ Kim, Junior M.A.F.I.A., and what’s next for him.