In the current hip-hop landscape, interviews by rappers are a dime a dozen and largely predictable, with a flock of artists attempting to give insight into their music, building their brand, as well as vying for the attention of the public. While the access fans have to rappers may be unprecedented, the focus of the interviews often revolve around gossip and misinformed narratives, which has discouraged many of rap's biggest names from being as open as they were in previous years when given a chance to speak out to the public and provide context to their music and the life that revolves around it.
During his prime, The Notorious B.I.G. was one of the more charismatic artists, with enough charm to woo the ladies and enough bravado to earn respect from the fellas, but outside of the spotlight, Biggie could be reserved and thoughtful, a man of many veiled moods and emotions. He would often touch on his personal life in interviews, the pressures of fame and success, and the downsides to it all. Extremely candid in nature, the Brooklyn MC held few punches, as rapper E-40, who approached Biggie during a faux-show in Sacramento, knows all too well. But aside from ragging on his peers and addressing constant inquiries about various beefs, The Notorious B.I.G. gave those who took the time to read or watch one of his interviews the impression that they knew the man behind the music and could relate to Christopher Wallace, as well as his rapper persona.
With 20 years having passed since his death, those in the hip-hop community and beyond have dedicated today to celebrating his life and praising all that he and his music embodied. In remembrance of his humor, intellect, and introspect, here are 20 insightful quotes from Biggie that continue to resonate today. Relax and take notes.
"I'm a nice guy, but the fear keeps everybody on their toes. People sometimes mistake sweetness for weakness. You never want anyone to know everything about you. It makes you too easy to classify."
“With big folks,” he says, “either people think you look mean or it’s more of a jolly Santa Claus, ‘Oh, he’s just a pudgy little teddy bear pillow.’
”I’m basically different things to different people. If it’s a guy, I’m-a probably have my guard up because it’s a street rule that when men come around that I don’t know, I just immediately throw shade on them. But I don’t associate with fellas all that much; if it’s a girl — a beautiful girl — I be nice.”
"Snatching pocketbooks and shit like that. Going to the bank machines and catching somebody getting money out of the machines. I couldn't let my moms know I had all that money, so I couldn't buy no sneakers or nothing because I couldn't bring them in the house. It got to the point where I used to hide all my clothes on the roof. Then my next-door neighbor said, 'Yo, why don't you take some of that money, and we'll go to the corner and get our thing going.' He was hustlin' and he had big four-finger rings and Fila suits and Ballys. And I was like, 'Fuck it. Might as well.' He brought me on the avenue, and I just started going it from there."
"The new Redman!?! Seven. I can’t diss him cause I know he got skills. He get busy on the lyrics but I can’t feel his new shit, his new cosmic crazy shit. I’m used to the clean cut blowout fly nigga. When I met the nigga he was a fly nigga, you know what I’m sayin’, now he on some different shit I really don’t like when a rapper come out and they blow up the way they are and they come out again on some changed up shit. To me, that’s like getting some good coke from poppy and then getting some money and then be like,’fuck that! I’m getting some more 45ths, some brown shit and then bag that up.’ Why would you change your plan? That’s what he did to me."
“I quit before it get on me like that dog!! I know my niggas keep it real. My niggas be like,’Big, you are sleeping. That shit right there ain’t no Ready to Die type shit’. I take my niggas word. If shit ain’t right, it ain’t right. I ain’t putting it out. I quit before a nigga say Big was wack. fuck that!! I produce, get a label, do something. Fuck that!"
“I look at it like this: them guys, they doing what they wanna do. I can’t never stop nobody, can’t knock nobody hustle. They feel like they can come into it dissing Big and dissing Puff and doing they little thing. If that’s what they choose to do, that’s what they choose to do. Only thing I gotta do is feed [my daughter] T'yanna and take care of Ms. Wallace. That’s my only job. I’m making music for the people. If y’all love the music, y’all gonna buy the music.”
"It wasn't really a beef to me in the beginning, not for other artists, it was just a personal problem between me and somebody else, it just happened to wage into an East Coast/West Coast...you know, when you're at the top, you just gotta go for the top person's neck, you know what I'm saying, you gotta go get your spot that's what he wanted. Sometimes when you stagnated and can't move to another level, that's the only thing that you can do, is just complain or be jealous. I can't be mad at him for that, he just do what he gotta do, I couldn't be the one to do it back, that's not my style."
"When you're on stage, sweat pouring down, I'm a big one too.. sweat be drenching. I just be representing, you know what I'm saying, just doing my thing. It's a lot for a big person to get on that stage and rip, you know what I'm saying. You don't understand, man, cause we get tired quick, for real, man. We be breathing hard, it's real up there. Them shows, that's the money, you gotta hype show, everybody gonna wanna come see your joint, [you] get more money."
"The more money you make, the more problems you get and jealousy and envy is just something that comes with the territory, man. It's just negative energy, like my man Puff say, it just surrounds you, it makes you depressed. So, I gotta rap about it, and that's one of the bad things about the game. When you get large, even your friends will turn against you, man. I think about that everyday. Everyday, it's real. That's how real it is, I think somebody is trying to kill me. I be waking up, paranoid, I be really scared."
"I make music about what I know, you know what I'm saying. If I had worked at McDonalds, I'da make rhymes about Big Macs, fries, and stuff like that, you know what I'm saying. In Brooklyn, I see hustling, I see killing. I see gambling I see girls, I see cars that's what I rap about, what's in my environment."
"Growing up in the streets of Bed-Stuy was just... it was hard, yo. Either you was stealing or you was hustling, one or the two or you was a nobody."
"Honestly, the drug game, it kinda taught me a lot about a lot of people. It taught me kinda how to handle money a little bit. I learned a lot about the streets from messing with the drug game, you know what I'm saying, so I really can't say I regret selling drugs but at the same time, it's something I wouldn't advise somebody to do. You gotta have a lot of heart to sell drugs, it ain't for everybody."
"She's just the baddest. Honey just be always wanting do for me, like, you don't really be bumping into no girls like that, just wanting to do something for you and make sure you all right. Honey just be really into me and that make me into her and we just click like that. And ain't nobody or no guy out here can't tell me they don't want one certain person to just have their back and be with forever, but they just don't know how to deal with it because they just fall victim to all the extra. I done been through all the extra."
"I mean, that's Kim, you know what I'm saying, from Day One, she was always standing out. I knew she had some skills and I knew what I was planning on doing as far as with the Junior M.A.F.I.A. project and she just fit the criteria, you know. Soon as we had a chance and put her out and the people were feeling her, we knew how we had to roll. We knew what she wanted--she knew she wanted to be larger than large, so we just had to take her there with the vision, far as the videos, 'Players Anthem' and 'Get Money.' Just making a whole bunch of movers, her working hard on the road, blowing up at shows, doing her thing."
"The way I was feeling when I did Ready to Die was I feel like I was already dead. Just being in a situation with my moms working, going to school, just leaving me open to dipping and dabbing into different things, it just left me kinda stuck. My mentality was more on some getting paper, not caring about nothing else. Not caring about nothing, just wanting to get mine, you know. When I got the record deal, and when I started doing Ready to Die, it was just a lot of hatred coming out. It was real though, but it was just real angry Life After Death is the flip side of things, you know what I'm saying. I can't rhyme about being broke no more, I ain't broke, I can't rhyme about hustling in the streets no more cause I don't hustle no more, you know, so it's the life after. All that's over with now, I ain't hungry no more. Now it's a new beginning, this the life after the death."
"Can't jack me. Can't jack me, dog. Shit is too different? What you gonna do? You gonna do a joint like 'One More Chance' where a nigga is just rhymin' forever on his first verse? You never even know when this nigga is gonna stop. Or you gonna try to sound like how I was sounding on the Meth joint ['The What'], where I was just tryin' to slow down a lil' bit? You gonna try to sound like 'Gimme the Loot' and flip two voices? What you gonna do? It's like, you may try to sound like how I sound on one song, that's possible. But you can never have a whole, 'Aw, that nigga sound like B.I.G.' That's crazy. That's impossible. I don't sound like nobody. I got my own shit. I'm gonna keep growin'."
"When I found [my friend] had [AIDS], I was twisted. I was torn up for a couple minutes. Just took me by surprise, because he was just with us, you know? He was just with us, he was just hanging out with us. And I don't -- I didn't see... I was not expecting to see a stamp saying 'AIDS' all on his body, but I couldn't see the man's signs, you know what I'm saying? Nothing, not even a sickness, like coughs or nothing. When I heard that my man was on the death bed, it shook me up. S'crazy."
"I could never see myself moving in the suburbs," he said. "It ain't going to be right, and the lyrics are going to be soundin' nasty. I know it. There won't be nothing to rap about except the birds."
"I know it goes through everybody's mind, man. 'Cause if it went through mine, it's going to go through everybody else's, 'cause I'm no different from a nigga on the street. So I just wrote about it. I put all the stresses of, like, 'My baby's mom is eight months and her little sister's two, and they both my kids.' I mean, shit like that could really torment a nigga and fuck his head up. We're considering taking it off the album 'cause a nigga that's really stressed out might hear that shit and might flip and I really can't handle that. I don't want to be the cause of anyone hurting themself, but I'm just trying to keep it as real as possible."
"I'd rather leave the game rich and still reigning. I want it to be like if Tyson didn't get locked up. Like what if Tyson just said, 'Fuck it, I quit.' Just stopped boxing. Or if Magic ain't get AIDS. He just made that lil' three-pointer and was like, 'Aw, that's my last three. I'm straight.' You know what I'm sayin'? I just want to be at the top of my game and say, 'OK, it's over.' 'Cause you don't really get the chance to enjoy that money [when you're] workin' all the fuckin' time. Movin', goin' on all these flights. I'm a big nigga, man. I can't be on planes for five hours flyin' out to L.A. My ass be hurtin'. I gotta be movin' around and shit. That shit is mad tiring, wakin' up early in the mornin' and shit. I'd rather just wake up, go on the boat with my niggas, smoke mad pounds of chronic, just livin'."