Sixteen years since it was first released, and Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death sounds like it can come out tomorrow. The blissful whirlwind of Big’s charismatic mic mastery and the pragmatically cinematic soundscape of the likes of the Hitmen, DJ Premier, Havoc, The RZA and others, have made the diamond selling double LP undoubtedly a timeless gem and one of the all-time premier hip-hop magnum opuses. Many swear by it and have proclaimed the late Frank White's last full offering the greatest rap album ever.

Whether you that's the case or not, it's tough to deny the genius of Biggie Smalls. And after reading these never before heard stories, the appreciation for the iconic Brooklyn Don should only grow. Here, Lil Cease and fellow Junior M.A.F.I.A. member Banger give the knowledge behind some of the most well-known lines and characters from Life After Death. —Shaheem Reid (@ShaheemReid) and Ralph Bristout (@RalphieBlackmon)

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Lil Cease (Getty Images)
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“Somebody’s Gotta Die”

XXL: OK. So right off the bat. "My nigga Sing, he used to sling on the 16th floor." Who is Sing?

Lil Cease: [He’s] in jail again now. This his second time. He did about 12 [years] for the first [case] and got caught up again.

What year did he get locked up?

Banger: About a year and a half [ago]. He came home in 2005-2006.

So he was in jail when this came out?

Banger: Yeah.

Cease: He did his first bid. That was like 12 years. Came home, he was home for a couple years and caught a body charge.

Banger: Illest shit about B.I.G., I think [he] was one of the greatest storytellers in this rap shit though.

Oh, hands down.

Banger: His two albums, them shits were movies.

Was there somebody named “Jason?” He says, "Some kid named Jason, in the Honda station wagon..."

Banger: Yeah, Jason—I don't want to put niggas out there but Jason from Brevoort Houses [in Brooklyn].

And he had the Honda station wagon?

Banger: Yeah. Jason's a fucking hustler. He living in Jersey now.

So was B.I.G. cool with him?

Cease: Yeah, he used to be with Bang's brother Henny Loc.

Banger: That's like Loc's man. B.I.G. used to be around them niggas like he'd be around anybody. One day Loc was telling me about the song "Everyday Struggle" (off Ready To Die), that nigga B.I.G. woke up the next morning and spit the whole song and was like "Yo I wrote a song just listening to y’all niggas last night."

Cease: You say something, B.I.G. would lock that shit in. So a lot of the shit he talked about, it just came around us just joking and conversations. I remember we was all young so, that's like us sitting around in the hallway drinking, cracking jokes, and just bugging out; that nigga was absorbing all that shit in his head. Anything he liked or caught on to, you gon' hear that shit in the ride. Like when Roc used to have the MPV, "It was me, D, the MPV, the blunts and brew thangs, knockin' some Wu-Tang..." That's the shit that was out and it kind of gave it that moment, 1993-1994 the MPs were out, that's when Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) was out, that's how a nigga was riding.

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“Hyptnotize”

XXL: What about "Hypnotize," "My Detroit players…"

Banger: Yessir

Cease: That's where we used to get the Gators from.

Banger: Versace silks and all that, that was Detroit.

Cease: [This dude we knew] he had the spot with the minks and the gators. That's why B.I.G. said that.

Banger: "Timbs for the hooligans in Brooklyn."

Cease: Nigga said, "Pink gators, my Detroit playas." That's what they used to say out there; "This the town of the playas B.I.G." That's when we used to sit around, there was no security back in them days or no stylists, we just came in as we were. Back in them days, it used to be just us going out of town like this, and you don't know where you going in Detroit you just out there.

So how many pairs of Gators did he used to get out?

Cease: He used to get like three or four of them shits. Once we knew we were going back out there, B.I.G. would call him [saying], "I need the blue" because he used to always want to come through with the flavor Gators.

Banger: The Gators back then is how the 'Red Bottoms' would be now, $1200. It’s the same shit just different era. B.I.G. would probably now be in some red bottoms.

Cease: B.I.G. used to always want the craziest colors . That's just a Detroit thing, you have to be there to know that like if you ever went to a dressed up affair down there them niggas be in there with the mink hats, mink coats, etc. They dress up in Detroit. [Later on] we went from the gators to the Wallows, the two-tone joints.

Who had the "Cherry M3"?

Cease: Ma$e had the blue M3.

Banger: Them shits was just hot Uptown. That was like the latest Beemer.

Cease: Jesus Piece was real. "So I just speak my peace, keep my piece/Cubans with the Jesus Piece, with my peeps."

What about "I put hoes in NY on to DKNY..."

Cease: Yeah that's just the fashion shit.

Was there anybody in particular?

Banger: Yeah, the boosting bitches in the projects used to come through with all that shit, they didn't know no what shit was. B.I.G. was like yeah bitch, 'Put on that, this, and the third' and them Philly [girls]. When Tiffany (Charli Baltimore) used to come up, nigga used to put them on to Chanel, Moschino...

Cease: Yeah Tiff was fly, Charli (Balitmore) was fly.

Banger: That nigga was a fashionista. Not for nothing, that was a fat, fly ass nigga.

Cease: I put hoes in NY onto DKNY/Miami, D.C. prefer Versace/All Philly hoes, dough and Moschino/Every cutie wit a booty bought a Coogi/Now who's the real dookie, meaning who's really the shit.

What about the Lexus? "Lexus, LX, four and a half."

Banger: B.I.G. was on some champagne shit at the time. All the whips was champagne [from the] Benz, Range, Lex, only thing that wasn't was the "Marine-blue, six Coupe/Skied it out, weeded out, cleanin' out" from "Long Kiss Goodnight."

Where was his condo at?

Banger: Teaneck.

"Your daughter tied up in a Brooklyn basement."

Banger: He talking about that case with the guns, they ran up in the crib at Teaneck. You know that shit was running through his head. That nigga was living that shit.

Escargot, my car go…” Did he really eat escargot?

Cease: [Laughs] Nah. See that's the shit that made B.I.G. dope. B.I.G. used to talk about all the cars but, nigga didn't even know how to drive. He wouldn't dare get in the driver seat.

“Come through, have sex on rugs that’s Persian.” Did he have a Persian rug?

Cease: Yeah. He used to have the elevator go up to his room. It went to the first floor where his kitchen and living room was at and up straight to his room. Where Juelz [Santana] stay at now, we used to stay there.

When y’all was staying there, who lived around there?

Banger: Jersey? We were like the first ones there. I took all them niggas to get their rims, show them around the town, all that shit.

Cease: DJ Clue used to come to the gym and work out with us everyday, Prodigy, etc

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“Kick In The Door”

XXL: "May see me in D.C. at Howard Homecoming/ With my man Capone, dummin' fucking something."

Cease: Yeah Capone was a member of the M.A.F.I.A. He used to always get pissy drunk, bugging. You know how Howard Homecoming shit is.

“… Disrespectful views on the King of N.Y.” When did he first watch "King of New York" and come up with Frank White.

Cease: We saw that a while ago. We were big on the movies.

Banger: B.I.G. was ill with the movies. I remember me and the nigga went to the movies one day to see "Usual Suspects." Right after me, him, Dream [Hampton], and I think D-Roc, [went to the studio] and that "Somebody's Gotta Die"--that nigga watched the whole "Usual Suspects" movie, went to Daddy's House and laid the shit down. I was like, "Where the did you get this whole song from?" He used to watch movies and come up with the whole fucking song [at the same time.] That's why he lyrics [tend to be] photogenic, he would watch movies and come up with the whole song. That's one of B.I.G.'s illest jewels that only niggas like Jay-Z got out of him, cause Jay used to talk to him every night. Only niggas like Jay-Z know that.

Cease: The last movie he saw was "Donnie Brasco." We watched that, went to the studio after and did the "Benjamins" remix. We went to see that movie in Cali, he got killed a couple days after.

Oh that's why he said that line "Make it hard to figure me, liquor be, kickin me in my asshole, uhhh, undercover, Donnie Brasco"

Cease: Yeah. Remember that was for Puff's album. We went to Cali to finish up Puff's album, for the No Way Out shit. B.I.G. wrote the "Victory" record, now when you listen to the second verse where he was like "We got the shit mack tight, brass knuckles" now you see at certain parts it seems like he's talking out of his body "I'm the witty one, Frank's the crook from the Brook" he wrote that rhyme for Puff. That's why he got Puff breaking down all of Bad Boy. "Then it's to the loot, escaped, in the Coupe/Break bread, with the 'Kiss, Peniro, SheekLouch/Black Rob joined the Mob, it ain't no replacing him/Niggas step up, we just Ma$e'n them..." Puff said, 'Yo I don't understand what you saying in this rhyme.' B.I.G. was like “Puff, I got you ballin’. You hiding money on the Island, Caymen.” Puff was like, "What is that? What does that mean?" [B.I.G. was like] “That mean your money big, it ain’t even here.' See niggas don't catch that. Puff ain’t want to waste the verse so he just let B.I.G. keep it to say it cause B.I.G. died. But he wrote that for Puff.

“Got More Rides Than Great Adventure.” Did Biggie really go to Great Adventures?

Cease: We used to perform in a few of those, though. We would perform [and do] autograph signings.

Did B.I.G. get on rides?

Cease: [Laughs]. Nah, nah. B.I.G. [was always] trying to find somewhere to smoke.

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“Fuck You Tonight”

XXL: “Some say the x make the sex, spectacular.”

Cease: I popped my first pill with that nigga.

Banger: I don’t even think people was ready for that E back then, man.

Cease: I popped one with B.I. back then, [we both] popped half a pill. B.I.G. ain’t want to fuck with that shit. He was [more so] into weed. I remember when we first hit, we was in this club and me and B.I.G. took a half. B.I.G. was like, “Yo, you feel that shit?” I was like, ‘Man, that shit wack. I don’t feel shit.’ B.I.G. was like, “Man, that shit wack.”

“I know you used to suites at the Parker Meridien…” Was that B.I.G.’s favorite hotel?

Cease: Yeah. The Meridien. In Cali, Le Montrose, first hotel we stayed at in Cali.

“Strictly sex that sweaty and leftover spaghetti.” Who used to make spaghetti?

Cease: B.I.

He used to cook spaghetti?

Cease: He could cook his ass off. He knew how to cook oxtails.

Yo, what was his favorite?

Cease: He used to be in the crib, nigga, with his boxers out in the kitchen, blunt and an ashtray, cooking. You know his moms taught him how to cook, he was the only son. He used to talk to his moms everyday on the phone, on some best friends type shit.

So, what was like his famous dish?

Cease: A lot of times, he liked to cook peas and rice and he knew how to cook curry chicken. Any time we was around him, we used to fiend for the Jamaican shit.

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“Last Dayz”

XXL: “Illegal transactions in Farragut…” Is that the Farragut Houses in BK?

Cease: Yeah, he talking about the Farragut Houses.

 

"I Love the Dough"

Were you all really playing cee-lo in the beginning of “I Love the Dough”?

Cease: I was just in the studio just doing the skit, but we used to play dice. You see footage of B.I. playing dice. Anytime there was any rappers around, B.I. pulled out the dice.

Jay-Z too?

Cease: Yeah. Hell yeah.

Banger: Nigga, yo, we used to roll – we used to gamble on the tour bus with our petty cash, from promos. We tried to give each other petty cash.

Cease: What they used to call it? Per Diem, used to get like $50 dollars a day [and] we’d be sitting there gambling.

“Popping magnums, while Jigga bag sumthin.” Magnums of champagne?

Cease: B.I.G. and Dame used to dust off bottles of Cristal, like it wasn’t nothing. That was just like their little thing that they had. “You can’t drink more than me nigga, how many bottles you got? You got 3? I want 4…I want 5 bottles nigga. Get the magnums.” They’d be coming back with the magnums of Cristal, that’s the first time I saw them shits. We used to drink just the regular bottles [but] they were bringing the magnums through in the big bucket.
That’s all we used to do when we was with them. Dame and B.I. used to have drink contests and we used to call B.I.G.’s coat the “Stink Mink.”

Oh yeah.

Cease: They would go back to back, downing bottles for dolo. B.I.G. used to rock this black, long ass mink and one day, [while drinking against Dame] he just threw up on his shit. That’s when Dame called B.I.G.’s shit the “Stink Mink.” Everytime we bumped into him he would always ask B.I.G., “You got your stink mink on?” B.I.G. fucked with Hov hard though. That’s why when niggas always be talking about how he be taking B.I.G.’s lines, he can do that. That was B.I.G.’s homie. I remember in L.A., them niggas talked everyday on the phone.

What about “Rocks in the beard and mustaches”?

Banger: That’s the piece. The Jesus Piece.

"Tito smiles every time he sees our faces”

Cease: Tito was the man. Jacob [the Jeweler] didn’t get on till after B.I. [passed].

How many “chips” did he lose off the Lakers?

Banger: Lakers got knocked off in the playoffs [1996] Shaq did the song with B.I.G. when he was on the Orlando Magic. But when he was traded to the Lakers—I think Kobe was a rookie or something. B.I.G. was bigging up Shaq like, “I got whatever on Shaq! That’s my nigga! I’m betting on that!” He had to bet on the Lakers [but in the end] he lost that bank roll. You know he had to shoot that. “Lost chips on Lakers, gassed off Shaq…” I ain’tgon’ front, Shaq was B.I.G.’s man though.

Cease: B.I.G. wasn’t really a sports head like that.

Banger: He used to fuck with Shaq!

Cease: That was part of the shit that made B.I.G. dope to me. There’s a lot of things I know that B.I.G. wasn’t in to. Just to let you know [what] he paid attention to. He wasn’t one of those niggas who was like “Yo son 8 o’ clock the Knicks come on, let’s go to the crib and watch the game.” He wasn’t that type. But you would listen to certain tracks and think like, “Yo this nigga must’ve been a big basketball head.” I mean, we’d watch games every now and then but, that was nothing really of interest [at the time] he just knew about certain shit because we was in the entertainment world. He fucked with Shaq [though], but then again who didn’t?

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“What’s Beef?”

XXL: “Don’t you know my nigga Gutta fucking kidnap kids/Fuck 'em in the ass and throw 'em over the bridge”

Cease and Banger: Hell no!

Cease: That’s just a metaphor. He just giving you the idea about the type of nigga Gutta is. He’s a goon. See nowadays with that whole “pause” and “no homo” shit, that wasn’t around back then. The most trifling shit you could [just] say “C’mon son.” On the “Me and My Bitch” record, “You look so good, I’ll suck on your daddy’s dick...” Like you know what he meant. Now I be seeing these young kids talk about that on twitter like “Yo man, you know B.I.G. said something real gay like that?”

Banger: Like back then I didn’t see it like that, but now I be like “Yo damn, that was some wild shit” But at the time of hip-hop, when you was writing that shit, as a fan of hip-hop and a student of hip-hop, you was taught to say the sickest shit. Cause at the time, before he said that, Redman was with the dark side shit, saying some ill lines.

Cease: But no, Gutter is not a homosexual.

How about “I done smoked with the best of them”? Who were some of the best?

Cease: He talking about smoking with Meth, smoking with ‘Pac. Those straight pothead type niggas. They smoked about 50 blunts in the studio during “The What.” No lie.

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“Mo Money, Mo Problems”

XXL: Aight “No info for the DEA,” “federal agents, mad cause I’m flagrant.”

Cease: That boy was just rhyming shit. You know we got locked up at that time too.

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“Niggas Bleed”

XXL: “Blanco” of course is…

Banger: White, Frank White. “Go to room 112, tell 'em Blanco sent ya” Blanco is white in Spanish. Tell ‘em White sent you, tell ‘em Blanco sent you.

“Let's get this money baby./ They shady, we get shady/Dress up like ladies and burn 'em with dirty 380's.”

Banger: That’s real too. Niggas was dressing up like [women] in the hood, popping up and jumping out of garbage cans and all. That nigga Sing [mentioned on “Somebody’s Gotta Die”] was wild with that shit.

Wow

Banger: At that time right there, niggas was threatening that B.I.G.’s life. He had to move and shit. Faith was like “they’re putting letters under the door.” She had to move and all that.

Was there somebody named “Arizona Ron?”

Cease: Nah.

Who was “Gloria from Astoria?”

Banger: That’s the chick with the fatty!

Cease: Chick from The Bronx that we used to pick up, that B.I.G. used to fuck with.

Banger: She really was from Queens, but lived in The Bronx.

Cease: I remember when we used to pick her up in [this] projects up in The Bronx. I was driving that that 600 [Benze], that gold, that champagne. We used to pick up this chick at 2 o’ clock in the morning. She was bad, man. Nice Spanish chick with an ass!

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“I Got A Story To Tell”

XXL: Who was the New York Knicks player?

Banger: [Laughs] We not gonna call my man out, but you know B.I.G. was fucking with one of them New York Knicks player’s chicks. That’s crazy though, that chick was bad. [To Cease] Remember her, she came with us to North Carolina.

What she look like?

Banger: She was bad. Brown skin, had a fatty, bow-legged, hazel eyes. She was bad, son.