11 March, 2010@2:02 am
Jon Shecter, aka Shecky Green, is a man of many accomplishments. Among them, co-finding The Source Magazine (and walking out on it when the Almighty R.S.O. took it over), the brokering of DJ AM to a lucrative deal with Pure group in 2006, launching Game Records / Video, and being one of the first people to discover the Notorious B.I.G. On the 9th of March, 2010, Shec tweeted his experience with B.I.G. in great detail…. Read on….
In the early days of The Source’s Unsigned Hype, circa 1991-2, we would receive about 10-20 cassettes a day. 99.8% of them were GARBAGE. I appointed @MatteoGlen as the man to listen to each tape and pick contenders for that month’s winner. He was the best cat for the job.
So he comes running into my office one day, more excited than I’ve ever seen about one of these demos. “Yo man, you gotta hear this one!” Turns out DJ Mister Cee (who we knew as Big Daddy Kane’s DJ, and as a cool, humble cat) had recorded a new Brooklyn MC and he was FIRE. On the tape, Biggie Smalls (that’s what he called himself) was rapping over the instrumental of Big Daddy Kane’s “Ain’t No Half Steppin”. It may have been the original funk record actually, but Mr. Cee was cutting back & forth and this Biggie Smalls cat was rhyming. I remember BIG was speaking before the music started. He was extremely humble. “I want to thank y’all for the opportunity to rhyme for you.”
What we heard on that tape was the first glimpse of the greatness all of you know about. It was impeccable rhythm, cleverness, clarity. His voice was gruff but pleasing to the ear. I don’t recall the rhymes (I’m sure @MatteoGlen does) but the flow was effortless and FUNKY. So we all knew right away that this was the best demo we would get for this month, probably for a long time. I asked Matt if there was a photo included. There was not. I soon dispatched Chi Modu, our staff photog, to BK to capture an image.
When the Source issue came out with the “Biggie Smalls” Unsigned Hype, it took only a few days for us to receive a call from one Sean Combs. We knew Puffy as an Uptown employee who was branching out on his own. @MatteoGlen took a meeting with him, which was rare. Usually nobody cared about Unsigned Hype. So Puff listens to the tape and asks Matt: “How does he look?” Matt wasn’t sure how to answer. Around this time it became clear that there was another rapper named Biggie Smalls trying to make it. He was white. And he sucked.
So Matt, who had recently relocated to BK (early ’92 now), began to spend more and more time with Biggie as the Puff relationship unfolded. I admittedly did not pay too much attention until one day which I remember vividly. We were sitting on a stoop adjacent to Washington Sq. Pk. Matt had just come from the studio the night before. He popped in a cassette. And I heard the opening bars from Mtume’s “Juicy Fruit.” I always loved that song, it had such a clean groove, so my ears perked up. Then the rapping started. It was the first ruff mix of “Juicy.” I don’t have to tell you guys how great it sounded. It was REAL RAP, but it went down like a piece of candy. Smooth, sweet, delicious. In the 1st verse, when he name-dropped all the hot hip-hop DJs, I felt this internal joy, “he’s a fan too, just like me!” But then he made a reference to my magazine, and it was such a good reference too. “Smiles every time my face is up in The Source!” Bliss. I was smiling from ear to ear. I looked at @MatteoGlen and both our eyes were wide with joy. We knew this was going to be a fucking smash.
So the first time I actually meet Biggie is in The Source staircase, at 594 Broadway. It was our smoking spot. Blunts were “in rotation.” He was contemplating whether or not to sign with Puff. He had his doubts and was vocalizing both pro and con. His stance was confident-yet-humble. He knew he had talent, but he wasn’t sure if Puff was the right guy to introduce him to the world. I remember he was (pause) so big, physically I mean. The blunt looked like a toothpick in his hands. We were telling him to stick with it, see what happens. @MatteoGlen was there and I think Agallah and Reef.
So soon “Party and Bullshit” drops and the rap world finally hears the greatness. I still love that song and it STILL rocks a party. I was there for that INSANE performance for Lyricist Lounge when BIG destroyed the room. Remember when crowds used to JUMP JUMP JUMP!?!
So that awful white rapper called Biggie Smalls ended up owning the name. That’s why he had to change it to the awkward: Notorious B.I.G. But it didn’t matter, his talent was so abundant any name would have worked.
Follow this man on Twitter, @sheckygreen.
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