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At a tender age, a chubby kid named Christopher Wallace had a way with words. In elementary school, the future King of New York rappers scored good grades and did his single, two-jobs working Jamaican mom Violetta proud. But by his early teens, however, Wallace became more enamored by the teachers who roamed the streets of his Clinton Hill, Brooklyn neighborhood: the science teachers who made the rounds on St James place between Gates and Fulton didn’t wear lab coats, but they sure did know how to cook a crazy chemicals-and cocaine cocktail called Crack.

Sure, his momma did all that she could, but the pressures of wanting to have what he didn’t have, combined with his gift of gab, made Wallace’s own science experiments pay off exponentially…

Wallace paid attention to how his heart would beat when he did hand-to-hand crack sales and ate turkey and swiss hero sandwiches on the corner, and he took mental notes on the ebb and flow of this hustler’s world. Wallace–a lyrical behemoth– was probably blessed with a photographic memory, as he was able to spit his colorful rhymes into a mic without a pen.

His life ended abruptly, as if he was snatched up from one of his own twisted verses–only difference between his words and real life being BIG had messages in his music. He had the ability to be cocky on one end of a song, then highlight his own insecurities in the same tune (as in “black, and as ugly as ever”). There was a level of candor that somehow put everything in perspective, as evidenced on “Shit Done Changed,” on which BIG lays out the do-or-die nature of the streets, only to punctuate it all by mentioning that his mom had cancer in her breast.

The man has been gone for 15 years now, but his songs remain the same: funny, insightful, candid and true the experiences of many African American males struggling to figure out how to get it in the New World. Fifteen years later, a gang of his colleagues and friends weigh in on where BIG would have been today, and how the game would have changed if those cowards who conspired and converged on his SUV hadn’t done so.

1Clark Kent:

If Biggie was alive, Bad Boy would still be crushing everyone because BIG is that dude. Like, they woulda still been crushing ‘cause they still got BIG. It woulda been ugly, manslaughtering shit. Mase was making great records at that time already. All that shit with him going to church wouldn’t have happened ‘cause he wouldn’t have thought Puff was the devil. Biggie died, so that must have been crazy for [Mase] to see.

Its unfair people think that of Puff ‘cause he does good business. Unfortunately, circumstances have brought drama around him– but he can’t control that. What woulda happened if Mase sold millions? Would he still call Puff the devil?

It’s kinda tricky to say what woulda happened to the [East Coast/West Coast] feud. I think it woulda went away ‘cause it was corny–but the rivalry woulda still been there. Each coast woulda had their own champions still. Snoop is champion of the West, Pac was fighter for West. Big and Jay are fighters for the East. Still, there’d be a rivalry.

I think that Bad Boy would still be at the top of the game if BIG was alive.

I think that Biggie woulda been probably the President of Bad Boy and he would’ve taken more of an executive role in the entrepreneurship of what Puff is doing. They woulda shared the spotlight more than just Puff doing it alone.

I remember Biggie telling Tone in studio one night, ‘I got the concept for a group called Junior Mafia, and I don’t know who would be in it yet.’ He was def in that [business] mindset.

He was also partners with Lance “Un” Rivera and they were making moves. All of us being from Brooklyn, we all aspire to leave, or be businessmen in the entertainment field. We all aspired for that, and Biggie was one of those.

If Biggie survived, Puffy would have been still riding that wave (laughs). BIG was the soul of Bad Boy, anybody who was around the label back at that time would tell you that. If you were signed to Bad Boy you weren’t certified until BIG jumped on your record—weather it was a Total record or a 112 record, a Mase joint–BIG was that center. If BIG was still here, it would be the same thing—Puff and BIG would be like Batman and Robin. As far as their producer/artist partnership, I don’t think nobody could fuck with them. Puff schoolin’ BIG on how to make the records—the concepts and melodies—Puff just had a strong ear for that shit. Puff would throw something out there and BIG could easily just rhyme about it in the best way ever. If BIG was still here, I don’t think nobody would be able to fuck with him.