Watch Mister Cee, Lil Cease and Combat Jack Reflect On Biggie Smalls’ Greatness
"When I First Heard It... It's Over"
“When I first heard it I was like, ‘it’s over,’” said legendary New York DJ Mister Cee about hearing Biggie Smalls’ first demo tape. (Yes, that was an actual cassette.) Speaking with Combat Jack, the “Podcast Papi” himself, Mister Cee and Lil’ Cease got deep in a twenty-minute video that MASS APPEAL premieres today. Twenty years after the passing of Christopher Wallace, even those who were closest to him are still making sense of his greatness.
Lil Cease of course grew up down the block from Biggie, and Mister Cee would be the one to clean up and re-record the rough-around-the-edges demo that Big recorded with DJ 50 Grand, creating something presentable to The Source mag’s Unsigned Hype column—the tape that eventually made its way to Puff Daddy. Both Cease and Mister Cee say they could sense just how talented their friend the Notorious B.I.G. was in the early 1990s. Before Ready to Die and Life After Death. Before Bad Boy. Before The Source Awards. Still they could never have imagined how iconic the young rapper would become.
A defining theme of the conversation, which you can watch above, was how far ahead of his contemporaries Big was with his lyrical ability, as well as his approach to music and the music business. Cee recalls that part of that early demo’s allure was Big’s uncanny ability to fit into any pocket, be it on a traditional rap beat or not. He was particularly impressed to hear Big rapping to “Blind Alley” by The Emotions—a song that Cee and Big Daddy Kane sampled for the smash “Ain’t No Half Steppin’.” Even today, that would be a rather unorthodox freestyle selection. Not for Christopher Wallace though. “This is Kane Part 2,” Cee observes. “Metaphors and all that shit,” Cease adds.
Towards the end of the interview, Cease-A-Leo unveils his most legendary Biggie moment, which came during the 1995 Source Awards, one of the most pivotal nights in rap history. “It was big for him, to rack up all those awards,” said Cease of Biggie taking home awards for Album of the Year (Ready to Die) and Lyricist of the Year among others. But Cease said Big’s true brilliance was on display in the amount of control he had over the night—so much so that Biggie signaled for an unscheduled performance by Cease and the rest of Junior M.A.F.I.A. during his stage time, a moment that became M.A.F.I.A.’s coming-out party. For a bunch of teenagers from BK to take the stage in front of Death Row and Dungeon families—that was major.
The video is tied to an event called “Legendary” going down at New York City’s Gramercy Theater this Friday, April 14. The show will feature several DJs of note, including DJ Lindsey and DJ Tara in addition to Mister Cee, alongside Cosmo Baker, Boogie Blind and Lil Cease, who will be helping to commemorate a slew of legendary entertainers, including Biggie, Prince and Michael Jackson.