The world knows Notorious BIG because of Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs. As a young record executive, Puff sought out and molded one of Brooklyn’s finest rappers into one of hip-hop’s greatest artists. From good business came great friendship, but also immeasurable loss with Biggie’s 1997 murder. For Puff, talking about Big meant revisiting a dark chapter in his very storied life. It also meant reveling in one of his brightest legacies.
What had you heard about Biggie before you met him? He was in The Source’s Unsigned Hype. They said he was ill, but I don’t think they really understood how ill he was. But also at the same time, it wasn’t like everybody out there had labels. It wasn’t no competition. It wasn’t like another label wanted to sign him, because he didn’t have that look. And also, his style. He wasn’t trying to spit no radio R&B-friendly records.
What was your first impression of Big? He definitely was big, he was tall. For some reason, back then, like in the early ’90s, everybody wasn’t tall like how they are now. If you was a tall kid, you really stood out. He was tall and he was big, like the center of the football team. He spoke when he needed to speak, besides that he was quiet. I guess coming into my office was intimidating. Like this was his shot. I had already had a bunch of hit records, my name was real hot on the streets. That had to be intimidating for him, but in general he wasn’t a loud, boisterous person. He was loud and funny around his friends, but at a party he wouldn’t be the loudest person in the room. He’d be in the cut, doing him.
Was he ever intimidating? Nah. I think that was the thing that people liked about him. He would blow down any stereotypes from when you met him. It wasn’t like he was intimidating or he was trying to intimidate you, that had nothing to do with his M.O., he was just doing him.
What was he like around women? Around women he was a charmer. He didn’t really make the first move, and a lot of times it just happened from, “Pleased to meet you.” He would get introduced to people and when he said “pleased to meet you” to a girl it rang a different way. I guess they was caught off guard by how much of a gentleman he was, how smooth he was and also how he didn’t try to continue on the conversation. That made her feel comfortable. They’d lay in the cut, something else would happen, and then they’d start laughing. They’d see the humor and it was a wrap.