Biggie Smalls had nothing but respect for Jay-Z, and, after his death, Big’s collaborator, Diddy, passed on the late rapper’s stash of beats to ‘Hova’, who was skilled enough to put them to good use.
Biggie and Jay-Z both came from Brooklyn and became two of the defining faces of hip hop in the 1990s. However, their relationship is often glossed over when it comes to Biggie’s legacy. Usually, the focus is on East Coast v West Coast rather than the work he put into elevating the talent around him.
When ‘Hov’ announced himself in style with Reasonable Doubt in 1996, he teamed up with Biggie on ‘Brooklyn’s Finest’, but, tragically, they’d never join forces again following Biggie’s death.
Biggie’s associate Cease once recalled how his friend admired Jay, revealing, “Like, once Big met [JAY-Z] at the Palladium and they bonded just on some G shit ’cause they respected each other as men and they respected each other as artists. Big wasn’t afraid to tell that — Big thought he was doper than him. Big used to say, ‘Yo, that n**** nicer than me.'”
He added, “‘Dead Presidents’ really grabbed Big’s attention. Swear to God on everything I love. Any n**** can vouch for it. I’m not lying. These are straight facts.”
Diddy is someone who knows just how much Biggie cared for Jay, and when he worked with him in 2007 on American Gangster, he surprised the rapper with a gift that he truly cherished.
“He called me and I’ve never been to his studio before,” Jay remembered to Charlie Rose about his experience working with Diddy. “I get there and he’s playing all these lush samples and all this ’70s soul music – which relates straight to the movie.
“(Diddy says) ‘Man…I have nobody to give it to. Biggie’s not here and I can’t just give it to anybody’,” Jay laments. “So I asked him, ‘What do you do with all this music’ and he said ‘Man I’ll just play it in my house and run around with my socks on!'”
For a decade after Biggie’s death, Diddy clung to those beats, and there was a sentimental value that prevented him from giving them away to the first artist that came calling. He knew that it needed to be a special kind of once-in-a-generation talent to come along and spit over them.
In truth, there was nobody more fitting for Jay-Z, who took over as the King of Brooklyn following the demise of Big, and more importantly, he had the approval of the man who preceded him on the throne.