Jay-Z is one of the wealthiest rappers to come out of hip-hop. With a net worth of over $1billion, the rapper (real name Shawn Carter) is revered in the culture for his work ethic and exceptional music. However, few fans know that aside from Big Daddy Kane, the mogul was also friends with the late legend The Notorious B.I.G.
The two did not only emerge at a similar time but were also from bordering neighbourhoods. The Notorious B.I.G (often called Biggie Smalls) was raised in the Clinton Hills area of Brooklyn, while Carter was from Bedford-Stuyvesant. These adjacent neighbourhoods had much in common, and Biggie often saw Jay around. As a musician himself, the pair grew close.
When Biggie (real name Christopher Wallace) was releasing his first album, Ready To Die, in 1994, Carter was busy setting up his record label alongside Damon Dash. The two were hustlers and had endured similar tribulations while trying to get into the music game. The pair had gone to extreme lengths to raise funds and had both seen the ugly side of Brooklyn. This alone was enough to form a bond between them.
Although Biggie was already flourishing when Roc-A-Fella was first created, he was happy to take Carter under his wing and ensure he knew all the right people in the industry. Wallace wanted to cultivate and nurture the next generation of Brooklyn talent and was happy to help. However, the musicians’ friendship was short-lived. Following the moderate success of his debut project, Reasonable Doubt, Jay-Z began recording and curating his second album, In My Lifetime Vol 1. It was during this period that (while in Los Angeles) The Notorious B.I.G. was shot and killed.
Following Wallace’s tragic murder, Jay-Z wrote a tribute song dedicated to the late rapper. Many tracks were released by New York artists during this period. One of the most well-known is ‘I’ll be Missing You’ by Diddy featuring Faith Evans and R’n’B group 112. However, one lesser-known song made in memory of Wallace is Jay-Z’s ‘The City Is Mine.’ Appearing on Carter’s second album, the tribute was released as the project’s third single. The song features background vocals from Blackstreet and was partially produced by the New Jack City legend Teddy Riley.
Based around a sample of The Jones Girls’ 1979 hit ‘You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else,’ a fascinating fact concerning the track is that the Saxophone featured was played by Chad Hugo, otherwise known as one-half of The Neptunes. The production duo would explode onto the mainstream six months later with N.O.R.E’s ‘Superthug’. Carter’s tribute includes lines such as, “Don’t worry about Brooklyn, I continue to flame/ Therefore a world with amnesia won’t forget your name,” and “You held it down long enough, let me take those reigns/ And just like your spirit, the commission remains.”
You can listen to the fantastic tribute in the video below.