Suing Notorious B.I.G.: Why Did Chuck D Take Biggie To Court After His Death?
Notorious B.I.G. died in 1997 at the age of 24, just before he could see the release of his second album, Life After Death. But even after his death, Notorious B.I.G. would face a lawsuit related to a track off that album.
Notorious B.I.G. rapped along to a sample from a Public Enemy song on “Ten Crack Commandments.” The sample contained the voice of Chuck D, long noted for his outspoken views on racism, the ills of the music industry, and other causes. The Notorious B.I.G. sample was taken from the song “Shut ‘Em Down,” from Public Enemy’s fourth album Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black.
Public Enemy had five successful albums by that time, and long presented themselves as anti-drug. When they heard their work on the Notorious B.I.G. track, it caused a seismic wave. The song was produced by DJ Premier with Bad Boy Records. Chuck D was urged by his associates to pursue legal action.
Chuck D told HipHopDX he eventually took action to appease the producers he worked with on the track.
“Well, my thing is I don’t go after anybody. But in that particular case, which was coming from Bad Boy, which was BMG, which was who sued me on another end – it was like one of those things. So it really had nothing to do with Biggie. Nothing. It had nothing to do with Premier. And at the end of the day, it was Def Jam and Bad Boy, it was BMG and Universal. It was really one of those … it was just stupid.”
The parties have since made peace, but not before an incident at a convenience store. DJ Premier was upset the lawsuit would go forward while Notorious B.I.G.’s family still mourned. He described what happened to XXL.
“He said he would dead the issue and when we got home from the Smokin’ Grooves tour, he changed his numbers. Back in 1998, 1999, I ran into him at the 7-11. He had his kids with him and we got into it. I told him, ‘I can’t believe you lied to me.’ This is Chuck D, one of my idols, and I was cursing him out in front of his children.”
Chuck D says he wasn’t upset about the sample, but it was a business decision he had to make despite Notorious B.I.G.’s death. Those who’ve listened to Public Enemy records or seen interviews know there is a huge difference in image and message from Notorious B.I.G.