Notorious B.I.G. Was A Quiet, Humble Rapper Before His Transformation

Notorious B.I.G. only released two official albums, and only one before his death, but his mark on the hip hop world is indelible. Notorious B.I.G. was huge, in both the literal and figurative sense, but he wasn’t always such a musical heavyweight. It took the mentorship of Bad Boy Records owner Sean “Puffy” Combs, as he was known at the time, to really turn him into a star.

Notorious B.I.G. first came to the attention of Combs when Combs was contacted by his friend Matty C, who wrote for The Source magazine’s Unsigned Hype column. Combs was looking to make a splash in the music industry. He took artists into his new record company after things grew sour with Andre Harrell at Uptown Records. Notorious B.I.G. would be the act to launch Combs over the top.

Combs needed space to grow, and something he could control. But he needed to acquire solid talent to stand behind, and artists he could develop. Notorious B.I.G. ended up becoming the act most associated with the success of Bad Boy Records. Combs’ early successes came with the duel release of music by Notorious B.I.G. and Craig Mack.

Upon hearing Notorious B.I.G. for the first time, Combs described his reaction to GQ.

“My mind was blown. I knew instantly that Big was the greatest rapper I ever heard. It was like witnessing a miracle or something.”

But Notorious B.I.G. wasn’t always the glamorous star he was later made out to be. Bad Boy Records singer Mary J. Blige described B.I.G.’s humble, quiet persona.

“Biggie was one of the nicest people you could meet—so quiet. He’d post on the wall, waiting his turn. But when he hit the booth… Damn!”

Combs was a club promoter in his teens before he got into the record label business. He was accustomed to sensing what it would take to succeed from the ground level. He spent his days and nights promoting New York City nightlife, and then went on to promote artists. He brought a lot of that insight with him when he founded Bad Boy Records.

Chuck D, legendary Public Enemy frontman, gives the credit to Sean Combs in a Hip Hop DX interview for developing Notorious B.I.G. into the artist he was to become.

“I thought he was a good performer. But I think Puffy had a lot to do with that training and developing, and that’s something that’s overlooked. And when it came down to Big, I think Puffy was just as much of an important figure in his development as Big was with his ability. And, I’m not a person who goes on hype, I’ve seen ’em all, so … I rank him high.”

[Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images]