If you were a rap fan back in 1995, particularly in New York, you would have heard the mesmerising piano loop of DeBarge’s “Stay with Me” bumping out of car stereos all year long.
The first instance would have been on Big L’s “M.V.P.” as the first single off his debut album, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous. Produced by L’s mentor and D.I.T.C. founder Lord Finesse, this version was a street banger and managed to peak at number 15 on the Hot Rap Tracks.
The second, and more well known, instance was on Big’s “One More Chance / Stay with Me (Remix).” Featuring production by Sean “Puffy” Combs and Rashad Smith, the single was released after the Brooklyn rapper had blown up at the end of 1994, and cemented Big’s position as a hip hop superstar.
Two different interpretations of the same sample rhymed over by two of the greatest rappers of all time, with vastly different outcomes. In an interview with HipHopDX in 2010, Lord Finesse claimed that Big L’s track inspired Puffy to create the remix version with the DeBarge’s “Stay with Me” sample.
“[Notorious B.I.G.] got the idea [for his remix single version of ‘One More Chance’] from [the original version of “M.V.P.”],” Finesse said. “‘Cause L was opening up for Biggie, [before Ready To Die was released and long], before that remix [for ‘One More Chance’] came out, and L was [already performing] ‘M.V.P.'”
“They just took that [DeBarge ‘Stay With Me’] loop and stripped it down. But I know they heard that from [L], ‘cause that remix was no way done before ‘M.V.P. was done. [And I know] because I was there during the making of the Ready To Die album ‘cause I did ‘Suicidal Thoughts.’ So, if I woulda heard they used it before L used it I woulda never used it.”
Funkmaster Flex backed up Lord Finesse’s in an interview with Vibe years later. “I remember being in the [legendary nightclub] The Tunnel when ‘M.V.P.’ was starting to bubble,” Flex recalled. “The guys from Bad Boy were in there every week and noticed that record gaining momentum. That sample was cranking in the clubs and it was such a big deal that L had it first. If you remember, the original album version of ‘One More Chance’ was completely different. So Bad Boy jacked that DeBarge loop and remixed ‘One More Chance’ on the fly.”
“One More Chance / Stay with Me (Remix)” became an instant smash hit and catapulted to the top of the pop charts. The single was certified platinum less than two months after it dropped and peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Biggie’s biggest hit to date.
In an interview with Complex, Poke & Tone of the Trackmasters (who weren’t credited for helping produce the record), recalled Puffy asking them to sample DeBarge to help transform Big’s sex appeal:
Poke: Puff was like, ‘We need a sexy record. My fat dude is sexy. He ugly and sexy.’ We’re like, ‘Really?’ So he was like, ‘Let’s try to fucking attack one of these DeBarge joints, let’s go in that direction.’ So we got the DeBarge album and he was like, ‘This ‘Stay With Me’ shit, this shit right here is the shit, ni**a!’ I’m looking at him like, ‘Are you fucking nuts? You can’t be serious with what you’re talking about. It’s a ballad.’ That’s what I was thinking, this is a fucking ballad. So I go home. Now here’s the thing, he’s singing all over the fucking song. Even when it breaks down, he’s singing all over it. There’s no bass lines, there’s no nothing. So how do you chop it up? So that comes back to our Fadies technique. So we take it, chop it up, and bring it to the studio. ‘WOOOO!’ Puff jumps on the table, do all the shit that he does, and starts going crazy. Biggie, he’s smoking his la in the back of the studio, bobbing his head. You don’t know what the fuck he’s doing but the whole record is being written as he’s smoking his chronic. Then he goes into the booth, Mary and Faith come in, and that’s it.Trackmasters Tell All: The Stories Behind Their Classic Records (Part 1) | Complex