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Before Christopher Wallace was The Notorious B.I.G., one of the greatest rappers and best-selling artists of all time, he was an unsigned Brooklyn MC going by the name, Biggie Smalls, trying to get put on.

While Big still selling crack as a full-time hustle, he had a love for hip hop and would often spit rhymes on the streets as a means of entertainment. Word travelled around the neighbourhood that he was nice on the mic and it wasn’t long before he linked up with local DJ, 50 Grand.

“I started working with Big in ’91,” DJ 50 Grand recalled in a Fader interview. “I was 21, he was 15. I met him through a friend of mine. They hustled together on Bedford and Quincy. People in the neighborhood knew him as the hottest rapper around.”

From there, Big and 50 Grand set out to create his first demo tape. “I went to the basement at my crib, we made about four demos and it went from there,” he said.

“After we finished making money, we’d go get beer, weed, some movies and just get in the basement and make tapes for the rest of the day and night. That’s where it went down after the money was made. He taught me a whole lot. He changed me. Breaking down songs, he knew what he wanted, how he wanted it.”

The demo tape was incredibly raw, but promising, Big showed flashes of the brilliance that would vault him into superstardom a few years later as he rhymed over Big Daddy Kane’s “Ain’t No Half-Steppin'” – his favourite rapper and one of his biggest rap influences.

DJ 50 Grand passed the tape on to Mister Cee, who was DJing for Kane at the time, who passed it on to Matteo “Matty C” Capoluongo, of The Source magazine, for his Unsigned Hyped column. After news of the up-and-coming Brooklyn MC made its way to Puffy, who was still an A&R at Uptown Records, the record executive wanted to meet Big, and the rest is history.

“‘Microphone Murderer’ is the main demo [song],” Mister Cee explained. “It’s the demo that I took to Matty C from The Source magazine for the ‘Unsigned Hype’ article. Diddy heard about The Source magazine ‘Unsigned Hype’ situation. So the ‘Microphone Murderer’ was the demo song Puff heard and got him signed.”

“If you’re an aspiring rapper and you know you have the flavor and potential to make dope records, you don’t need to go into the studio and spend crazy cash to make a fly demo. You don’t even need a 4-track; just two turntables and a microphone, press record on the tape deck and you’re good to go. B-I-G is living proof of this fact. His DJ, Hitman 50 Grand, threw a couple classic breaks and instrumentals and let B-I-G do what he had to do: he ripped shit. Straight outta Brooklyn, New York, the heavy-set brother B-I-G has mad skills. His rhymes are fatter then he is. All four of his jams were basically a freestyle exhibition. Obviously, to come out as an MC takes a lot more than hype rhymes, but rhyme skills are the main ingredient to true success in hip-hop, and when it comes to those, B-I-G’s got plenty.”

Matteo “Matty C” Capoluongo – Unsigned Hype: March, 1992 Issue #30
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