While Hov and Biggie had known about each other for quite some time (they went to the same high school – George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education), it wasn’t until they collaborated on “Brooklyn’s Finest” that they became close.
The ’96 classic track which appears on Reasonable Doubt featured the two rappers in top form playfully sparring with each other and throwing in a few digs at rivals at the same time (“If Fay’ had twins, she’d probably have two Pacs”).
In an XXL article for the 10-year anniversary of Hov’s debut, DJ Clark Kent (who also produced the beat and supplied the hook) explained how he manoeuvred the two rappers to collaborate.
At the time, Clark Kent was on tour with Big, promoting Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s album, when the late Brooklyn rapper heard the beat for “Brooklyn’s Finest”.
“He was like, ‘I want the beat,'” Clark Kent told XXL. “I was like, ‘Nah, it’s Jay’s beat.’ He’s like, ‘You’re always giving this guy everything.’ He wanted that beat real bad.”
Fast forward to the track’s recording session, Clark Kent left Biggie downstairs while he went upstairs to try and persuade Jay and Dame to put him on the track. After properly introducing the two rappers to each other, Big listened to the song and went away to finish his verse.
Two months later, Big came back with his verses. Days later, I was mixing it, and there was no hook. We were supposed to do the hook when we were mixing it. And Jay says, “All right, you got to scratch something.” I’m trying to find things to scratch and nothing’s working. So I’m telling Jay, “Yo, y’all gotta come up with a hook.” Jay and Big are there. We’re at Giant Studios. Big goes, “I’ll be back, I’m going to the store.” And then an hour goes by, and he doesn’t go back. Then Jay goes, “I’ll be back.” They leave me there and never come back. So it’s like three in the morning, I decided to write a hook, and I performed the hook. That’s my voice.The Making of Jay-Z’s ‘Reasonable Doubt’ | XXL
With the song done, Jay-Z and Roc-A-Fella team wanted to use “Brooklyn’s Finest” as a single, understandably so, since Big was the hottest rapper in the game at the time. But Puffy, concerned that Big was becoming overexposed, blocked it.
Former hip hop music attorney and executive, the late Reggie Ossé, also known as Combat Jack, told the story in a Complex interview.
When I contacted Bad Boy for Big’s clearance, Puff wouldn’t, couldn’t grant us the full single rights. Big had been on almost everybody’s records and Arista didn’t want him to be overexposed. Especially since Big was about to go in the studio to record his second album. No shots, but I remember being on the phone once again begging for Puff to let Big rock on a single and video, and Puff asking me, ‘Yo, what the eff is a Jay-Z? I can’t get Clive Davis to clear Big on some unknown rapper’s record.’Combat Jack Presents: True Stories Behind 25 Rap Classics | Complex