RockPop Cover Story - George DuBose & The Notorious B.I.G.
Portrait Of The Then 19-year-old Biggie Smalls And 50G
The story behind the photograph, in the words of George DuBose,
"Mr. Cee, Big Daddy Kane's DJ, called me one day and told me that he was working with a young rapper. The track for the young rapper was going to be on a compilation 12" vinyl that would be released by a NY radio station. I forget the name of the station - I think it was WKTU.
"Mr. Cee asked me if I would go to Bed-Stuy [Brooklyn] to take some photos. Cee went on to say that there was 'no budget' for the session and would I take the pictures for free. As I had already photographed and designed several packages for Big Daddy Kane and Kane had been a big factor in my buying a house, I could certainly offer a freebie to pay back Cee.
"'Sure, I'll go to Bed-Stuy, if you come with me. No way am I going there with my photo equipment without a bodyguard.' He agreed that I was being sensible and we made a date to travel together from Manhattan to Brooklyn by subway. We got to the corner of Bedford Avenue and Quincy, where I was introduced to Biggie Smalls and his DJ, 50 Grand. Biggie was BIG and not very friendly. I had worked with quite a few rappers by this time, so I was aware that some of them preferred a hard image. No smiles, no humor in their songs..."
"The young rapper wanted his photo taken in front of the street signs that marked the epicenter of his hood. I shot a dozen pictures of Biggie and 50G in front of the street signs, but to get their faces and the street sign in the same frame, I had to shoot from quite a low angle. I wasn't too pleased about this arrangement so I made some more shots of the two of them against a wall on the other side of the street.
"Not particularly wanting to linger in this area of Brooklyn, I said I was finished, then thanked them and told Cee I was ready to leave. Biggie then asked me if I had more film. I had a few shots left on the one roll of film that I had used. Would I take a picture of his posse? 'OK,' I replied, but I didn't see any posse...
"Fifteen seconds later - it was like someone blew a whistle - there were 20 guys around me ready to pose for their fifteen seconds of fame. I looked around for a suitable background and told the crew to line up in a sunlit spot on a sidewalk across the street from where we were. I got Biggie in the center of the crowd, and then I told them to get closer together. I then looked into the viewfinder of my camera to focus and I saw that Biggie was pointing an Uzi at me. Oops! In my politest voice, I asked Biggie to point the gun away from the camera and then took only two photos before I realized I was at the end of my roll. I said 'Thanks. That's it, we got it.' I then looked at Cee and said, 'Let's boogie!'
"A few days later, I gave Cee the shot he wanted of Biggie and 50G and that was the end of it. Until...Biggie was shot and killed only a few years later! I hadn't realized how hugely successful Biggie had become in only a few years. He had been signed to Bad Boy Records that was owned by a character named, Sean Combs. Now he was 'the Notorious B.I.G.'
"Evidently, Bad Boy had decided make some kind of video right after B.I.G. was killed. I never saw the video, but Mr. Cee told me that a couple of the shots I had taken in Bed-Stuy were used in the video. I called my photo resale agent to ask them about this sale of my photos to Bad Boy. They confirmed the transaction and told me that I would net a few hundred $$ from the sales. I was told a few months later that the label refused to pay for them. I guess they don't call themselves 'Bad Boy' for nothing...So I just go went with my life."
The Notorious B.I.G.'s 2007 release on Bad Boy is titled Greatest Hits reached #1 on the Billboard Top Album charts in March 2007. It is the 3rd #1 record in his career and reached this position 10 years after he was killed.
Click here to see the entire George DuBose Notorious B.I.G. portfolio on the RockPoP Gallery site.
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