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RockPop Cover Story - George DuBose & The Notorious B.I.G.
Portrait Of The Then 19-year-old Biggie Smalls And 50G
By Mike G, RockPop Gallery
(more articles from this author)
2007-03-30
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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.

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"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."

George DuBose

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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