It’s not just any artist who can take aim at 20 of R&B’s biggest hitmakers before even dropping his first album, but that’s exactly what the Notorious B.I.G. did when he dropped his promotional single “Just Playing (Dreams)” in 1993.
“As I sit back, relax, steam a blunt, sip a Beck’s/ Think about the sexy singers that I want to sex,” B.I.G. spit on the record before labeling Mariah Carey as “kinda scary.”
While Big’s rhymes were delivered in jest, the risky record could’ve spelled doom for a rapper with less talent and potential, but 15 years after his death and almost 20 years after he recorded it, “Just Playing” remains one of his greatest tracks. ” ‘Dreams’ was almost like a shocking record,” said MTV News correspondent Sway, who sat down with Biggie’s longtime friends Lil’ Cease and producer DJ Clark Kent to discuss their favorite songs out of the Notorious One’s catalog.
“That was his greatness, he was going to make you listen to every rhyme by saying something that crazy,” said DJ Clark Kent, who produced classic records like Jay-Z and Biggie’s “Brooklyn’s Finest.” “That’s what he was about; he was the best, the best rapper ever.”
Initially, the lyrics to “Just Playing (Dreams)” appeared on Mary J. Blige’s “What’s the 411?” remix, but Big would later reuse the verse for his own promo single. Lil’ Cease, the Notorious B.I.G.’s protégé, was there for most of Big’s recording sessions and remembers being amused after he tracked the vocals for the unforgettable track. “I laughed more than anything, because it was funny to me,” Cease recalled. “I was surprised he was saying those things on the record, but I understood where he was coming from. I’ve been around Big, so that was the sense of humor side of him.”
For the most part, Cease said that the singers targeted, like Mary J. Blige, Patti LaBelle and Chaka Khan, didn’t take offense to the record. Atlanta ’90s R&B quartet Xscape, however, didn’t appreciate the lyric where Big referred to them as “those ugly-ass Xscape bitches.” While the line was a bit harsh, eventually they were able to smooth things out. “We saw them in Atlanta and Big explained to them that it was all in fun,” Cease said.
Join MTV News as we celebrate the Notorious B.I.G’s life on the 15th anniversary of his death. From now through March 25, we will be rolling out exclusive and commemorative content from Biggie’s closest friends, collaborators and his biggest fans. To join the conversation on Twitter, hit @MTVRapFix using the hashtag #biggie15.