Twenty years ago on March 25, The Notorious B.I.G. released his seminal and final album Life After Death. The two-disc project is widely regarded as one of the most influential releases in hip-hop, as it took the traditional dark subject matters of gangsta rap and fused them with radio-friendly, infectious beats. There’s no doubt the impact of Biggie’s sophomore album is still seen today; however, after two decades since its release, there are a number of untold stories about Life After Death, including how it came to be and what it almost was.
In honor the album’s 20th anniversary, Bad Boy Records boss Sean “Diddy” Combs appeared on Revolt TV to share his Life After Death memories, some of which have never been heard before.
During the sit down, the hip-hop mogul revealed he and Biggie were in talks with Prince. Though the album did sample the late artist’s work, the Bad Boy team was attempting to lock down a full-fledged feature.
“We met with Prince […] We did the thing ('This Time Around') with Michael Jackson, and me and [Biggie] was always Prince fans and stuff like that,” Diddy explained. “But this was during a time when Prince wasn’t really rocking with hip-hop and wasn’t really clearing any samples, so that really didn’t go too well. But we was always still cool with him and wound up sampling some of his records and he wound up not chasing me for them in the future."
"He would just go through his phases and he came back to us and just let us know how proud he was of us and the whole thing. He was just really protective at one time of just what was going on as far as the whole 'bitch' and 'hoe' controversy. That was a real moment in hip-hop. That was a real reflection point in hip-hop where we were being kind of asked to take responsibility […] and think about what we were saying."
Diddy also said Biggie was struggling to find inspiration in the months prior to recording Life After Death. It’s a somewhat surprising story, as the album delivered a number of timeless hits like “Hypnotize,” “Mo Money Mo Problems,” as well as “Sky’s the Limit.” According to Diddy, Biggie needed motivation, which ultimately found from his contemporaries.
“A lot of people don’t know that Big stopped working for a while. He had a writer’s block and just an idea block. It lasted like six, seven months,” Diddy said. “We kind of kept it quiet. And during that time he started getting in trouble, got into a car accident. A whole bunch of stuff was just not going in the right direction. I just got with him and just really started explaining to him, ‘You know we could blow it, you know?’ He started kind of really believing in the hype and wasn’t really focused on the second album."
“[…]I think Big got over the writer’s block when I started doing other things. I started doing Mary [J. Blige’s] remix album, the LOX and Mase was just going and starting to freestyle. I think he had to start hearing stuff,” Diddy explained. “[…] I think it was just you know, I had to wake him up. It was time to get back in the game.”
The full Life After Death: Reflections by Diddy special airs exclusively on Revolt TV today at 4 p.m. ET.