The Notorious B.I.G.’s ’10 Crack Commandments’ Originally Wasn’t Meant For Him
Before he was a legendary rapper, The Notorious B.I.G. sold drugs as a way of supporting himself and his baby daughter. He left the profession behind once his career took off, but he often referenced dealing drugs in his songs. His 1997 song “10 Crack Commandments” is regarded in many circles as one of the greatest songs of all time about the hustle.
Biggie’s song ’10 Crack Commandments’ was inspired by a real crack dealer
Biggie’s 1997 album Life After Death was released just two weeks after the Brooklyn-bred rapper was gunned down in Los Angeles. “10 Crack Commandments” was never released as a single, but it holds a place in many Biggie fans’ memory. Much like the actual 10 Commandments, the song outlines 10 crucial guidelines for every drug dealer to follow to achieve success.
Biggie was reportedly inspired by an article in the July 1994 issue of The Source magazine, written by an actual crac. The article, “On the Rocks: From 1984 to 1994, Ten Years of Crack,” included a small sidebar titled “A Crack Dealer’s Ten Crack Commandments” that warned against things like letting people know how much money you have and selling drugs out of your home. Biggie’s mother even held the same issue of The Source in the music video for his beloved hit “Juicy.”
The article was part of a Source series looking back on the previous decade of the crack epidemic, which had ravaged Black communities across the country in the 1980s and ’90s. Biggie’s “10 Crack Commandments,” like many other hip-hop songs about drugs at that time, was about selling drugs as a means of survival rather than for recreation.
The beat for ’10 Crack Commandments’ came from Angie Martinez’s radio show
The lyrical material of “10 Crack Commandments” came from the Source article as well as Biggie’s own experiences selling drugs on the streets of Brooklyn. But the beat of the song came from somewhere else entirely: Angie Martinez’s radio show on New York’s Hot 97 station.
Angie Martinez has been a renowned figure in hip-hop radio for decades. At the time, she hosted a show called the “Hot 5 at 9,” where she would play the top five records of the week at 9 o’clock. Producer DJ Premier created a simple countdown to introduce the show.
Premier told The Combat Jack Show in 2013 about how the jingle came to be the beat for “10 Crack Commandments.” “The track was actually a promo that me and Jeru [the Damaja] did for Angie Martinez on Hot 97,” he recalled. “If you listen to the scratches, before I added “ten” later on when Biggie got it, I just keep going to five right after the beat drops because it was for the top 5 at 9.”
Diddy immediately got the song for Biggie
Diddy, who was Biggie’s good friend and collaborator, was guest-hosting Martinez’s show that day. When he heard the countdown and found out DJ Premier created it, he went live on the air and told him to call him, saying that he wanted to buy the promo.
“I told Jeru and he was like ‘Yo, it’s hip-hop. No big deal,'” he continued. “So I sold it to [DIddy] and Biggie already had a concept; he wanted to call it “10 Crack Commandments.” I took the “ten” from a spaceship count down when they go ‘ten, nine, eight, seven…’ and Biggie just rapped over it right there.”