This Iconic Notorious B.I.G. Song Was Originally Meant For Mary J. Blige

The Notorious B.I.G. was an undisputed hip-hop icon with a large array of hit songs. From “Juicy” and “Big Poppa” to “Hypnotize” and “Mo Money Mo Problems,” Biggie Smalls knew how to command any beat that he rapped over.

The Notorious B.I.G. performing in 1995
The Notorious B.I.G. | Chris Walter/WireImage

Inside The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur’s relationship

In the mid-1990s, Biggie Smalls and his West Coast rival Tupac Shakur were good friends. Tupac had already dominated the rap scene in the early ’90s, and acted almost as a mentor to Biggie.

With his debut album Ready to Die in 1994, Biggie became the hottest new rapper in the game. His friendship with Tupac went sour after the California rapper was shot in the lobby of The Quad studio in New York in late 1994.

In early 1995, Biggie released the single “Who Shot Ya?” The song samples a portion of David Porter’s 1971 song “The Masquerade is Over,” and Biggie mocks an unnamed person for being shot. This led many to believe that it was a diss track aimed at Tupac, and prompted Tupac to accuse Biggie’s crew — including Sean “Diddy” Combs — of being involved.

Biggie denied the song was about his onetime friend, but the track had already been cemented in hip-hop history as an iconic diss track. Modern rappers have sampled “Who Shot Ya?” in their own diss tracks, including Megan Thee Stallion, who rapped over the beat on her Tory Lanez diss track, “Shots Fired.”

The Notorious BIG At Billboard Music Awards
The Notorious B.I.G. | Larry Busacca/WireImage

Biggie’s hit song ‘Who Shot Ya?’ was originally meant for Mary J. Blige

While the song will forever be associated with Biggie, “Who Shot Ya?” wasn’t even originally intended for the Brooklyn-bred rapper. It was meant for Mary J. Blige, whom Biggie had worked with on remixes from her 1992 debut album What’s the 411?.

Biggie’s cousin and Junior M.A.F.I.A. groupmate Lil’ Cease spoke about the track in a 2017 interview with Revolt. He revealed that the track was recorded in early 1994 — long before the Quad shooting — and was originally intended to be the opening track on Mary J. Blige’s classic album My Life. Ironically enough, My Life was released on November 29, 1994, one day before the Tupac shooting. 

“That was supposed to be for Mary J. Blige’s album,” Cease said. “That was supposed to be the intro for My Life. Intro to the second album. It was Keith Murray, LL Cool J, and B.I.G. on it. That’s the original.”

According to Cease, Blige’s label felt the track was “too hard” to open an R&B album and scrapped it from the tracklist. “Once they scratched it, B.I.G. was like, ‘Give me the record. I’m gonna f— with it.'”

Cease acknowledged that it was confusing why the song wasn’t a direct Tupac diss, given that it was released after the shooting. But it was in fact recorded months earlier. “It was a B-side record. It was way before [Tupac got shot]. It slipped out [to the mixtapes] with just Big’s first verse,” Cease explained. “Why would people think that when they know they heard this record before?”

“Big didn’t sweat it,” he continued. “He was like, ‘[Tupac] knew that song wasn’t about him. He knew that song was done before that.'”

Mary J. Blige attends SAG-AFTRA Foundation's conversations and screening of 'Mudbound' at SAG-AFTRA Foundation Screening Room
Mary J. Blige | Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images

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Mary J. Blige and The Notorious B.I.G.’s friendly relationship

Blige recounted her experience when she first met The Notorious B.I.G. in a 2020 interview with supermodel Naomi Campbell on her web series No Filter with Naomi.

“He was sweet and fun,” Blige remembered. “When I first met Biggie, we were doing the ‘What’s the 411?’ remix, and he was in the studio on the wall, smoking, quiet. [Then] it was time for him to go in and do his verse on the remix; he came out [and] he was like, ‘You feeling that, mom?’ [and I was] like, ‘Yeah, of course I’m feeling that!’”

Blige looks back on her relationship with the late, great rapper fondly. “He was just always humble and quiet and sweet and fun,” she said. “Just a lot of fun.”