Behind every great man, there's his right hand. For Christopher "Biggie" Wallace, it was his then-ride-or-die manager Mark Pitts, who helped shepherd his career from the street corners to the studio. Pitts, the President of Urban Music at Jive Records who is also the force behind other music luminaries such as Ciara and Chris Brown, shared a brotherly love with his friend and client. ESSSENCE.com talked with Pitts about how Biggie's death affected the Bad Boy family, what the late rapper meant to him and his fans, and how he ended the hip-hop rivalry between Jay-Z and Nas.
ESSENCE.COM: How does it feel to be immortalized on the big screen with your late friend Big?
MARK PITTS: It feels good, and I told people, Kevin Phillips, the actor who plays me, doesn't look like me but he represents the essence of what I meant to the whole process. I'm happy as hell; I can't even tell you. The film shows another side of Big—a man who became a rapper.
ESSENCE.COM: As his friend and manager, what was the most difficult and proudest moment to witness onscreen?
PITTS: When he got shot. They kept saying Puff got shot, so the entire time I thought it was Puff who got shot. But the proudest moment was when Ms. Wallace (played by Angela Bassett) was in the limo and rolled down that window and saw the streets filled with Biggie's fans after we left the funeral and took one last drive through Brooklyn. I couldn't appreciate it like I should have because I was still twisted and in another world. During the whole process, Ms. Wallace didn't necessarily understand what BIG was doing earlier on in his career. At that moment when she saw all those people her [facial expression] was like, Oh s---, this is for my son! That is a proud moment for me and it will make you cry.
ESSENCE.COM: Would you say that Biggie's death brought the Bad Boy family closer?
PITTS: Wow, that's a hard question. Death always bring people together, but then everyone was off to do their own thing. There were so many questions unanswered and you start looking out the side of your eyes. It didn't make me fall out of love with hip-hop because of it.
ESSENCE.COM: Sadly, the East/West Coast rap rivalry resulted in the deaths of Tupac and Biggie. Have you, in your own way, made a commitment to make sure hip-hop history doesn't repeat itself?
PITTS: Yes, and that's what led me to bring Nas and Jay together. I have to say it's one of my most proudest moments. It felt good and I always believe that having the two of them sit down and [reconcile] was something that BIG wanted me to do and in some way I felt like if Big ever had the chance that's what he would have done with Pac. At the time, when me and Nas first started working together, I said, "We have to do something different. Your'e supposed to be a movement, so you need to do a song with Jay and get past all the bulls---. So I had a conversation with Jay and he was open. I couldn't believe it was going down, and because they both felt comfortable and know my energy, and when we all got together that day, I couldn't believe it was happening and we sat down and worked things out like men. That was definitely Big guiding me, all of us.
ESSENCE.COM: That's a blessing, because life is too short and we need to stop losing our brothers over nonsense, so I'm glad Jay and Nas recognized that. What do you hope folks will learn about Biggie from this film?
PITTS: I hope they finally understand why he is one of the greatest rappers of all time. You have Biggie fans who know Biggie through his music, but they didn't know he was a funny dude; that he didn't have beef with Tupac, and that he cried when he found out Pac had died. I want people to see the film and make their own opinions. I want everyone to walk away and realize that Biggie accomplished a lot and only put out one album while he was alive. For a man to be alive for one album and affect the masses the way he did, he's definitely a legend.