The story behind Biggie Smalls’ hit single ‘One More Chance’
The original was too explicit for radio, but the remix was 🔥
Excerpted from It Was All a Dream: Biggie and the World that Made Him.
In the nineties, an album had a much longer shelf life than it does today. Instead of every track hitting streaming services instantly on the release date, labels carefully doled out singles over many months, boosting album sales and keeping an artist in the spotlight. But that meant that the decisions about which tracks were singles was crucial. “Juicy,” from 1994’s Ready to Die, was an undeniable success out the gate and served as a pristine introduction for the Notorious B.I.G. and his first album. “Big Poppa,” with “Warning” on the B-side, showed that just as easily as Big could take your girl, he could eliminate haters trying to stick him for his paper.
By the summer of 1995, Bad Boy Records was in full swing, and it was Big leading the charge. Big had more than enough product on the streets. His “Flava in Ya Ear (Remix)” verse was blazing the clubs. And his feature on Total’s smash hit “Can’t You See” made the opening lines, “Gimme all the chicken heads from Pasadena to Medina,” as infectious as anything to come out that year. Big wasn’t just in-demand in rap circles, either. He was in the studio with pop icons like Michael Jackson for the record “This Time Around.” But Puffy Combs, the founder of Bad Boy Records, was also looking for Biggie’s next single. Rob Stone was in a marketing meeting at Arista when he heard the news. The next single was going to be “Machine Gun Funk.” Stone loved the Easy Mo Bee-produced heatrock, which was one of the hardest on the entire album. But as a single? In particular, a summer single? That didn’t sit well with him. His boss asked him what it should be if not “Machine Gun Funk.”
“I’m not sure,” Stone said. “I think it should be ‘One More Chance.’ ”
There was a problem, though. “One More Chance” was far too explicit for it to have a chance of ever getting played on the radio. An hour after mentioning his suggestion to his boss, Stone was told he needed to report back to his boss’ office immediately. Stone didn’t know what was going on, but he didn’t have to wait long to find out.
Puffy was on the phone, and without saying a word, Stone already knew which Puffy he was getting.
“Hey, Puff,” Stone said, preparing himself for what was to come. “Sup,” the young mogul responded, his voice in a monotone.
Stone’s boss had told Puffy that he didn’t think “Machine Gun Funk” was the best choice for Big’s next single. Stone had a very respectable working relationship with Puffy, but it’s not like they hung out or anything, so he had to keep this strictly business-related and get to his point quickly. If not, he ran the risk of Puffy going berserk.
“I think you’re making a mistake with ‘Machine Gun Funk,’ ” Stone said. Not exactly the greatest way to start a conversation with the budding executive. Before he could even get his next thought in, the reins to the conversation had already shifted.
“All you motherf—ers think you know what the f— I should be doing!” Puffy screamed. “What the f— you should be doing is getting my s— played on the radio! And I’ll worry about what the f— Puff needs and does.”
Stone lost count of how many “motherf—ers” Puffy yelled over the course of the call. He felt sick. He thought he had just botched one of the most important relationships he had in the music industry. But there was something he noticed. Puffy was still cursing, but he hadn’t hung up yet. Stone’s boss was looking at him. He put the phone on mute and demanded, “F—ing tell him! F—ing tell him!”
Stone had the idea in his head, but he’d never rehearsed it. It was now or never, and Stone went for it.
“Yo, Puff, you gonna scream at me or you want to hear my idea?” Stone remembers asking. “Look, Puff, you came with ‘Juicy.’ Anyone could understand that struggle. It was very relatable. Then you have Big becoming ‘Big Poppa.’ He’s now got that style and pizzazz, and he’s in the clubs and the girls are loving him. And then you come in with ‘I live for the funk, I’ll die for the funk.’ It’s a really cool record. I just don’t think it’s telling the story like you should be.”
Silence. That’s what the next several seconds consisted of. Silence. Stone was still petrified, but there was no turning back. Puffy still hadn’t hung up, and he wasn’t cursing anymore. At worst, he was tuning Stone out. At best, he was at least listening.
“I think it should be ‘One More Chance.’ You go from ‘Juicy’ to ‘Big Poppa’ to now women begging him for one more chance,” Stone said.
“But that’s nothing but curses. I can’t make that,” Puffy replied. “That’s not a radio record.”
“Puff, you made the ‘Flava in Ya Ear’ remix,” Stone said. “Do the same thing with this. Go make a remix to this record and put Janet Jackson, Madonna, Aaliyah, Total, Faith, Mary J. Put every big-name woman in the industry, begging this guy for one more chance.”
Silence again. Stone was nauseated. Puffy didn’t say anything for what felt like an eternity. Then he said it.
“Oh, s—,” Puffy said, the idea now racing through his head. “I got that good love girl, you didn’t know. I’ll call y’all right back.”
Stone and his boss looked at each other, completely lost. What the hell just happened on that phone call? Stone knew that Puffy had it from there. He just didn’t know how the record would turn out. If anyone could make a fire remix, it was Puffy — the man who would later claim to have invented the remix. Two weeks later, the “One More Chance” remix was delivered. Sampling DeBarge’s 1983 hit “Stay with Me,” the Rashad “Ringo” Smith-produced remix completely overpowered its pornographic original. Everything about the remix was magnetic, from Big’s syrupy-smooth, Billy Dee Williams-like delivery to the video, with what appeared like the world’s greatest house party with guests like Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell, D-Nice, Heavy D, Da Brat, Queen Latifah, Tyson Beckford, and more, and a who’s who of R&B starlets like Mary J. Blige, Aaliyah, Zhané, Miss Jones, Patra, a group called Changing Faces, and more, all requesting one more chance. While everyone on set was having fun, one person in particular who wasn’t was Faith Evans. Evans was nervous around all the other women in the video. Puffy took notice and pulled her to the side.
“You see all these chicks up in here? But this is yo’ n—a!” Evans recalled of Puff’s pep talk in her 2008 memoir, Keep the Faith. “You can’t let these chicks be hotter than you on your s—.”
Unbeknownst to Evans, her work on set wasn’t done. There was a scene set up to show Big sitting on the corner of the bed and a model dressed in hardly anything to play the scene’s lead. That’s when Big called an audible. He called an impromptu meeting with Puffy and the video’s director, Hype Williams.
“I want Faye in this scene,” he told them.
“I was shocked that Big would want me in the video for that scene. I figured he’d want some video chick to be next to him. I knew it was Hollywood and not real life,” she said. “But Big wanted his real-life woman next to him in that scene. And of course, I loved that he was making it clear who the main woman was in his life as well as in the video.”
The shoot might have been an emotional roller coaster for Evans, but the end result was what single dreams are made of, winning both critical praise and commercial acclaim. The remix that began with a tense phone call between Puffy and Rob Stone would ultimately peak at the number-two spot on the Billboard Hot 100 by July 1995.
“If I had to mark a moment when Biggie-mania was about to become a real thing, I would say when the ‘One More Chance’ remix dropped,” said the cultural critic Naima Cochrane. “That’s when we all said, ‘Okay, there’s really something here.’ It’s the perfect microcosm of the best part of Bad Boy’s hip-hop at that moment. And a perfect microcosm of how much rap could be outside in these streets at that moment.”
“I had nothing to do with that. That was all Puffy,” said Stone. “He didn’t tell me to just shut up and do my job. Well, he did, but he was appreciative enough to listen. When ‘One More Chance’ hit and it was huge, Puff was now a force in the industry. You’d see Puff in the clubs, and you’d see him in VIP buying all the champagne.”
One night Stone and a friend were walking on the West Side by the Hit Factory on West Fifty-Fourth Street. Puff was a regular there, and on that night in particular, he was outside with about twenty-five people surrounding him. Cars were lined up down the block. That’s when he saw Stone walking by.
“Yo! Rob! Rob Stone!” he yelled. “Come here!”
Stone was pretty much the opposite of Combs, who loved crowds and being the center of attention.
“Hey, wassup, Puff.”
Combs’ face turned serious. “Yo, I told you ‘One More Chance’ was a hit.”
Stone was confused. “Huh? You told me? I told you!”
Combs was unable to contain himself. He burst out in laughter and dapped Stone up. The truth is, Big had a lot to smile and laugh about. Ready to Die was still a force in the streets and the charts. Big’s singles were on fire. Even the tracks not pushed as radio-friendly tunes, like “Unbelievable” or “Me & My B—-,” were hood staples.
Excerpt from the upcoming book IT WAS ALL A DREAM: BIGGIE AND THE WORLD THAT MADE HIM by Justin Tinsley published by Abrams Press. Text copyright © 2022 Justin Tinsley