For decades, rappers have written lyrics about the expensive things they buy, from chains to cars. The Notorious BIG was no stranger to expensive jewelry, but he rarely showed up at the jewelry store with a credit card. Instead, the “Juicy” rapper paid for his jewelry with cash.
Biggie grew up in New York City in the 1980s at the height of the crack epidemic. Though the drug was decimating communities like his in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, Biggie saw it as a lucrative career path when older men in his neighborhood started wearing fancy clothes and jewelry. At just 12, he became a crack dealer himself.
Eventually, Biggie moved his business south, dividing his time between Brooklyn and Raleigh, North Carolina, where he could sell crack at higher prices. At the same time, he was known in the neighborhood for his rap skills at block parties and ciphers, but never developed his talent further.
He was eventually discovered by record manager Sean “Diddy” Combs, who signed him to his label, Bad Boy Records, in 1993. But before he brought Biggie, Diddy demanded that he quit his job on the streets.
In a 2023 interview with GQ, retired basketball star Allen Iverson looked back on a time when he went jewelry shopping with Biggie and Diddy. “We used the same jeweler,” he recalls. “I went with him and Big.”
Iverson was stunned to see Biggie using “knots” to pay for his new jewelry in cash. “We’re in there and we’re getting whatever. But I use checks. All I remember is Big using goddamn money. Big-a** knot, you know what I mean? He’s standing, he’s wearing jean shorts and you can see those friggin’ big knots in his frigging pants,” he continued.
While Diddy splurged on jewelry from time to time, he has also bought fake jewelry in the past. In 2018, GQ spoke to ex-Bad Boy artists and other Diddy employees about what Diddy is like behind the scenes. His former personal servant, Fonzworth Bentley, recalled when Diddy bought fake diamonds in Saint Martin.
“He went into town to get a present for the mother of two of his children,” Bentley said. “So there’s all these really nice boutiques and we got into this one boutique and there were these diamond watches and they were really nice.”
“They had something really unique and I remember he was like, ‘Hey, let me see that.’ He picked it up and looked at it and then the price tag was there and the price tag was like $2,500. He said, ‘Wait, these are fakes?’ And the woman said, ‘Yes, they’re not real.’ And he said, ‘Wait, wait, let me see this,'” Bentley continued.
“So he puts it on and we look at it and we’re both amazed,” he recalled. “He looks at me and says, ‘You’re not going to believe Diddy’s is fake.'”