Multiple documents tracing the rise of Sean Combs’ Bad Boy Records and the Notorious B.I.G. — including a contract featuring Christopher Wallace’s rare signature — are among a number of music-related items now up for auction via Paddle8.
Another auction highlight is a handwritten note from Elvis Presley with a setlist for his Pearl Harbor charity concert on March 25th, 1961 on one side, and a letter to long-time friend and president of his Memphis fan club, Gary Pepper, on the other. As part of the “Legendary” series, a Nirvana flier for a 1991 concert signed by Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, as well as Hole’s Courtney Love, Patty Schemel, Kristen Pfaff and Eric Erlandson, is also available.
Elvis Presley’s Letter to Fan Club President Gary Pepper
Elvis Presley Set List – March 25th, 1961
But it’s the Biggie Smalls documents that may be the most interesting to music collectible fans. The nine-page Bad Boy lot — which is expected to fetch between $5,000 and $7,000 — includes Notorious B.I.G.’s termination agreement with Uptown Records, signed months before the rapper released his massively successful 1994 debut, Ready to Die. The document features the only authentic Wallace signature to ever be offered to the public (available to see below).
Combs had signed Biggie while working at Uptown, where he began as an intern and worked his way up to vice president. While there, he founded Bad Boy and was named its CEO, but in 1993, Uptown’s Andre Harrell accused him of insubordination and fired him.
The termination agreement — technically between Biggie and Uptown’s distributor, MCA Records — allowed the rapper to buy back the masters to the two singles he’d released at the time (“Party and Bullshit” and “Flip That Shit”) alongside Ready to Die tracks the rapper had recorded, but not released, for just $326,092.91. Ready to Die would go on to sell over 2 million copies and establish Biggie as one of the genre’s most influential and revered rappers.
Biggie would eventually sign with Clive Davis’ Arista Records, which bought Bad Boy for almost $2 million. A letter confirming the escrow agreement between Arista and Combs is included in the lot and charmingly begins, “Dear Puff…”
Arista Records’ Confirmation of Bad Boy Purchase – Page 1
Arista Records’ Confirmation of Bad Boy Purchase – Page 2
Amongst the music business nuggets featured in the document are Combs’ initial $62,500 quarterly salary and Arista’s commitment to a quarterly contribution of $150,000 to the label’s office and overhead. A second letter (available below) is hardly amicable. “The reason we are contributing overhead money is based on the assumption that Bad Boy will be taking certain responsibilities off our hands,” the letter reads. “This leads to the questions I asked you yesterday. Who has Bad Boy hired? What are their functions? Which record company tasks is Bad Boy prepared to handle now?”
Thanks to Biggie, Faith Evans and Ma$e, Bad Boy became the mid-Nineties’ most dominant hip-hop label, and Combs would sign a new deal with Arista for over $10 million that included 50 percent ownership of Bad Boy and full buyback rights to past and future masters.
As for the Presley letter (written on a piece of Hilton Hawaiian Village stationary), Paddle8 sales specialist Simeon Lipman tells Rolling Stone it’s noteworthy not just because of its connection to a historic gig, but because Presley authenticates the setlist. “[A]s you can see by the front of the letter, I sang a couple of your favorites for the show,” Presley writes to Pepper. “I thought you might get a kick out of having this from the show since you couldn’t make it over for the show.” The letter is expected to fetch between $12,000 and $15,000.
Lipman also points out that the Nirvana concert flier — which could garner between $4,000 and $6,000 — is also unique as it’s one of few items to feature the signatures of both Cobain and Love. The flier advertises a concert at Iguanas, a club in Tijuana, Mexico, on October 24th, 1991.
The auction also features an autographed copy of N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton, signed by every member of the group. It is expected to fetch between $2,000 and $3,000.
The Paddle8 auction features a number of other interesting items, including two handwritten poems found in Jim Morrison’s Paris hotel room, a letter Frank Sinatra wrote to Mia Farrow, James Brown’s Georgia driver’s license and, strangest of all, a rare photo of Tupac Shakur riding a roller coaster.
Notorious B.I.G.’s Uptown Records Termination Contract – Page 1
Notorious B.I.G.’s Uptown Records Termination Contract – Page 2
Bad Boy Contract