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Lil' Cease / Lil Cease

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If becoming a hip hop all-star means going through life's school of hard knocks, then the valedictorian of this year's graduating class is Brooklyn-son Lil' Cease. With his highly-anticipated solo album, "THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF CEASE A LEO," the twenty-one-year-old Junior M.A.F.I.A. don is also 1999's Most Likely To Succeed and the voice of rap's new generation.

As a young teen in the hustling hotbed of Bed-Stuy "Do or Die" Brooklyn, the farthest thing from Lil' Cease's mind was the rap game. "Me and my niggas wasn't thinkin' about being no rappers, all we was thinkin' about was getting money," he says.

But then Cease clicked up with a hefty hustler by the name of the Notorious B.I.G., whose explosive way with words would soon open a way out the streets. "Before I could even get caught up with the corner, Big scooped me up when I was just fifteen-years-old," says Cease.

Before long he was Big's hype man and constant cohort, bringing his sparkplug fire to Biggie's onstage cool. "We went from rockin' 300 people to rockin' stadiums of 30,000," says Cease.

B.I.G. also made it a point for Cease to have his share of TV exposure, which shows in the 112 video for the "Only You" remix. He also made sure to mention Cease in his rhymes, notably on such tracks as "Long Kiss Good Night," "Big Poppa," "Going Back to Cali," and "Only You."

In 1994, Cease made his recorded debut as a member of Junior M.A.F.I.A on the hit single, "Players Anthem," with Biggie and Lil' Kim. But that was only the beginning. Junior M.A.F.I.A. -- which also consisted of Trife, Larceny, Klept, Bugsy, Nino Brown, Capone, and Cheek Del Vac -- released their debut album, "CONSPIRACY," in 1995 through Undeas Recordings. The label, launched by Biggie with his partner Lance "Un" Rivera and teamed with Atlantic, saw the album leap to RIAA gold success. The "Players' Anthem" single was soon followed with the platinum classic, "Get Money." But it was on the 1995 duet with Lil' Kim, "Crush On You" (for her platinum-plus solo album, "HARD CORE") that Lil' Cease won over the hearts of millions with his signature humor and playful lisp.

But on March 9th, 1997, the unthinkable happened. The Notorious B.I.G. was shot and killed in front of Cease's very own eyes as the two sat in the same car leaving a Los Angeles party. The hip hop world would never recover from the loss.

But when true champions face diversity, they unite and grow stronger, which is exactly what The Notorious proteges, Cease and Kim, did. Lil' Kim bumrushed the big boys' boardroom and clinched a deal with Undeas and Atlantic Records, making her the CEO of her own Queen Bee Records imprint. Big's road manager, Damien D-Roc Butler, formed Roc Management to take care of the crew's daily operations. And with the family behind him, Cease stepped up to bat as the first artist on Queen Bee, hitting a grand slam with "The Wonderful World of Cease A Leo."

And after training with the greatest rapper of all time, Cease is destined to wreak havoc in clubs and on radio waves across the country. "Big used to say, don't think about writing a hook for the song, think about a hook for the crowd," says Cease. "And I have hooks that everyone will be chanting along with. Not just the niggas, but girls, kids, everyone."

Tracks like "Play Around" (featuring Lil' Kim, new Queen Bee recording artist Mr. Bristal, and Joe Hooker) and "Future Sport" (featuring Redman and Mr. Bristal) heat things up with crowd-rousing rhymes. Cease hypnotizes the ladies on "Dolly Baby" with Total, and then keeps it real with "Chickenheads," for all the project playboys with the ghetto fabulous chickens in their Benz coupes.

"I'm bringing that real fun shit back to hip hop," says Cease. "Everybody wants to be hard and represent. Just be yourself."

In letting the world know exactly who he is, Lil' Cease let loose on the album's title track. "I'm here now," says Cease. "Guess what. I want it all now. Fuck raisin' the roof- we kick the door down! It's been a long time comin' but it was bound to come. We've been putting in bids for far too long!"

Well, the wait is finally over- "WELCOME TO THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF CEASE A LEO." It's been a long time coming.

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