It’s a hard job trying to narrow down Christopher Wallace, b.k.a., The Notorious B.I.G.’s rhymes down to a mere 50, but that’s what XXL is built for. In memory of his untimely passing 15 year ago today, the staff debated, deliberated and damn near started fights as to which verses (unfortunately "The What" and "Brooklyn's Finest" didn't make it because Big rhymes back and forth with Method Man and Jay-Z, respectively) in his legendary catalog were to be celebrated on this historic and somber day. Regardless, the mere fact that his wordplay is analyzed and discussed to this day proves that the incomparable Biggie Smalls still lives life after death. —XXL Staff
B.I.G. already confessed his innocent attraction for the queen of hip-hop and R&B on “Just Playing (Dreams)” (“wait a minute, what about my honey Mary? The jeans they fittin' like a glove. I had a crush on you since ‘Real Love’”), so this hip-hop love story was bound to happen. Though he only spent eight bars on the Betty Wright “Clean Up Woman” sampled classic, Biggie makes his short time count with his usual fly charm (“Kickin’ ill flava with the Teflon Don/Record shops getting props/She got it goin’ on”). Peace out to Brooklyn, indeed.
Dolly My Baby
Even the gunshots sprayed on this Bad Boy remix, disturbing the smooth groove of reggae star Super Cat’s ’93 hit, let you know some much needed ruggedness was in store. Sure, Puff Daddy and Third Eye (where the hell is he?) held their own, but it was the self described “Chubby competitor” who was the standout with wicked lines “I see you shivering/Check the flavor Biggie Smalls is delivering/Lyrical lyricist flowing lyrics out my larynx.”
B.I.G. was spitting major game to women everywhere over The Hitmen’s hot mid-tempo groove. Bad Boy’s balladeers, 112, wanted to make all of the ladies feel special by professing their love with this track. Normally, they save the best for the last, but when B.I.G. cracks the mic with, “Jesus the Notorious, just/Please us with your lyrical thesis,” it made a perfect fit for the song. The chemistry between Bad Boy artists was evident and it goes to show that Puff knows how to pick real talent. B.I.G. drops a dime on this verse when he tells us how he reels the ladies in for the kill.
You're Nobody Til Somebody Kills You
Ironically, on the last song on what turned out to be the final album he recorded, B.I.G. gives Life After Death a proper send off, lyrically taking his would-be competitors off of life support spitting “phrases that’ll thrill you” effortlessly “with my sycamore style, more sicker than yours.” Even though his own demise has been the subject matter sprinkled on his catalog, he takes the role as murderer (“Run up in your crib, wrap you in your Polo sheets/Six up in your wig piece/Nigga decease”).
On the physical tip, B.I.G. had many attributes he wasn’t ashamed to poke fun at ("black and ugly as ever") in the booth. But on the silky Isley Brothers sampled "Big Poppa," looks took a backseat to Denzel Washington-like charm and charisma, kicking tremendous game to some of these honeys he had to creep with. Across the land, women were hooked, not only thinking Biggie was macking these bars of style and grace in their ear, but hoping they too can “rendezvous at the bar around two” just to "conversate for a few, cause in few, we gon' do what we came to do. Ain't that right, boo?" True.
Mo' Money Mo' Problems
If you don’t know the words by now, don’t dare wear a pair of Timberlands again, because you’re not hip-hop. B.I.G’s impeccable flow reigns supreme, posthumously. Not many rappers can literally spell their name on a track and spit some fire (“B-I-G…P-O-P-P-A/No info for the DEA/Federal agents mad ‘cause I’m flagrant”). His rhymes interact beautifully on this verse, juggling between flows with creative and appropriate transitions. Not only is he teasing other MCs trying to come for his crown (“Me lose my touch/Never that/If I did, ain’t no problem to get the gat”), he’s teasing listeners. You never know what’s about to come next.
Da Brat along with Jermaine Dupri collaborated with Biggie and managed to pull off this laid back track that gives you a natural high just listening to it. B.I.G. gives us his usual warning spitting, “I never knew niggas never had a clue/of who was the king of the street/four deep than a range rover jeep/guns under the seat.” But he still manages to keep it low key as he enjoys the high. He lets Da Brat graciously take over showing his humility on the song, and his good manners before jumping back in with a reminder, “if you fuck with her you gots to fuck with me/And we’ll be rapping at your motherfucking eulogy.”
The B.I.G. lover sounds more like he's talking directly to his lady interest than rapping, making it clear, ”sex is all I expect”. On his first verse to "Nasty Boy," Biggie keeps it a buck while balancing his charm and wit, making for a memorable line that can easily be recited without his vocals. Heck, it was even re-used for the track's 2005 remix, "Nasty Girl."
Queen Bitch Reference
Ghostwriting in hip-hop isn’t a strange occurrence by any means. So it wasn't groundbreaking news that The Notorious One penned joints for his people, especially his Junior M.A.F.I.A. cohorts. But when a grainy audio surfaced of Biggie rhyming verbatim Lil Kim's '96 classic "Queen Bitch," not only was there actual evidence of such a thing, but one thing was clearly evident: his talent for creating a song was incomparable. In a haunting message explaining “this is all a part of staying on top of your game” before laying down the memorable rhymes, B.I.G. set the blueprint for one of the Queen B’s standout tracks of her Hardcore debut, from humming the hook, to rhyming in the same cadence (“if Peter Piper picked ‘em, I bet you Biggie bust ‘em”) and female point of view as his pint-sized protégé.
Sonic Editions Products
We all know R. Kelly knows how to serenade the ladies, but he added a little edge on this track when he asked B.I.G. to spit on it. Showing another aspect of his vulnerability, Mr. Frank White readily admits to his insecure lady love, “I regret putting you on to begets/Honeysuckle sets/Biggie secret pajama sets.” We saw a different side of BIG on this song, and it let us know that he has feelings just like the rest of us. One of the many reasons why we all can relate to him because he lets us know he’s human.
In rap, like in basketball, the mid-range game is the most difficult to master. But B.I.G. was a five-tool player, who could spit in Bone’s tongue-twisting cadence or the slow burning menace he displayed on “Who Shot Ya?” On this M.A.F.I.A. banger, his measured flow was D.Wade nice as he rode the mid-tempo grove with his characteristic non-chalant grace. “Usually roll for self, I have son ridin’ shotgun,” he rapped. “My mind's my nine, my pen's my Mac-10/My target, all you wack niggas who started rappin.” Duck down.
Party & Bullshit
On this raucous cut off of '93's Who's The Man Soundtrack, B.I.G. made his declaration of being "a terror since the public school era" known loud and clear. Another thing that was understood was the young gun’s lyrical mastery (“Now I got the mack in my knapsack/Loungin’ black, smoking sacks up in Acs/And sidekics with my sidekicks rocking’ fly kicks”) and witty delivery (“Buggin’ and barkin’ at niggas like I was duck huntin’), which would take hold on hip-hop for years after this record.
Sky's The Limit
The man known as Biggie Smalls is a mad rhyming magician on this inspirational classic. He seamlessly and melodically switches flows on—going from spitting bars with impromptu syllable breaks to rhyming seeming disparate word sounds to perfection. “To protect my position/my corner, my lair/While we out here, say the hustlas prayer.” How many MCs can do that while simultaneously telling you a dope story?
One More Chance
In the second and last verse, Biggie continues cluing people in on his affairs with women, such as how he sexes women so well they wish for “an intermission” during sex, letting his friends sleep hit, sexing his mistress’s cousin, the reason he stopped performing oral sex and getting it on with groupies. Likewise, he contributes the catchy bars, “I don’t chase ‘em, I replace ‘em/and if I’m caressing ‘em, I’m undressing ‘em” that often overshadow the flair of, “Fulfilling fantasies without that nigga Mr. Roarke/Or Tattoo. I got you wrapped around my dick/And when I nut, I got to split, shit.” In those bars, B.I.G. expresses how he fulfills more fantasies than the hit sitcom “Fantasy Island” before using the character Tattoo to transition to the fact that like an actual tattoo wrapped around one’s skin, he has women obsessed with his sex game but like nuts wrapped in shells, he has to split after he nuts.
History will show B.I.G. to be one of the mixtape circuit’s most prodigious talents. But revisionists will cite 50 Cent, Lil Wayne and Drake as breakthrough mixtape artists. In the mid-90s, however, Bad Boy was as celebrated in the streets as they were in the clubs. A fiery LOX crew joined the Notorious One on this loop and proved they were the label’s muscle. Bed-Stuy’s favorite son was a justified clean-up hitter for this murder’s row, doling out lines like a contract killer, “Smoking cigars in Bogota/with Colombian niggas named Panama/and Enrique and shit,” he spit.
The World Is Filled
Ever the playboy, Frank White could riffed about broads with the best of them. Tag-teaming with Puff and Too $hort, B.I.G. crafted a verse with not only more classic punchlines than a Def Comedy Jam special, but lines that 15 years later still is, for lack of a better term, jacked, by your favorite rappers’ rappers. From “When the Remy’s in the system,” to “larger stakes on large estates,” the Bad Boy put on a rhyme fest even the biggest hater had to admire.
Even at the age of 17, a young Christopher Wallace was devouring opponents who looked down on “the perfect competitor” because of his presumed naïveté, especially, in particular one nameless and faceless schlub. Though not a studio produced track, in the annals of battling, this first round TKO—recorded on the corner of his Bed-Stuy neighborhood—filled with jabs (“chumps stepping to me that’s where you took your fall at”) bone-jarring hooks (“so what you gotta say/I’ll smack you word is bond”) and knee-buckling haymakers (“Word to mother I’m above ya/And I love ya/Cause you a sweet bitch/A crazy crab that might make my dick itch”) ranks as a lost treasure in B.I.G.’s catalog. Thank God for YouTube.
Going Back To Cali
These days, MCs clamor for market share like corporate titans, making sure their tracklistings serve as many demographics as possible. Southern? Check! Ladies? Check! When the Big Apple reigned supreme, artists eschewed regional paens and instead double-downed on their locals sounds. Christopher Wallace was one of the first to venture away from his East Coast aesthetic and adopted the G-Funk production married to his Machine Gun Funk flow (“It’s the N-O-T-O-R-I-O…U-S, you should lay down slow”) for a best of both coasts banger.
Somebody's Gotta Die
Though, this can be comparable—but not equal in stature—to “Warning,” this haunting cut paints a better picture. Moreover, B.I.G. reintroduces the motif of death he had on Ready to Die but cleverly inverts where he left off on “Suicidal Thoughts,” to homicidal thoughts, “Somebody’s Gotta Die.” Biggie masterfully does all this while also taking a jab at Snoop Dogg and Death Row and previewing one of the “Ten Crack Commandments,” “never trust nobody,” when he raps, “Nigga, is you creepin’ or speaking” to someone he previously sold drugs, which came after Big looked through the peephole again to double-check what he had on him.
B.I.G.’s genius on this verse is all about Delivery! Delivery! Delivery! The late great rapper mastered delivery on this track with his strong vocal presence, aggressive tone and lyrics that’ll be embedded in your cranium for years to come (“Lick in the door, wavin’ the four-four/All you heard was, ‘Poppa don’t hit me no more’”). We don’t just hear B.I.G. on this verse, we feel him. His subtle emotional undertones tap into our own subconscious thoughts and it’s like, “damn, why she wanna stick him for his paper?”
The lyrical drive-by that B.I.G. performs alongside Pudgee the Fat Bastard and Lord Tariq is stuff of legend, which further cements his boast of being a Rap Phenomenon, overpowering the track with dominance, “Read my lips ‘I kill you’/Blood will spill, too/Did I say thank you/I grant you three wishes cause I be the Genie/Niggas is assed out like fat bitches in bikinis.” Showing off, wishing for competition he plants his black Timbos on his enemies necks, “inviting you/Bring your writing crew and they dopest rhymes/I get up in that ass every time/Lyrically I’m untouchable, uncrushable.” What an understatement.
Machine Gun Funk
Arguably, one of the most funkiest tracks on “Ready To Die,” no pun intended, B.I.G. is determined to move past the hard times by partying it up (“All I want is bitches, big booty bitches/Used to sell crack, so I could stack my riches”); but don’t test him now that he’s made it, cause he’ll revert back to his old ways if need be. He’s put his life of crime behind him, and wants to celebrate his newfound success in the good company of females and some good weed. It’s all about the future and that “funk.”
You Can't Stop The Reign
This list doesn’t necessarily center around all of The Notorious B.I.G.’s songs. Even the guest spots he blessed artists with showed how he laid his game quite flat. In this case, B.I.G.’s exquisite lyrical flow makes you almost forget this was actually Shaq Diesel’s song. While “Biggie tarrantino” paints the vivid imagery of the life of luxury (“A lime to a lemon, my DC women/Briging in 10G minimums to condos with elevators in ‘em”), he eerily makes his final wish once his big willy style fades to black, “I rely on Bed-Stuy to shut it down if I die/Put that on my diamond bezel, you’re messing with the devil.” What?
B.I. might have started out in black hoodies, black fatigues and black Timbos (all black everything, get it?), but this Brooklyn boy also appreciated the finer things in life, too. His champagne flow and Mafioso-tinged lines, for instance, “supreme schemes to get richer than Richie, quickly/Niggas wanna hit me/If they get me/dress my body in linen by Armani,” were as impressive as his brutish drug-dealing rhymes. Here, alongside Hov and Diddy, Biggie was fine wine ready: name checking vacation destinations and “lawyers watching lawyers so I won’t go broke.” Check it.
Keep Ya Hands High
It’s hard not to give a nod to the first lines B.I.G. laced on Tracey Lee’s 1997 gem of an album (“Fuck that I preach it, my nine reaches/The prestigious cats who speak this Willie shit/Flood in pieces, my hand releases snatches smackin’ cabbage, half-ass rappers shouldn’t have it”). But it was the Notorious One’s relentless lyrical approach on the record’s second verse that’s held in higher regard. Lyrics, to this day, that are still mimicked in rhyme. You know the words: “The rings and things you speak about/Bring ‘em out/It's hard to yell with my ba-rell’s in your mouth/It’s more than I expected/I thought them jewels was rented/but they wasn't/So run it, cousin/I could chill the heat does it…”
On this track—which mini-movie video, showing a dancing and happy Christopher Wallace, made as much of an impact as the song itself—Biggie showed that he had the ability to lyrically hypnotize the masses with his charm and talent, whimsically boasting “Biggie there err night/Poppa been smooth since days of Underoos.” Displaying unintimidating bravado from the jump, he made you believe he was “hot, sicker than your average.” That arrogant lingo only reaffirms the love he receives and proves “that Brooklyn bullshit, we on it.”
Real Niggas Do Real Things
Flowing over a slew of different instrumentals (Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg’s “Deep Cover” & “Nuthing But A G Thang,” Above The Law’s “Black Superman,” Snoop Dogg’s “Murder Was The Case” & “Gin & Juice”), B.I.G. proved he was versatile above anything else and sick with the storytelling. Painting pictures like a modern day Matisse, he released scathing bars like, “Same bitches suckin’ dick tryin’ to dress to thrill me/Said the niggas I killed is out to kill me/Soon as she smoked on that note, I saw trenchcoat/One had a mac spittin’, all I saw was gun smoke/The other had a shottie, I was shootin’ everybody/And I wasn't missing had to get out this position…”
B.I.G. does a first-rate job setting up the entire scenario for the perfectly executed second verse by providing a succinct background that personifies new enemies as former associates plotting against him. Still, the conciseness did not curtail Biggie’s peerless lyrics and delivery, as he churns out notable bars like, “Now, they heard you blowing up like nitro/And they wanna stick the knife through your windpipe slow/So thank Fame for warning me ‘cause now I'm warning you/I got the mac, nigga tell me what you gonna do.”
Can't You See
What do you get when you mix one bad boy with a three bad girls? You get a hot R&B club banger like this one. Diddy, better known as Puffy then, knew what he was doing when he got B.I.G. to collab on this track with his street-chic girl group, Total. With lines like “the prognosis/doses/blends and bends like Twizzlers/Biggie’s fittin’ to hurt/What’s under that skirt” blending so well on the James Brown “The Big Payback” sample, Biggie gets a little cocky with it—letting everyone know he can pull ladies and put cowards in their place in the same breath.
For the lead single off Biggie’s first posthumous offering, Bad Boy dug deep in its archives and unearthed arguably some of The Notorious One’s most provocative lyrics. “Smell the Indonesia/beat you to a seizure/then fuck your moms, hit the skins to amnesia,” Big spits. But it’s on the second verse that the black Frank White dangerously pushes censorship boundaries—shockingly rhyming that even toddlers aren’t exempt from his deadly aim (“I’m shooting babies, no ifs ands or maybes/Hit mummy in the tummy if the hooker play the dummy”). There’s no condoning B.I.G.’s content, here, but the shock value made it one of the most rewind-worthy verses of his career.
Me & My Bitch
B.I.G. had a penchant for spitting shit that the average street cat would shy away from—"When I met you my first thought was a trick/You look so good, I'll suck on your daddy's dick..." Cunning yet somewhat disturbing, his candidness on the first verse to "Me & My Bitch" shined overall. He shared some intense feelings for his lady ("I never felt that way in my life, it didn’t take long before I made you my wife...) while offering his raw vulnerability.
Long Kiss Goodnight
B.I.G.’s first verse on Life After Death’s “Long Kiss Goodnight” is impeccably merciless. While the raucous track itself is hard-hitting, the Brooklyn Bully emphatically bodies its opening verse. “I make your mouthpiece obese like Della Reese/When I release, you loose teeth like Little Cease/Nigga please, blood floods your dungarees/And that's just a half of my warpath.” Laying his game flat, the Black Frank White wastes no time with his blunt-like delivery, offering piercing punchlines (“Guard ya shit, 'fore I stick you, for your re-up/Wipe the pee up, lick shots, woke your seed up”) and displaying his menacing lyrical dexterity (Be the cats with no dough, tried to play me at my show/I pull out fo'-fo's, and go up in they clothes”).
It's All About The Benjamins
Francis, the praying mantis ripped Puff’s No Way Out track with his closing verse. The instrumental change foreshadowed just what would be the outcome of the track as the B.I.G. man channeled his Mafioso counterpart, Frank White, spitting lethal lines like, “Hide bills in Brazil, about a mill’, the ice grill/Make it hard to figure me, liquor be kicking me/In my asshole, undercover Donnie Brasco…” Though it would be casted as one of his last verses before his death, B.I.G. left his mark on the track by evidently bullying D-Dot Angelettie’s production.
Biggie Smalls Is The Wickedest
As soon as this classic freestyle commences, the hardcore Buddha-belly MC rips it to shreds. “Biggie Smalls is the wickedest/Niggas think I’m pussy? I dare you to stick your dick in this/If I was pussy I’d be filled with syphilis/Herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, getting rid of ya…” Ouch! Raw yet full of panache, B.I.G.’s 1994 Mister Cee freestyle was surely an indelible treat, inevitably proving why he’s mentioned for “MC execution.”
Yet again, B.I.G. shows off his amazing storytelling skills on this track. His words breathe life into a visceral visual of a day in the life of a young Christopher Wallace. What’s even more incredible is that B.I.G. not only speaks for himself, he is speaking to an otherwise invisible audience of young black men caught up in a life of crime (“I know how it feels to wake up fucked up/Pockets broke as hell/another rock to sell”). He uses his immaculate rhymes and flawless delivery to offer a peek into the psyche of a man trying to live and thrive in a world where the odds seem stacked against him (“That’s why you drink Tanqueray/So you can reminisce and wish/You wasn’t living so devilish shit”). A trait of only a true lyrical genius, B.I.G. makes you wonder, how the hell did you just tell me all of that in just one verse?
Kick In The Door
Not only did the King of NY literally tell you he’s the King of NY, he proves why, or as Biggie quickly says, “fuck that, why try/throw bleach in your eye.” As per usual, his delivery is on point, and with the perfect hint of aggression in his delivery, B.I.G. showcases why he’s a force to be reckoned with. That, coupled with his lyrical ingenuity and creative analogies (“Sold more powder than Johnson and Johnson”), B.I.G. ate this track proving that while often imitated, he could never be duplicated.
Things Done Changed
B.I.G. puts on his political hat on this verse speaking on the tragic cycle of violence and crime polluting America’s ghettos. He brilliantly and passionately speaks on the social ills that have transformed children into criminals, personally admitting, “If I wasn’t in the rap game/I’d probably have a key knee deep in the crack game.” And the heartrending lack of opportunity that tells the same children that to make it “either you’re slinging crack rock or you got a wicked jumpshot.” His delivery on this verse embodies the frustration (“Don't ask me why I'm motherfuckin’ stressed, things done changed”) and angst of a young person witnessing this change with no power to fix it.
What man hasn't daydreamed about sticking it to an R&B chick before? B.I.G. sure has, and he knew his listeners did too, when he penned "Just Playin (Dreams)"—his first promotional single on Bad Boy. Though fantasies of banging Toni Braxton and dancehall queen Patra made the song relatable, the record was primarily B.I.G. showcasing his comedic genius. Not even Patti Labelle and Chaka Khan were safe (“backshots to Chaka, I know that pussy hairy”). The Bed-Stuy lyricist surpassed himself on the song's second verse—famously striking below the belt with lines targeting the group T.I.'s baby momma and Kandi Burruss, now of T.I. & Tiny: A Family Hustle and The Real Housewives of Atlanta fame, respectively, "I'll fuck Ru-Paul before I fuck them ugly ass Xscape bitches." The single laid the foundation for similar name-dropping concepts in its wake.
Gimmie The Loot
It doesn’t get much more iconic than B.I.G.’s opening lines on the sinister “Warning,” but the song’s second verse is better pound for pound. The home invasion tale continues to unfold with Brooklyn’s Finest offering some of the coldest threats heard on wax. “What ya think all the guns is for?/All purpose war, got the Rottweilers by the door/And I feed ‘em gunpowder, so they can devour/The criminals trying to drop my decimals,” he warns. It’s hard, but cerebral. Vintage Biggie.
The first verse of his debut single, B.I.G. proves to the world why he just might be the greatest storyteller dead or alive on this track. Arguably the best opening to any story, rap or otherwise, with, “It was all a dream/ I used to read Word Up Magazine,” B.I.G. takes us on a vibrant journey through time and space, from rags to riches. Effortlessly rhyming charming anecdotes with the names of hip-hop heavyweights, the emcee recounts his epic journey with the perfect combination of humility and swag…“I'm blowin' up like you thought I would./ Call the crib, same number same hood./ It's all good”.
Biggie’s first major single, “Juicy,” might have been for the radios and the MTV Jams of the world. But it was its B-Side, "Unbelievable" that was strictly for the streets—more specifically for his hometown as stated in his opening line, "Live from Bedford-Stuyvesant, the livest one, representing BK to the fullest." Shots at flash-in-the-pan 90’s artist (“your life is played out like Kwame, and I’m fucking polk-a-dots”) aside, B.I.G. mercilessly rode Dj Premier's “Impeach The President” sampled production on the track’s final 16, declaring “ain’t no amateurs here/I damage and tear/MCs fear me/They too near not to hear me, clearly.” Yes…clearly.
Who Shot Ya?
The Notorious B.I.G. goes straight for the jugular on this verse from the gate. “Who shot ya?/Separate the weak from the ob-solete/hard to creep them Brooklyn streets,” he brags. If the thought of crossing Biggie Smalls ever came across your mind, you better think twice. The Brooklynite let the imposters know up front that you will feel his wrath, should you get the audacity to test him (“Niggaz know, the lyrical molestin’ is takin’ place/Fucking with B.I.G. it ain’t safe”). What made the rhymes hold more resonnece is the suspicious timing when this was released not too long after Tupac Shakur was shot at Quad Studios in Manhattan. The perceived subliminal shot only led to Pac’s own rebuttal, “Hit Em Up,” which later fueled an East Coast/West Coast rap war between the two lyricists.
I Got A Story To Tell
We know this is one long verse, but it doubles as the Bed-Stuy MC’s finest hour, illustrating each intricately described scene—reminiscent of Eric B. & Rakim’s “What’s On Your Mind” from the duo’s Don’t Sweat the Technique album. While demonstrating his progression as a storyteller since dropping Ready to Die, one almost feels as though they witnessed Biggie’s “petiteness” in her man’s house to a 112 album before rolling up. It is also rather easy to imagine seeing the boyfriend described, often rumored to be former New York Knicks shooting guard John Starks, entering the home while B.I.G. and lady are still in bed, as well as, Biggie tying her up and pretending to be a burglar, resulting in “nigga pullin’ mad G’s out the floor/put stacks in a Prada knapsack/hit the door.” Further, making the story more pungent is the switch to an audio clip of B.I.G. retelling the story to friends.
Ten Crack Commandments
Live At The Garden Freestyle
It’s probably considered one of the best moments in hip-hop history, when two friends who later became bitter enemies, shared the stage for an impromptu freestyle in 1993 at Madison Square Garden. The DJ Mister Cee recorded five-minute freestyle, had, still has, and will continue to have such an impact on the hip-hop landscape, used as club staples throughout the country to get partygoers going as H.A.M. as the Garden crowd did off of one question B.I.G. consistently asked, “Where Brooklyn At?” Sure, it’s a crying shame that legends Big Daddy Kane and Shyheim The Rugged Child are shrouded in the massive shadow both Biggie and Tupac Shakur casted. With gas-face inducing lines “you can’t touch my riches, even if you had MC Hammer and them 357 bitches,” and “little Gotti got the shotty to ya body/so don’t resist or you might miss Christmas” your rhymes would be overlooked, too.
Ready to Die documents a familiar slice of the black experience—an at-risk youth who resorts to crime to make ends meet—but the story abruptly concludes by tackling an issue practically foreign to African-Americans: suicide. Over a dark depressing Lord Finesse backdrop, B.I.G. simulates a phone conversation in which he contemplates ending his life, as a helpless Puff desperately tries to reason with his friend. Biggie brilliantly lets the listeners into his psyche—that of a hell-bound man who confesses his sins, but doesn't ask for forgiveness, perhaps because he doesn't think he deserves it. He even hints to sticking to his guns in the after life. “Hangin' with the goodie goodies, loungin' in paradise/fuck that shit, I wanna tote guns and shoot dice," he rhymes. His offenses range from "drugs to extortion” and a twisted, bizarre love triangle. "My baby mother's eight months, her little sister is too/who's to blame for both of them (nah, nigga not you)," he reveals. The track ultimately ends with Big pulling the trigger—ending the masterpiece that is his debut effort, and simultaneously setting the stage for its epic sequel. Bravo.
“My rap flow’s militant…” Indeed it was. B.I.G. delivered ether to No Way Out’s “Victory” track, delivering merciless lyrical blows one after another like there was nothing to it. Though the entire track is commanding, verse one is where the verbal superiority begins. “In The Commision, you ask for permission to hit 'em He don't like me, hit him while wifey was with him/You heard of us, the murderous, most shady/Been on the low lately, the feds hate me/The son of Satan, they say my killing's too blatant/You hesitatin’, I'm in your mama crib waitin’/Duct tapin, your fam' destiny/Lays in my hands, gat lays in my waist…” Hard-hitting like Camacho & Vargas, Francis M to the iz-H’s first verse was indeed phenomenal. One of the reasons for which is because of his ability to make what sounded like a complex rhyme, sound like something so effortless. Possessing such fluidity in his flow, B.I.G. sounds like he’s at ease, unforced, and unpushed which explains why he rhymes, “Excellence is my presence, never tense/Never hesitant, leave a nigga bent real quick/Real sick, brawl nights, I perform like Mike/Anyone—Tyson, Jordan, Jackson, Action…”
Biggie issues one of his most versatile rhymes in his lone verse on “Notorious Thugs.” B.I.G. helped expose the popular but still up-and-coming Bone Thugs-n-Harmony with his record, similar to what Jay-Z did for UGK with “Big Pimpin’.” Apart from doing that for Bone, Big revealed that he could keep up with their exceptionally high-speed rhyme style of the Cleveland quartet. Further, the late Bad Boy artist revealed it was not just 2Pac (“Holla at Me”) who had the facility to take subliminal shots on wax by spitting, “Been in this shit since ninety-two/Look at all the bullshit I been through/So-called beef with you know who.” The latter bar also reassures who was the target on B,I,G.’s “What’s Beef?” Additionally, Biggie discussed the gunplay-flooded lifestyle thugs prefer to live, paid homage to Wu-Tang and rapped unending lyrics like, “Spit yo’ game, talk yo’ shit/ Grab yo’ gat, call yo’ click/ Squeeze yo’ clip, hit the right one/ Pass the weed, I got to light one/ All them niggas, I got to fight one/ All them hoes, I got to like one/Our situation is a tight one/ Whatcu gonna do, fight or run?”
Flava In Ya Ear
Certain things are undeniable in this here hip-hop game, especially when someone hijacks your ears for a quick 16. In 1994, if you didn’t know who Biggie Smalls was by the release of this remix, arguably the last great posse cut in hip-hop history, you definitely knew for sure. Playing point guard, setting the tone of the hard-hitting classic, B.I.G. lets novices know who he is off the bat, “Niggas is this mad I get more butt than ashtrays?/Fuck a fair one, I get mine the fast way/Ski-Mask way/Nigga ransom notes/Far from handsome, but damn a nigga tote.” While riding Easy Mo Bee’s production as seamlessly as a Dollar Cab ride down Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue, B.I.G. didn’t stray from putting fear in his competition’s hearts (“Foes is shaking in their boots, Invisible Bully/Like the Gooch/Disappear, vamoose, you’re wack to me”) and treating those colored green with envy like crumbs (“You’re mad cause my style you’re admiring/Don’t be mad, UPS is hiring”). This wasn’t the rhyme that kicked off Christopher Wallace’s epic career, but it was the performance that put the music industry and the world on notice.