The Lines and Times of Notorious B.I.G.

The Lines and Times of Notorious B.I.G.


Today marks 15 years since the world lost Christopher Wallace. And even today, many would agree that he is still one of the greatest emcees to ever bless the mic. Now, usually when a person dies, we tend to elevate them to an almost supernatural status, and regard them with perhaps a touch more reverence than they actually warrant. In B.I.G.’s case however, he truly deserves to be held in such high esteem. All he had a chance to give us in his short career were two albums, and a handful of features and singles. However, his small catalogue still blows me away. Here, in no particular order, are just a few lyrics that cemented B.I.G.’s spot on hip-hop’s throne:

1) “Your reign on the top was short like leprechauns, as I crush so-called willies, thugs and rapper dons. Get in that ass, quick fast like Ramadan, it’s that rap phenomenon, DON DADA.” –Kick in the Door

A common theme in all of Big’s flows is his rhyme scheme, which is intricate, but subtle. He was a master with words. He broke them apart; bent them. His delivery also highlighted his level of expertise. What sets an amateur apart from a more seasoned emcee is the emphasis on the rhyme. A novice tends to really stress rhyming words, forcing you to “notice” that they made a rhyme. (Ex: Last name ever, first name GREATEST. Like a sprained ankle, boy I ain’t nothing to PLAY WITH. [Look ma! I rhymed!]).

The way B.I.G. stacked his rhymes showed off his skill as a superior lyricist. The first 4 bars in Kick in the Door are packed with rhymes, but B.I.G. shot them off so effortlessly that it takes you a minute to wrap your head around them. (LepreCHAUNS…rapper DONS…ASS, FAST..ramaDAN…phenomeNON, DON dada…).

2) “You’re mad cuz my style you’re admirin’…don’t be mad, UPS is hiring!”–Flava in Ya Ear Remix

Big’s entire verse on this Craig Mack remix hits the ear like a jovial round of The Dozens. There are a million ways to tell someone they suck, but this has got to be one of the funniest ones I’ve heard. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of delivering a package through UPS, then you’ll REALLY appreciate the wit here.

3) “Heartthrob never, black and ugly as ever…HOWEVER…” and “hoes pee when they see me…Navajos creep me in they tee pee”— One More Chance Remix

When it comes to talking about sexual prowess, a lot of men LIE. Even the dog-faced, semi-impotent Woman Repeller will swear to Based God that he’s Casanova’s reincarnate. Biggie on the other hand gave it to you straight. He knew that he wasn’t a pretty boy and never tried to fake like he was. The beauty in this though, is that owning who he was gave him sex appeal. He had a genuine, cocksure swagger that permeated tracks like “One More Chance” and “Big Poppa”. His confidence made him a heaux magnet. And “girls pee pee when they see me”?? Who even THINKS this way? Biggie came up with the funniest ways to express his skills with the ladies. The visual I get every time I hear this line…priceless. He had game for days!

4) “I drop unexpectedly…like bird shit.” –Kick in the Door

Biggie’s similes and metaphors were always a cut above, because they required the listener to take a moment and think. And even in the midst of the most evil, sinister rhymes…you’d have to pause and chuckle.

5) “While niggaz flirt, I’m sewing tigers on my shirt…and alligators. You wanna see the inside? I’ll see ya later” — Sky’s the Limit.

Biggie could spit some of the coldest, most heinous lyrics, but he also had a heart. “Sky’s the Limit” was one of those songs where Big’s softer side really came to life. This line in particular really resonated with me because it reminded me of a boy I knew in grade school, who was a few years younger than me. Everybody knew that his family was poor. Really poor. Like, “free-lunch-from-the-principal’s-office-is-the-only-meal-I-get-a-day” poor. This didn’t stop the kids on the playground (sometimes, myself included), from tearing him apart at recess. We were merciless. We would laugh at his Salvation Army clothes, his fake Nike sneakers (the “Swoosh” was hand painted…backwards), his tattered backpack. School can be hell for kids from destitute homes. I just love that Big was vulnerable enough to talk about the insecurity and anxiety that comes with being the poorest kid on the schoolyard. It may seem trivial, but feeling the need to sew a fake Le Tigre or Lacoste logo to your shirt, to hide the fact that you’re poor, so that you can be socially accepted by your peers…it’s a huge weight for a kid to bear.

6) “All I got is heat and tough talk for you…tie you up, cut your balls off just for you” — What’s Beef.

“What’s Beef” is my favourite Biggie song. Ever. I love the sheer audacity of it all. A lot of rappers try to come across as hard or threatening, but Biggie took scary to an entirely different level. At times, he was downright sick. (PS, my actual favourite line in this song is the one about his nigga Gutta…but I’m kind of afraid of what that says about me)…

7) “If I said it, I meant it…bite my tongue for no one. Call me evil, or unbelievable.” –Unbelievable.

In a culture dominated by everything fake, “real” is the only way to be. This lyric is a motto we all should live by.

8 ) “We used to fuss when the landlord dissed us…no heat…wonder why Christmas missed us? Birthdays was the worst days, now we sip champagne when we’re thirstaaaay”— Juicy.

Juicy. The quintessential rags to riches tale. This song will always pluck at my heartstrings. It’s a tale of tragedy and triumph. It’s a beacon of hope for anyone who ever hung a picture of their favourite emcee on their wall. Anyone who ever battled roaches and rats. Anyone who ever played their favourite cassette until it warped. Anyone who’s ever eaten canned sardines for dinner, pretending it was steak. Timeless classic.

9) “I could HEAR sweat tricklin’ down ya cheek” — Who Shot Ya

A simple lyric, really. Not particularly profound or complicated. But, I love that even in the simplicity of it, it comes off as menacing. Big’s confidence on “Who Shot Ya” is through the roof. He knows the type of fear he can provoke, the type of pain he can inflict, and he never threatens to deliver it…he promises. The rich, ominous timbre of his voice on this track is enough to bring chills to the listener. Big delivered even the simplest lines in a very impacting way.

10) “Man, niggaz come through, I’m taking high school rings too/bitches get strangled for their earrings and bangles/and when I rock her and drop her, I’m taking her doorknockers/and if she’s resistant? BLACKA, BLACKA, BLACKA.” –Gimme the Loot.

Now….you must understand. On the surface, Gimme the Loot is an ugly song. But, being broke with no source of income, bills piling up, no resources, and the rising shame of seeing everyone else around you thriving financially will make a person do ugly things. Seeing everybody else eating while you’re barely getting by will make you spiteful as hell. Does this mean that it’s right to go out and rob someone? Of course not. But, the purpose of the Ready to Die album wasn’t to justify crime…it acted as a window into the mind of someone young, poor and desperate. That whole album was an answer to the “whys” of terrorizing the streets and selling contraband.

Well, I’ve said my piece. And yes, I know there are PLENTY other lyrics I could have chosen. But alas, I couldn’t include them all. What are some of your favourite Biggie lines? Drop a comment and let us know! Today, let’s lift up the memory of the nicest emcee.

–A. Harmony

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