September 12, 2014


Biggie’s ‘Ready to Die’ at 20: 10 Lyrical References Millenials May Not Understand

New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images
New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images

Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready To Die debuted in 1994, just as hip hop was moving to the forefront of popular culture. Buoyed by the success of Dr. Dre's The Chronic and Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle two years prior—and Nas' Illmatic earlier that year—there had never been a better time for Biggie to unleash his cleverly worded tales of life as a dope slinger in Bed Stuy. Radio-ready singles like "Big Poppa" perfectly counterbalanced the grit of "Warning" and "Suicidal Thoughts," and Christopher Wallace was on his way to icon status at 22.

To quote a Ready to Die track, "Things Done Changed" and the world's a very different place than it was 20 years ago—for example, you have to be a millionaire to afford Biggie's childhood home these days. Everyone still knows all the words to "Juicy," regardless of how old they were when the album came out. But do they understand all of the pop culture references they're rapping along to with their red Solo cups in the air? Let's take a closer look at some of Biggie's classic lyrics.


Before the age of mass-market cell phones and the miracle that is iPhone read receipt, pagers were the best way to track down your busy friends (and doctors on call, and crack dealers-turned-rappers like Biggie). You'd dial that beeper number, punch in your own digits along with a fun code like "911" and then wait for god knows how long to get your call returned. Seriously, it was an unacceptable amount of wait time by 2014 standards. But in the early '90s, it was the ultimate in telecommunication.

See also: Tribe Called Quest's "Skypager"

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