In the annals of hip-hop, few figures command the kind of reverence that Christopher Wallace, better known as The Notorious B.I.G., does.
His artistry and storytelling, coupled with an unmatchable rhyme style, have cemented his spot among the greats.
‘Big Poppa’, one of his most memorable tracks, is a testament to this.
This iconic song is not only a prime example of Biggie’s lyrical prowess but also an embodiment of the distinctive East Coast rap style that defined the mid-90s hip-hop scene.
And today we’re getting deep into the lyrics and song meaning of Big Poppa, by Notorious BIG. Let’s get started!
Notorious BIG – Big Poppa Music Video
While reading, you can play the video below to have the song as background music. Or just enjoy it once more before jumping into all the explanations.
And if it’s a different style that you’re looking for, you can also check out the previously published article, PSY – Gangnam Style Lyrics Explained.
Background & creation of ‘Big Poppa’
‘Big Poppa’ was born out of Wallace’s own experiences and was part of his debut album ‘Ready to Die’ released in 1994.
The track features a sample from The Isley Brothers’ 1983 hit ‘Between the Sheets’.
Other inspirations for ‘Big Poppa’ include his early life in Brooklyn, New York, where he reportedly began dealing drugs at a young age, and his romantic relationships.
The smooth, laid-back beat of ‘Big Poppa’ stands in contrast to many of the other more intense tracks on the ‘Ready to Die’ album.
The song was a commercial success, reaching the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100, and showcased Wallace’s unique style and lyrical ability.
The Notorious B.I.G. – Big Poppa Song Meaning
The song primarily revolves around themes of charisma, confidence, and desire.
Wallace himself has stated that the song was about his charisma and how he could “hypnotize” women, hence the title, ‘Big Poppa’, a nickname he gave himself due to his heavyweight stature.
The song refers to the rapper’s transformation from an impoverished youth selling drugs on the street to achieving success and fame in the world of hip hop, hence his new identity as a “player.”
Overall, the song portrays a persona of luxury, confidence, and charm, capturing a snapshot of Biggie’s persona and the culture of hip-hop in the mid-1990s.
‘Big Poppa’ can also be seen as a reflection of the “Bling Era” of hip hop, characterized by overt displays of wealth and affluence in the lyrics and music videos.
The Notorious B.I.G. – Big Poppa Lyrics Explained
Both gritty and genuine, the lyrics do exceptional justice to his personality, his struggle, and his ultimate success, serving as a vivid portrayal of B.I.G’s life and mindset.
The term “Big Poppa” is a nickname indicative of his stature, both physically and in the rap industry, amplifying his prominence in his milieu.
Throughout the song, Biggie portrays himself as someone with a strong sexual appeal, often referencing his interactions with women.
As a “player” in both senses of the word – in hip-hop and in relationships – Biggie exudes charisma and confidence.
His playful interactions with women in the lyrics serve as a testament to his prominence and stature in his life and within the industry.
References to hustling, lavish living, and wealth are plenty in ‘Big Poppa.’ Biggie uses these references to indicate his rags-to-riches journey and his triumph over the difficulties he experienced growing up in Brooklyn.
A line that illustrates this shift is, “living better now, Gucci sweater now.” This shows the stark contrast between his beginnings and where his music career has taken him.
Embedded in his lyrics is the recurring theme of possible retaliation from rivals and the dangers that come with his lifestyle.
Now let’s get a bit more in depth with some of the most iconic lines in this song!
I love it when you call me Big Poppa, throw your hands in the air if you’s a true player
The song begins with Biggie referring to himself as “Big Poppa,” a moniker that embodies his larger-than-life status.
He encourages the listeners to acknowledge his authority by raising their hands if they consider themselves skilled in the art of attracting women.
I was a terror since the public school era
Biggie asserts his confidence by claiming he’s been impressive and feared since his school days, implying that he’s always been a standout figure.
I see some ladies tonight that should be having my baby
Biggie spotlights his self-assuredness by pointing out the attractive women in the club who he believes should desire to have his child, emphasizing his magnetic charm.
Huh, check it, I got more mack than Craig and in the bed
Here, Biggie compares himself to Craig Mack, another rapper at the time, asserting that he’s even more charismatic and skilled with women than Mack.
I’m dedicated, the most hated, but gettin’ paid
Biggie acknowledges the polarizing opinions about him, noting that he’s both heavily criticized and financially successful, highlighting his ability to thrive amidst controversy.
Birthdays was the worst days, now we sip champagne when we thirsty
Biggie reflects on his past struggles, using his birthday as a metaphor for challenging times.
He contrasts this with his current opulent lifestyle, where he can afford luxury like champagne to quench his thirst.
We used to fuss when the landlord dissed us
The lyrics touch on past financial difficulties when he and his loved ones would argue due to the landlord’s mistreatment.
Remember when I used to eat sardines for dinner
Biggie recalls times of poverty when he couldn’t afford lavish meals, further emphasizing his journey from humble beginnings to opulence, as another bar says: “Believe me, sweetie, I got enough to feed the needy”.
Damn right I like the life I live, ’cause I went from negative to positive
Biggie expresses his contentment with his current status and how he transformed his life from a negative situation to a positive one through his music career.
Impact and Reception of ‘Big Poppa’
Big Poppa stormed onto the scene in 1994. The track quickly made its mark by securing the 6th spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and coming in at number one on the Billboard Hot Rap Songs chart.
From the standpoint of a critic, the track ‘Big Poppa’ is universally considered to be one of the key catalysts of the East Coast hip-hop revolution.
In a time when West Coast artists held the reins of the hip-hop scene in the early ’90s, The Notorious B.I.G., with ‘Big Poppa,’ emerged as the East Coast’s beacon of hope.
Biggie’s masterstroke lies in his expert blending of a melodious sample from the Isley Brothers’ ‘Between the Sheets’ with his powerful lyrics, thus successfully weaving in elements of R&B into the primarily rough-edged rap landscape of that era.
The influence of ‘Big Poppa’ extends beyond just the success of the song itself. It helped establish The Notorious B.I.G as a commercial and critical powerhouse in the world of hip-hop.
Interestingly, the song might not have been loaded with political messages or radical thoughts as it was common back then, but its celebration of lifestyle and individuality served as a template for many future hip-hop artists.
The Notorious B.I.G.’s ‘Big Poppa’ is a triumphant show of lyricism, musical ingenuity, and cultural observation, presenting a snapshot into the height of 90s East Coast rap.
Its resonating impact extends the boundaries of hip-hop, earning a noteworthy spot in the grand scheme of music history.
The song not only reflected Biggie’s personal experiences and realities, but it has also become a cultural artifact that echoes the sentiments of an era.
If you have additional comments to make, don’t hesitate to comment below. And if you want to switch to a different genre, don’t forget to check out my previous article, Lord Huron – The Night We Met Lyrics Explained.