An album like The Notorious B.I.G.'s debut Ready to Die - which sold more than six million copies and established both a bold new star and a fresh new talent hub for hip-hop on the East Coast - is hard to consider "underrated." Several of the album's best-known songs, like "Juicy" and "Big Poppa," are why Biggie's cumulative streaming numbers crossed the billion mark this year.
READ MORE: Biggie's Billions: His Most-Streamed Tracks
But an album can hold a lot of music, and some of it gets recognized in different ways than others. Today, we're shining the spotlight on some of our favorite "deeper cuts" - ones that never made it to the charts, but reflect the late legend's artistry just as well as brightly as the best-known songs from the album do.
"Things Done Changed": The first proper track on the album established Biggie's storytelling cred immediately. His intricate details of what his native Brooklyn life was like, before his eyes were opened to the struggles of the streets and running through the underworld, pop through every verse. And the intoxicating chorus - built around samples of The Main Ingredient, Biz Markie and West Coast producer/pioneer Dr. Dre - hits hard after every story told.
"Gimme the Loot": Big's flow was one-of-a-kind, but we sometimes underrate how pliable he could make his voice when he wanted. "Gimme the Loot" goes into deeper detail on the criminal life, presenting itself as an interaction between Biggie and his younger self, less hardened to the street life and delivering his lines in a slightly elevated pitch and less weary delivery. A lesser emcee would've adopted a more obvious alternate voice or turned those lines over to a protegee.
"Suicidal Thoughts": Biggie looked into the darkness long before he was unfortunately consumed by it, shot to death in a still-unsolved drive-by in 1997. Album closer "Suicidal Thoughts" has the rapper waxing on how his life is negatively affecting the people closest to him like his mother and the mother of his child; the short track is presented as a one-sided phone conversation as producer and friend Sean "Puffy" Combs tries to talk him off the metaphorical ledge to no avail.
"Who Shot Ya": arguably the biggest non-hit of the Ready to Die era, "Who Shot Ya" was a street B-side later added to the album as a bonus track. Built around a sample intended for Mary J. Blige, many felt the lyrics to the track referenced an armed attack on Tupac Shakur outside of a New York recording studio in 1994 - including the West Coast rapper himself. That track, featuring typically blistering lyricism from Biggie himself, touched off a bitter feud that expanded into a war within hip-hop itself - one that sadly didn't simmer until both rappers were dead and buried.