New York City’s The Notorious B.I.G., aka Biggie Smalls, released the platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated single Big Poppa on 30 December 1994. It was the second song to be lifted from the Brooklyn MC’s acclaimed debut album, Ready To Die, which had been issued earlier that same year by Bad Boy Records, the label run by Biggie’s mentor, Sean Combs. One of the best Notorious B.I.G. songs, Big Poppa would also become one of the most significant and defining releases in the hip-hop icon’s short life.
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Regular Biggie hypeman Combs – aka Puff Daddy – takes the intro on the song, which is dedicated “to all the ladies in the place with style and grace”. The overweight bad-boy loverman then steps into the fray, offering shout-outs to fellow-travellers Junior M.A.F.I.A. and Craig Mack as he goes. We find him ensconced in a nightclub (as illustrated in the song’s promo video), splashing the cash to enjoy some champagne and good company. Spying “one of these honeys Biggie got to creep with”, he waits until her boyfriend heads to the bar, then slides in to dazzle her with his riveting repartee (or possibly with his remarkably effective internal rhymes). A foregone conclusion, the rapper leaves with her, enjoying a clandestine liaison in a jacuzzi before philosophising on his lifestyle in general.
Overweight lovers in the house
Big Poppa’s musing includes plenty of assurances that The Notorious B.I.G.’s rotund figure has no ill effects on his eligibility. “Believe me, sweetie, I got enough to feed the needy,” he asserts. This places the record in a tradition which stretches back to the extensive and marvellous work of the ultimate oversized soul man, the “Walrus Of Love”, Barry White. However, Big Poppa also shows the influence of hip-hop’s original self-styled “Overweight Lover”, Heavy D.