"Juicy" (Ready to Die)
The first is an obvious choice: Big's first hit single, which now stands as one of the most iconic hip-hop songs of all-time. It's easy to see "Juicy" as an effortlessly feel-good party anthem, but the lyrics, which you know by heart, tell one of the greatest rags-to-riches stories ever recorded. And the song functions as both the story of Christopher Wallace's come-up as well as the entire hip-hop genre's rise to mainstream popularity. "It was all a dream."
Big recounts images from his childhood that tell his story but are immediately relatable. Like any hip-hop fan growing up, it was "Every Saturday 'Rap Attack,' Mr. Magic, Marley Marl." He contrasts these memories with painful ones of "sardines for dinner." His childhood wasn't all bad. But now it's all good. And he doesn't regret a thing.
Big's come-up was as unlikely to himself as it was for those around him already at the top. How'd this gang-banging high-school drop-out hit the jackpot? They could never understand why "Birthdays was the worst days." "Stereotypes of a black male misunderstood / But it's still all good." We've seen Biggie dish out hate, anger, and depression, but on "Juicy," his most universally-loved single, it's all love -- the Brooklyn way.