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Yesterday marked the 19th anniversary of The Notorious B.I.G. aka Biggie Smalls’ debut album Ready to Die, which hit stores on September 13th, 1994 during the prime of NYC’s mixtape era. In the time leading up to the LP’s release, and the two and a half years that followed before he was tragically murdered in March of 1997, Biggie Smalls reigned supreme in rap. During that period, the buzz and excitement surrounding any new song of his that debuted on a DJ mixtape was unmatched. Many of Ready to Die’s classic tracks, like “The What” with Method Man, “Unbelievable,” and “Respect,” were all available on mixtapes before their official release, and sometimes almost a year in advance due to high demand. And tracks like “Dreams” and “Who Shot Ya?”—which also were first heard on mixtapes—became fan favorites that still get radio spins today, thanks to popular New York City DJs like S&S, Clue, Craig G, and more first breaking them on their tapes. B.I.G. was the King of New York, and he earned his crown by not only putting out a platinum album, but also by having the mixtape game in a constant chokehold.

For this special edition of Mixtape Memories, we return to the years before and after Ready to Die’s release, and highlight 10 Classic Biggie Smalls Mixtape Cuts. This short list is made up of exclusive freestyles, early versions of beloved songs, and live performances, all featuring the actual audio from the DJ mixtapes they were originally featured on in ’94, ’95, and ’96. With Ready to Die in stores, and these joints all over the streets, B.I.G. could not be fucked with. Let’s get it on.

Props to Nah Right, read this excellent article & listen to the classic Biggie verses HERE.

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