And so for the second time in the first five songs on his first album, Biggie raps with himself. Only the magic moment that was rap in 1994 could a rookie release a two minute and 45 second phone conversation detailing his desire to defend himself from attackers plotting to kill and rob him — and still have his album knocked as too commercial and conventional.
Flipping Isaac Hayes, Easy Moe Bee creates a perfect level of intensity for this paranoid tale. We see Biggie’s chameleon-like skill at narration. Gone is the velocity and pitch of “Things Done Changed,” “Gimme the Loot,” and “Machine Gun Funk.” The Big on display here is calm, methodical and intelligent. We see flashes of Big’s future self, the person he’d become once the money rolled in. He swaps roles on “Warning.” The hunter of “Gimme the Loot” has become the hunted.
While “Warning” doesn’t tell much of a story, it’s a window into Big’s psyche. He and Puff were obsessed with “Player Haters.” From uptown playboy Puff’s vantage point, that was the dudes outside the club, mad that he dressed nicer and fucked hotter chicks. For Biggie, a Brooklyn native whose clubs were almost certainly located far southeast of Harlem, the idea of “haters” and the threat they posed had consequences that loomed larger.
Brooklyn is home to a particular strain of jealous menace, best characterized by the kid who Biggie plays in “Gimme the Loot.” On “The Warning,” he deals with the threats that arose as his profile grew. As Biggie puts it “It’s the ones that smoke blunts with ya/see your picture, now they want to grab they gats and come and getcha.”
Consider: Biggie is woken at a quarter to six in the morning, only to be taken down the rabbit hole by “Pop from the Barbershop” (the barbershop being a time honored home of shit talk). We finally learn third-hand that some dudes Biggie knew from his days as a minor hustler have caught wind of his success and are coming to collect.
The rest of the song is largely Pop gassing Big’s head, claiming this crew knows the intimate details of his business and location. Big responds to the ominous news with increasingly paranoid and sad steps to protect himself. We aren’t given any evidence to doubt Pop, but we also never get a true confirmation either. The song is nothing more than a phone exchange. While the skit that concludes it bears little resemblance to the crew Pop warns Biggie about — the ones with the resources to case his stash out-of-state houses and even knew where his mother was down South.
Whether the threats are real or imagined, Biggie sells this as a common ordeal. Barely 15 minutes into his fame, with only Craig Mack, Total and Mary J. Blige guest verses to hang his hat on, his past is already coming calling. Like his one-time friend Tupac, standing a year later, trembling in the window, waiting for death with an AK in hand, Biggie chooses to shrug his shoulders and accept his fate, ready or not.
MP3: The Notorious B.I.G.-“The Warning”