First Impressions: The 50 Best Album-Opening Songs in Rap History

12. Notorious B.I.G. "Things Done Changed" (1994)

Producer: Darnell Scott
Album: Ready to Die
Label: Bad Boy


Recorded at a time when nostalgia pieces like Ahmad's "Back In the Day" were all the rage, "Things Done Changed" takes a matchstick of reality to every sweetened memory of the past and threw those memories in the gutter, where such rosy retrospections belonged. (That is, until Biggie decided to revive the form no more than 30 minutes later with "Juicy," Track Ten on Ready To Die.) The first verse ends with a couplet that draws a line in the sand of hip-hop history: "So step away with your fist-fight ways / Motherfucker, this ain't back in the days." Biggie was not as nihilistic as this song suggested—its brilliance is in the pained reactions he has to the behavior of his generation—but the fact that he put it first on his album indicates the importance of the sentiment. Rap music is not about respecting the past; it's not about the past whatsoever. It's about you and me face to face in the right now, doing everything possible to get one over on the other. Or as Biggie put it, with no small amount of self-alarm: "Back in the days, our parents used to take care of us / Look at 'em now: They even fucking scared of us!" —Sam Sweet

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