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No high-pitched man, no beef needed to sell ...

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The 300-plus pound hoodfella is crowned king, and how the West kept winning. ...

Jermaine Dupri Talks Ready To Die

Nas: The Genesis

1994 Essential Albums

In Their Own Words

  A Look Back At 1994

  Remembering Biggie Photo Flipbook

Notorious B.I.G.: The Last Interview

Nas: Stillmatters

Tupac: Reconstructing Tupac

Outkast: Black Dog/Black Wolf

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While Outkast and Nas were tearing down area-code boundaries, Da Brat crushed gender stereotypes and went platinum in the process.

"I was looking at the female rappers that was out there, and I knew what the formula was," Jermaine Dupri said of his protégé's debut, Funkdafied. "I knew the master plan was to get her on the radio. That's all that was missing out the whole female game. Salt-N-Pepa sold records 'cause they was on radio. MC Lyte wasn't selling because she wasn't on radio."

Brat continued to prove that a female could be a viable commodity by thriving with more commercial success than most of her male peers. The fans fell in love with her tomboy image, unabashed rap style and throwback '70s rhythms. She might not have been known for writing lyrics that made you wear out your rewind button, but the ATL transplant bubbled with personality. 

  Notorious BIG
"Big Poppa"
Ready To Die
Back in New York, a 300-plus pound hoodfella from Brooklyn known as Biggie Smalls was the total package. He was running neck and neck with Nas when it came to poetic ingenuity and had enough charisma to make him worth his weight in platinum and ice. 

By the time Biggie dropped Ready to Die in September of '94, not only did he have to legally change his name to the Notorious B.I.G. (someone else was going by Biggie Smalls at the time), but he switched up his rap style for the better. B.I.G. was no longer just that hungry guy from Bed Stuy rapping about partying and "bullsh---ing." He had enhanced his repertoire and managed to accommodate everyone.

Ready to Die was all-encompassing — he had beats that sounded like they originated in the East, beats that could have been conceived in the West, timeless party anthems, cinematic tales of drug-dealing, concept raps and a tune called "Juicy" that was so inspirational, it made Rocky Balboa look like he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Big not only penned better words than everybody else, he said the words better than everybody else.

"Notorious B.I.G. was the King of New York, of rap," Nas said. "We supported Biggie. There was jealousy, of course, but overall New York supported Biggie."

Out in the West, Warren G stepped out of the shadows of his big brother Dr. Dre and friend Snoop Dogg to sell over a million copies of his Regulate ... G Funk Era album. MC Eiht held it down for the streets of Compton and built off of his acting role in "Menace II Society" with his acclaimed We Come Strapped. Tupac began to let the world know what thug life was about when he formed a group of the same name and put out a self-titled album. Pac also continued to mesmerize moviegoers as the sinister Birdie in "Above the Rim," and started connecting strong with Death Row.

You didn't have to rap to get love in the hip-hop community. Puff Daddy executive produced the debut by a teenager named Usher Raymond. Everyone rallied around Mary J. Blige when she dropped the most compelling LP of her career, My Life. Jodeci continued to prove bad (and mad) was good, as they kept the women screaming. The only artist who rivaled Jodeci in making the females go insane was R. Kelly — if you didn't have 12 Play in your tape deck, you were just playing around.

Now that 2004 is here, is another renaissance on the way? The MCs who were new in 1994 are now time-tested OGs. Nas is gearing up to drop another album, there's talk of a Wu-Tang LP, and many of the Wu's members will put out solo albums, as will Method Man's pal Redman. P. Diddy says he has the itch to make an album and Bad Boy has been working to piece together a new release by Notorious B.I.G. Snoop has connected with Warren G and Nate Dogg and has a supergroup album on tap and A Tribe Called Quest are ready to make a comeback.

But for a golden age like 1994 to arrive we're going to need new acts to kick doors down. Last year 50 Cent stepped up. Who's next? Stay tuned.

Puff Daddy wasn't the only blinging CEO Notorious B.I.G. used to hang with. Jermaine Dupri also has a story to tell. ...

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Photo: MTV News

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