The Notorious B.I.G. is one of the most loved rappers of all time. Even after just over two decades past his tragic and untimely death, he is still included in a lot of fans’ “top five” greatest rappers of all time. Like many other stars in the rap game, the man loved his cars. If you take a look at some of his lyrics, you might notice he references various vehicles throughout the course of his discography.
Part of the fun with rap music is listening to people brag about their cars in creative ways; Biggie was no different. However, what is particularly fascinating about Biggie’s affinity for cars is the fact that he is a rapper from a different era; as a result, his passion for cars manifests itself in an almost completely different style than the rappers we are used to hearing about. For example, a rapper like Kanye West might drive the Audi R8, but cars of that nature were obviously not around when Biggie was at the peak of his success.
Another fascinating thing about examining Biggie’s car choices is the fact that it actually tells the story of his life. You can chart his story as a successful recording artist because as his luck changed over the years, so did his taste in cars. He went from choosing cars that would be considered a bit more “pedestrian” to cars that were more luxurious. His car collection tells the rags to riches story his music often does.
After Biggie’s death, there were, of course, other big names in rap to carry the torch. Like Biggie, they also had unique car preferences. In the following list, we’ll take a look at a few of Biggie’s favorite cars over the years, as well as four classic vehicles some of his peers enjoyed in the 90s.
15 1964 Chevrolet Impala - Loved By Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg
The 1964 Chevrolet Impala was a classic car of the 1990s. Who could forget the 1999 Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg music video for “Still D.R.E.”?
They are incredible and a lot of fun to look at. Vintage low-rider cars with hydraulics are always cool. These Chevy Impalas seem to be the most customizable cars; when it is fixed up well enough it looks gorgeous.
Another legendary rapper from the 90s that included the Impala in his lyrics was Skee-Lo. On his biggest hit “I Wish,” a “six four Impala” was one of the things he was wishing for. He also mentions, “I got this hatchback. And everywhere I go, yo, I gets laughed at.” The car he’s talking about is the Ford Pinto. Even though the Ford Pinto is a decent vehicle when you look at a Pinto and an Impala side-by-side you can immediately see the appeal of the Impala. Although The Beach Boys weren’t a rap group (actually Brian Wilson did rap once on the song “Smart Girls”), they were also fans of the Impala. It makes perfect sense that both Dr. Dre and Brian Wilson are from California: this is the perfect car to go cruising in.
14 Range Rover
Although this is the third time a jeep is appearing on this list, this vehicle was a little different; it appears in Biggie’s work a lot more prominently than some of the other vehicles he mentioned over the years. In fact, the rapper actually mentioned the Range Rover five different times in five recordings over the years.
It is worth mentioning at this point: according to one of Biggie’s friends, the rapper did not drive. He preferred to be driven around by other people (which may explain some of his choices for massive, spacious vehicles).
The Range Rover would have been a great choice for someone being chauffeured around: it is a heavy-duty vehicle that makes a statement. It is no surprise that the Range Rover is a rapper favorite: Jay-Z and 50 Cent are among a few other rappers to give the vehicle a shoutout in their songs.
The vehicle has been extremely successful for Land Rover. It has now been in production for almost 50 years, and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. In the period Biggie was rapping about Range Rovers, the vehicle was in its second generation and it had a V8 engine. That would make it vastly powerful than some of the other vehicles Biggie had prior to his success.
13 Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon
This vehicle was referenced by Biggie on a 1997 release. He mentions his friend, “Arizona Ron from Tucson” with “the black Yukon.” The GMC Yukon is the vehicle in question; it is another vehicle that the rapper did not intend to be discreet with by any means. It is an industrial full-size SUV with a V8 engine that has rightfully earned comparisons to the Cadillac Escalade, the vehicle of choice for another “big” guy: Tony Soprano.
In fact, the Yukon was such a groundbreaking vehicle, it was a direct influence on Cadillac’s lineup. The Escalade went into production shortly after the Yukon. To this day the Yukon remains a hit for General Motors; it has maintained its powerful presence on the market since the early 1990s, and it’s still being made.
The era Biggie would have rapped about this vehicle would have been the Yukon’s first generation. That may seem unimpressive, however, the vehicle was a powerful SUV from the very start. It always had 8-cylinders, with the optional 6.5-Litre engine for some models (instead of the standard 5.7-Litre, which was already fantastic). The first generation of this model was so effective it lasted just under a decade before GM decided to modify it in 2000.
12 1997 E36 BMW M3
When we think of all of Biggie’s car references, the one that is arguably the most memorable in the rapper’s repertoire is his shoutout in “Hypnotize,” one of his biggest hits ever. In the song at one point, he raps, “Dare I squeeze three at your cherry M3. Bang every MC easily, busily.” Although in the song Biggie is talking about the car being owned by enemies and not himself personally, that does not mean he disliked the car necessarily. The fact that he chose the classic 90s BMW car specifically was a major compliment.
The car was a classic vehicle in the 90s, with BMW only producing them from 1992 to 1999. It was a groundbreaking car for BMW at the time due to its German engineering; it was the first model from BMW that had the L6 engine.
On car review websites, there are many owners of the 1997-era M3 that still continue to talk about how great this car is. Some people have gone as far as comparing it to a race car in disguise.
Another really cool thing about BMW’s work here: there are a lot of people who don’t know very much about cars, but they can recognize the design of the E36 BMW M3 because of how iconic it was.
11 Ford Gran Torino
Another car referenced very quickly on the song “Hypnotize” is the Ford Gran Torino popularized by Starsky and Hutch. In the song, Biggie has the line, “Poppa and Puff. Close like Starsky and Hutch, stick the clutch.” This is another case of a vehicle Biggie did not personally own, but the fact that it was on his radar is huge. And look at this car: how could anyone not like this thing?
In the 2004 film based on the TV show, Ben Stiller’s character at one point says, “It was my mother....she always used to say it was too much car for me to handle. I couldn't handle the V8!” The car was indeed a powerful beast: after the initial entry level 4-door sedan version, they began experimenting with 7-liter engines. The car took an intense turn in the 70s as a real muscle car. Unfortunately, the excess power of the vehicle became a bit frowned upon when North America experienced the infamous oil crisis of 1973. The Torino would remain in production for another three years before Ford finally called it quits in 1976. It only lasted eight years on the market, but it earned a hell of a reputation in that brief period. The Torino is still a very beloved vehicle; years after the show ended, in 2014 the car actually sold for $40,000.
10 Jaguar XJS
On one of his lesser-known songs on the soundtrack for the 1995 film Panther, Biggie references number 4 on this list (the Range Rover) again. But the other vehicle he names drops right after it is the Jaguar XJS. Specifically, Biggie says his friends have: “drop-top Jaguars.”
This is another great example of a lyric that featured a vehicle Biggie did not own personally but felt enough love to include it in his music. And we can easily see why with this one: the Jaguar XJS was an amazing luxury car that lasted for just over two decades.
There were under 15,000 of the cars ever built during that time, making the vehicle something of a rarity. The XJS would not have been something you saw very often: it has a retail price of about $48,000.
Like the Ford Gran Torino, this was another vehicle that suffered from a low demographic due to the oil crisis occurring at roughly the same time as the car’s introduction to the public. However, this car was remarkably impervious to the politics of the day. Even though it was not a modest vehicle (how can a vehicle with 12 cylinders ever be modest?), the XJS had quite the successful run.
9 Isuzu Trooper
If you’re a hardcore Biggie fan, you might immediately remember the reference to this one. In Biggie Smalls’ now iconic 1994 album Ready to Die, he has a classic track called Gimme the Loot in which Biggie takes on the role of two characters on the same track (people are often surprised to hear this). Near the end of the song the following lyrics can be heard as the two men talk about their upcoming plans:
“Man, listen all this walking is hurting my feet. But money looks sweet.”
“In the Isuzu jeep.”
Beyond just an easy slant rhyme with the words “feet” and “sweet,” it makes sense that Biggie would give the Isuzu Trooper a shoutout on his debut album. It was quite the popular vehicle for its time, with its years of production actually spanning just over two decades (from 1981 to 2002). The second generation of the SUV arrived on the scene in the 90s, making it the perfect time for Biggie to acquire it due to how improved it was.
While the first installment of the SUV was only available as a 4-cylinder model, in the 90s Isuzu upped their game by using a vastly superior V6 engine, as well as features we would all consider a given now such as air conditioning, power windows, etc.
The Isuzu Trooper was a powerful Japanese vehicle that was definitely capable of somewhat fast driving if necessary.
8 Toyota Land Cruiser J8
For those of you with a Toyota Camry and dreaming about owning a cooler car, you're in good company. Toyota got a big shoutout from Biggie on his debut album. The second song on B.I.G’s Ready to Die album to reference another SUV was the classic track, Everyday Struggle. In the song, Biggie has the line, “Toyota Deal-a-Thon had it cheap on the Jeeps.” The vehicle he is referring to is the Toyota Land Cruiser, a vehicle so successful you can still see it being driven. It started production in the early 1950s and has been a staple of Toyota’s lineup ever since.
Biggie’s casual description of picking up a Toyota Land Cruiser on a whim suggests that it would have been a go-to for Biggie. The jeep was a big hit for Toyota because, like Japanese engineering is known for, it was designed to take a real beating. Not only were they incredibly durable vehicles, they were also affordable. The average retail price for the SUV would have been around $37,000. If you were to purchase the same type of 1994 Toyota Biggie had, it has been sold today for as low as $3500. The fact that a 1994 Toyota vehicle is still around and is in decent driving shape says a lot about its toughness. This vehicle is a favorite in places with deserts and rough terrain for a reason.
7 Nissan Sentra
Many people forget that Biggie only worked on two albums before his death; he was so great that it seems like he recorded a lot more albums than he did. On his second album, Life After Death, he has a song where he references the Nissan Sentra with the lyrics:
“Today's agenda, got the suitcase up in the Sentra.
Go to room 112, tell them Blanco sent ya.
Feel the strangest if no money exchanges.”
The car is mentioned very briefly, but it helps to set the scene perfectly for what he’s trying to describe: a gritty gangster tale about a cash transaction about to go sour.
The Nissan Sentra would have been the ideal car for staying discreet while being able to get around quickly enough. The biggest (no pun intended) plus for Biggie would have been the fact that it was not a car that drew attention. There are other songs in which the rapper discusses flashier vehicles, but we can clearly understand why he chose a Sentra here: it was the perfect vehicle for staying incognito under pressure. With 4-cylinders, the early 1990s Sentra was never going to be a car built to impress with high-performance driving. But it is a powerful vehicle that continues to be in production; it has been around for 35 years at this point.
6 Honda Civic CX Hatchback 1994
The Honda Civic is clearly a vehicle from Biggie’s earlier days pre-dating his success. The Civic has long been the favorite car to disrespect and joke about by many, but say what you will, Honda makes durable vehicles. For a guy who loved Asian vehicles, Biggie’s list would not be complete with at least one Honda manufactured vehicle.
In this rare photo, we can see a much younger Biggie Smalls standing in front of a Honda Civic Hatchback, a car not considered cool at all, and completely owning it. Not only is this car not considered very cool, the CX was also one of the least powerful hatchbacks Honda ever produced.
It would go on to be much improved as the years went by, but the first generation of the hatchback was nowhere as impressive as the vehicles Biggie would later own. However, an interesting tidbit about this particular vehicle is that the original 1994 hatchback apparently went on sale 20 years later. The vehicle had a lot of mileage on it, but it still ran perfectly. Even if their earlier cars ran slow, the amazing thing about the work Honda has manufactured is how consistently reliable it is.
5 GMC Suburban
This is another famous car of Biggie’s that went up for auction. Unfortunately, this one went on sale because of its infamous reputation: it was the vehicle Biggie actually died in. 20 years after his death in 1997, the vehicle went up for sale with an asking price of $1.5 million last year. The forest green Suburban actually still had the bullet holes on the car intact, as well as the bullet hole through Biggie’s seatbelt.
The GMC Suburban is another car that fits in with Biggie’s pattern of preferring big, spacious vehicles to be driven around in. If he were the type of guy who enjoyed driving personally, Biggie may have been more of a sports car person but he really loved the luxury of being driven around in these heavy-duty vehicles by friends. The Suburban Biggie liked to ride around in, was the model from the eighth generation. It featured an optional 6.5-Litre V8 engine, and it could reach 60 mph in just over nine seconds. Like the Tahoe, the Land Cruiser, and the Range Rover, this vehicle would have been a perfect choice for a guy that liked massive vehicles.
4 Lexus GS300
This is the most recurring vehicle in Biggie’s oeuvre, appearing in not just two or three of his songs, but a grand total of eleven. He mentioned it on some of his biggest tracks, cementing the vehicle’s place in hip-hop history as one of the coolest cars of all time. It was also another car he referenced on the song “Hypnotize,” with his special modifications being, “Bulletproof glass, tints.”
Not only was the Lexus GS300 one of the biggest cars of the 90s for rappers (more on that later), for a guy like Biggie who seemed to enjoy Asian imports so enthusiastically, the Lexus was the height of where he could take that passion. Not only did the rapper have a Lexus GS300, he enjoyed the Lexus brand so much he also apparently had a gold Lexus truck. There are unfortunately no pictures floating around of the truck, but it would have been an amazing sight: one of the greatest rappers of all time at the peak of his career in a beautiful vehicle. Lexus may have been something of a muse for Biggie’s lyrics because he consistently came up with creative ways of featuring the car in his rhymes. One of his coolest lyrics: “I want it all from the Rolexes to the Lexus. Getting paid is all I expected.”
3 Lexus SC - Loved By Everyone
If you were a rapper in the 90s and you made a song that did not include a reference to the Lexus brand in some way....did you really make a rap song at all? The Lexus was so appreciated in the 1990s by the hip-hop community, it has actually become something of a cliche at this point. Rappers absolutely adored this brand; it may have been one of the few things people on both the East and West Coasts agreed on.
In addition to Biggie’s many references to the brand, Jay-Z, the Wu-Tang Clan, and Nas were among the many names to include the brand in their lyrics. Some have even speculated whether or not the company actually paid for these placements because of how popular rappers made Lexus.
The 1990s was a fantastic decade for Lexus; the company was founded in 1989, but like a great TV show, they only really found their footing after that first year. Following that initial start, the 90s was a period of immense growth for Lexus. As people slowly started to realize Lexus was a brand associated with luxury, the manufacturer rolled out various vehicles that became staples in their lineup. To this day, rappers continue to shout-out the brand and its place in pop culture is still important.
2 The Mazda MPV - Loved By The Wu-Tang Clan
In the now iconic 90s song by the Wu-Tang Clan, C.R.E.A.M., Raekwon has the famous line, “Rollin' in MPV's, every week we made forty G's.” The namecheck Rae makes is of course none other than the Mazda MPV; it also famously appears in videos for songs the Wu-Tang Clan made in the heyday of their success.
While the Mazda MPV was never a vehicle designed to impress the masses, what it did offer was reliability. The MPV acronym stood for Multi-Purpose Vehicle, and it really earned that name. It was a minivan with an optional V6 engine. That dynamic meant it had a bit of a humorous diversity: if you didn’t know any better, on the surface the MPV looked like something a soccer mom would drive around. Its engine was also equipped with enough power to appeal to young people hustling. If it was good enough to move members of the Wu-Tang Clan around quickly all over New York City, it must have been a pretty reliable vehicle. Because it was not a luxury vehicle, its durable Japanese engineering was really meant to take a beating (like Biggie’s Toyota Land Cruiser). The model Raekwon rapped about in C.R.E.A.M. would have been the first generation, which spanned from 1988 to 1999. The Mazda MPV would go on to last for almost three decades, but the Wu-Tang Clan arguably helped Mazda to put the MPV on the map initially.
1 Infiniti Q45 - Loved By Junior M.A.F.I.A.
The rap crew Biggie was part of, Junior M.A.F.I.A. were some of his closest friends. One of the cars they apparently liked to drive around in was the Infiniti Q45. As we have already explored on this list, Biggie gave Nissan a shoutout at one point as his car of choice for mobility and remaining discreet. Like the Lexus was a luxury vehicle for Toyota, the Infiniti was the best offering from Nissan. It would have been the next logical step for Biggie to make the switch from a Sentra to this vehicle.
The first generation of the Infiniti Q45 spanned from 1990 to 1996. It was a car that had options that ranged from $50,000 to $60,000. In fact, it was such a costly vehicle it did not perform very well in every region. It was tough to sell a vehicle so expensive initially, but the Infiniti Q45 had a good run. With a 4.5-litre V8 engine the car was a powerful luxury. Biggie enjoyed being chauffeured around Brooklyn in the Infiniti.
Sources: caranddriver.com, edmunds.com