The Story Behind the Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die Album Cover

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    The Story Behind the Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die Album Cover
    Published: December 19, 2022

    The debut album from Biggie Smalls, Ready to Die, was released in 1994 and is considered one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time.

    Containing hits like “Juicy”, “Big Poppa” and more, the record shows Biggie’s lyrical prowess and unique Brooklyn style. Appropriately, the only feature on the whole album goes to fellow Brooklyn rapper Method Man of the Wu-Tang Clan, on the standout track “The What”.

    Biggie was murdered before the release of his next album, 1997’s Life After Death, making the title Ready to Die a cryptic instance of foreshadowing for the rapper.

    The death of the Notorious B.I.G. immortalized him as the 24-year-old rapper from the streets of New York, who forever changed the hip-hop game. It was a loss that we’re still feeling today, as is always the case when exceptionally-talented artists die young (something that is far too common in the hip-hop world).

    To many fans, the first image that comes to mind when they think of Biggie is the afro-sporting baby in a diaper pictured front and center on the cover of Ready to Die.

    Is that baby Biggie?

    Keithroy Yearwood, the baby on the cover of Ready to Die, 2011. Photo by Branch Price.

    While it’s easy to assume that the baby in the photo is Christopher Wallace, or the Notorious B.I.G. himself, it’s actually a photo of a now-grown man named Keithroy Yearwood.

    After years of speculation from fans, the truth was revealed in 2011, when the New York Daily News tracked down Keithroy, who at the time was an 18 year old senior in high school.

    Keithroy told the News he was happy to reveal that he was the Ready to Die Baby.

    “I just want people to know that’s me,” he said. “The truth is finally coming out.”

    Prior to the news coming out, the identity of the baby was one of hip-hop’s great mysteries.

    Even the album’s graphic designer, Cey Adams, had no idea who the baby was. “That ended up being one of the most asked questions of all time,” Adams said.

    In fact, not even the photographer, Butch Belair had a clue. “It was a friend of someone’s friends’ kid who had this cool Afro,” Belair assumed. “The Afro was as big as he was.”

    Even Puff Daddy, or Sean Combs, head of Bad Boy Records, couldn’t tell RapRadar who the baby was when they asked him in 2010, and not because he wasn’t allowed. He simply didn’t know either.

    “That was a baby we just found ….We did a little casting for somebody that looked like Big,” Diddy explains.

    Keithroy and his mother, Delicia Burns, confirmed that he was indeed the baby in the photo by sharing a stack of baby photos with the News. The story goes that Delicia signed him up for the shoot after responding to the casting call through an agency.

    When people in Keithroy’s life find out that he was the baby in the photo, often the first question they ask is how much he got paid to do it. The answer? Just $150 bucks for two hours of work.

    It may not sound like much, but baby Keithroy earned his adult self a lifetime of bragging rights and a permanent place in the hip-hop landscape.

    “It’s an honor to be on this album,” Yearwood says.

    Listen to the legendary album, Ready to Die by the Notorious B.I.G. below.

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