“Big Poppa” was released as the second single from Ready To Die following the commercial success of the album’s lead single “Juicy.” Both of Biggie’s first two singles topped Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart but “Big Poppa” became Biggie’s first Top 10 pop hit.

The song marked a major stylistic change from the hardcore, aggressive style of Biggie’s early work. The music utilized a smoother West Coast G-funk aesthetic, while Big embraced a new ladies' man persona. Producer Easy Mo Bee remarked: “all of a sudden his voice calmed down. That became his new vocal style.”

“Big Poppa” peaked at #6 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in March 1995. It was nominated for “Best Rap Solo Performance” and “Best Rap Song of the Year” at the 1996 Grammy Awards, and also went on to win at the Billboard Awards.

The title is based on one of The Notorious B.I.G.’s many nicknames. The line “I love it when you call me Big Poppa” is sampled from his verse on the remix of Supercat’s song “Dolly My Baby,” released in 1993. The song also features a prominent sample from the The Isley Brothers‘ 1983 slow jam “Between The Sheets.”

In a Ready To Die retrospective published by XXL, producer Nashiem Myrick revealed that the “Big Poppa” beat was originally given to Mr. Cheeks of the Lost Boyz but Puff Daddy wanted the track and they had to trade it for an Easy Mo Bee beat that ended up being used for the group’s 1995 hit single “Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz and Benz.” Chucky Thompson also said in the XXL piece that the “West Coast” moog sound was inspired by the music of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Snoop Doggy Dogg, while Matty C, the writer of Biggie’s “Unsigned Hype” column in The Source magazine, claimed rhyming over the “Between the Sheets” sample was Biggie’s idea after he heard the sample used on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Bonita Applebum (Hootie Mix)” released in 1990.