Ah, The Notorious B.I.G. One of Hip Hop’s larger-than-life phenoms and unfortunately, “What If’s?” It has been more than 20 years since his unsolved murder while at the height of his game — and fame.
He was just 24 years old.
Over the years, dozens of documentaries, films, books and editorials have covered the life after death of Mr. Christopher Wallace, subsequently causing his music catalog to take a backseat within the conversation. (It’s pretty expensive to clear those songs and if all parties are in agreeance with the terms of usage, well, you get the picture.)
As the youth become less aware of Biggie Smalls’ lyrical masterworks simply because there are endless songs to chose from due to the abundance of streaming, we over here at HipHopDX decided to put together a mini-starter kit for fans who simply weren’t around to throw down some ice for “the nicest MC.” Anyone who is out of the loop, refer them to this article.
While this record technically isn’t the first time music fans were made aware of B.I.G.’s talent (thank 1993’s “Party & Bullshit” for that), his official debut as The Notorious B.I.G. remains one of the most inspirational, funky and honest Hip Hop songs to ever enjoy massive airplay. Before there were Xbox One and PlayStation 4, there was Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis.
“Ten Crack Commandments”
In an article earlier this year, Very Smart Brothas senior editor Panama Jackson proclaimed Biggie was still the most impressive MC he’s ever heard — an opinion shared by many. Although it can be argued that intricate rhyme patterns and complex flows were never the keys to unlocking total accessibility (just look at today’s climate), Biggie’s bars were so sharp line in and line out, it’s not surprising why people still hold him in such a high regard (with only two actual studio albums — and only one released in his lifetime).
Just take his Life After Death cut, “Ten Crack Commandments” for example. The track was a culmination of the hard knock life (and quite frankly, depressing) sentiments that dominated his Ready to Die debut, along with visionary and clever outlines on what it truly meant to be former drug dealer turned successful rapper.
“One More Chance/Stay with Me (Remix)”
If you still need your parent’s permission for anything, this song is older than you. But there is also a strong “chance” you’ve heard it. Released in 1995, the undeniably groovy 80s sample flip of DeBarge’s “Stay With Me” made it popular with the pre-Hip Hop crowd and the suave mackin’ lyrics ensured it would be a dancefloor must even to this day.
The classic hit was a full 180 degrees from the “knocking boots” original version, peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200 and marked the full transformation of Biggie into a sex symbol.
“Whatcha think all the guns is for?” Hip Hop music hasn’t gotten any more Kumbaya since Biggie’s heyday. From every corner of the map, reigning rap stars such as Tekashi 6ix9ine, YG and 21 Savage all excel in violent realism within their music. But the level of finesse Biggie brought to the table has become some sort of delicacy these days.
See his Ready To Die street single, “Warning” for further evidence. On what should have inadvertently became the Brinks Security anthem, B.I.G. put lyrical red dots on would-be intruders foreheads with lyrics like, “Bet ya Biggie won’t slip/I got the Calico with the black talons loaded in the clip/So I can rip through the ligaments/Put the fuckers in a bad predicament, where all the foul niggas went/Touch my cheddar, feel my Beretta/Buck! What I’ma hit you with you muthafuckas better duck!”
“Sky’s the Limit”
What 2009’s Notorious biopic hoped to accomplish in two hours, Biggie Smalls nailed in just a little over five minutes. The autobiographical number fully encompassed the late legend’s rags-to-riches, ashy-to-nasty-to-classy narrative and still offers up the most sedative images to remember the man by.
“Notorious Thugs” (featuring Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
At the time of this record, Bone’s guest appearance résumé was indeed bare bones, for not too many rappers wanted to size up their skill set against the Ohio quintet’s tongue-twisting talents. After the spaced-out synths, ominous “Armed and dangerous” opening line and hypnotic Bizzy, Krayzie and Layzie verses immediately became a thing of legend, it felt like everyone and their labelmate needed a Bone feature. (Count Mariah Carey, Ice Cube, Jermaine Dupri and Master P among the artists who needed an immediate fast flow fix.)
The dazzling record also solidified the notion that The Notorious B.I.G. was a jack of all trades, master of them all.
R.I.P. and happy birthday, Chris Wallace.