Christopher Wallace, The Notorious B.I.G., “Big Poppa,” Biggie, or whichever you prefer to call one of the greatest rappers of all time. Over 20 years after his death in 1997, Biggie still to this day is used as the blueprint that pioneered rap. The hip-hop icon has a discography with hits such as “Juicy,” “Hypnotize,” and his iconic freestyle with the coined phrase “Where Brooklyn at?” with friend-turned-foe Tupac. Biggie was a vital artist to P. Diddy’s Bad Boy Records which continuously put them on the map with his iconic flow, memorable lyrics, and trailblazing artistry. As Jay-Z would put it, “The only Christopher we acknowledge is Wallace.”
Take a look at the iconic rapper’s 10 best songs:
The legendary freestyle between hip-hop icons Biggie and Tupac starts off with the BK rapper shouting, "Where Brooklyn at?/ Where Brooklyn at?/Where Brooklyn at? /Where Brooklyn at?" as he begins one of his iconic verses. The rapper's verses come from a longer version of the freestyle at the Budweiser Superfest that features Shyheim, Big Daddy Kane, and Scoob. The track was later released on Funkmaster Flex's 1999 album 'The Tunnel.'
"Notorious Thugs" was recorded months before Biggie's death on March 9, 1997. The Stevie J. produced beat is instrumental to the song's lasting impression on fans as you're challenged to keep up with Biggie's and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony's iconic hyper-speed flow.
The opening track to 'Ready To Die' compares how things were "back in the day" to how they were when the track was released in '94. Biggie mentions the crack cocaine epidemic and its impact on poor Black communities in this song as well with the lyric, “Our parents used to take care of us / Look at them now, they’re even f----- scared of us.” That lyric ended up being included in the 2004 anthology of African American literature, per The Guardian.
Some fans believe that you can pinpoint "Who Shot Ya" as the beginning of the end for Biggie unknowingly. Fans believe the '94 track sparked the fatal feud between friend-turned-foe West Coast rapper Tupac. However, Nashiem Myrick, the main producer on the song, said, per The Slate, "no reason, no motive, at all, to have set 'Pac up," as fans deciphered a driving force was tied to the song. Tupac and Biggie were fatally shot in 1996 and 1997 with their murders still unsolved to this day.
As the crack cocaine epidemic swept urban communities in the 1970s and 1980s, which detrimentally affected many poor Black families, it naturally also became a central theme in hip-hop. The "Ten Commandments" is basically a step-by-step guide on how to be a successful drug dealer. Biggie raps an essential line on the track about getting paid, “That godd-- credit? Dead it! You think a crackhead paying you back? S---, forget it!” Lin-Manuel Miranda paid homage to the song in his hit musical 'Hamilton' as the Ten Duel Commandments. Faith Evans, who married Biggie in 1994, also played homage to the track as "Ten Wife Commandments" in 2017 when she released a duet album with the late rapper.
Biggie gets emotional in the closing track of his legendary debut album 'Ready To Die.' "Suicidal Thoughts" is storytelling at its finest as Wallace delivers one verse with no hook, over a somber beat. The rapper details some crimes he committed in the past and the ultimate relinquishing thought to not be alive any longer and that others think of it too, "I know my mother wish she got a f----- abortion." He then later in the track delivers the line, “people frontin’ at my funeral like they miss me” and the audio of a phone disconnecting offers a desolate end to an iconic album.
The rap icon refers to one of his monikers, "Big Poppa," in the '94 classic hit. "Big Poppa" pronounced "Big Papa" samples "Between the Sheets" by The Isley Brothers. On the track, the BK native raps about his rise to fame and how much women find him attractive. In the music video directed by Hype Williams, you see the rap icon surrounded by several of his famous friends including Mary J. Blige, the late Aaliyah, wife Faith Evans, Heavy D, Puff, Jermaine Dupri, and more.
"Mo Money Mo Problems" was produced by Diddy and heavily samples Diana Ross' 1980 hit "I'm Coming Out." Puff rounded up various Bad Boy Records artists to put this track together and also tapped in vocalist Kelly Price (who was left uncredited) on the hook. The lyrics of the song suggest (as does the title) that having more money only leads to more problems. The track was released posthumously and stayed at the top of the charts for two weeks. It was the rapper's second posthumous No. 1 single following "Hypnotize."
Puff produced "Hypnotize" and sampled Herb Alpert's 1979 hit "Rise." Alpert's nephew, Randy Badazz Alpert, who wrote the song with Andy Armer told HipHopHero that Biggie wrote the entire rap to "Hypnotize" including the women's vocals which Pam Long from the group Total sang. "When I first met Biggie before they recorded 'Hypnotize' he played me a demo version with him doing the girl's part. I still have that cassette demo and it's definitely a classic piece of rap history." "Hypnotize" was the first song to go No.1 after his death on March 9, 1997.
"Juicy" is not only Biggie's greatest song but one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time. In "Juicy" the BK native recalls his humble beginnings and provided inspiration to fans with his "broke to paid" narrative. The rapper who cites the lyrics of his drug-dealing past, "the building I was hustlin' in front of," decided to take Diddy's (Puffy Daddy at the time) advice and quit the life. Per XXL, just one day after he left a drug house in North Carolina, it was raided by the police. Four days before the song's release on August 9, 1994, Biggie married R&B singer Faith Evans.