Charismatic and very complex. Christopher Wallace, best known as the Notorious B.I.G., had a knack for providing a vibe. Lyrically, his storytelling took you through the streets (“Gimme The Loot”), made a pit stop at the dope house to drop knowledge (“Ten Crack Commandments”), and then back with his boys to brag about his wild sexual excursions (“I Got A Story To Tell”).
He was a character and witty with the wordplay. But, there was also a contemplative thinker inside the heavy emcee. Tracks ranging from the dark “Suicidal Thoughts” and “Everyday Struggle” to the rejoicing messages within “Juicy” and “Sky’s The Limit” expressed BIG’s two worlds – the rap persona (public image) and the dreamer with aspirations to get rich and then fall back to take care of his children and live a low-key lifestyle (private life).
Sadly, we lost BIG 20 years ago on this day at the age of 24. Hip-hop culture was shook and the love mixed with emotional tears poured out on the streets of Brooklyn to mourn and honor the loss of a cultural giant.
The foundation of his imprint on the culture was marked by two albums: 1994’s debut Ready to Die – a storyteller’s navigation through the hustler life and 1997’s Life After Death – a delivery that strayed from the intricate lyricism and street mentality to embrace a lighter sound and more optimistic outlook on life, producing charting singles, “Hypnotize”, “Going Back to Cali” and “Mo Money Mo Problems.”
It was evident that Biggie Smalls was mentally elevating and wanted his music to reflect the growth.
Despite his short-lived success, the legacy remains through imagery, culture and of course the music – his and that of artists who were influenced by his lyrics, skilled storytelling and production.
Below, we share a few of Biggie’s Notorious contributions to the rap game. *NSFW
Watch The Throne: N—-s in Paris
Jay Z and Kanye sampled “Victory” off of 1997’s No Way Out Bad Boy compilation album.
Listen – 1:31 mark
Sample = :43 mark.
Mos Def: Black On Both Sides
The skilled rhymer kicks his ‘Brooklyn’ freestyle over Big’s “Who Shot Ya” beat.
Listen = :06
Sample = 4:13
Drake: Nothing Was The Same
Champagne Papi gained inspo from Big’s “Mo Money Mo Problems” when he dropped “Worst Behavior”.
J.Cole: Born Sinner
The North Carolina-bred lyricist flossed his hip-hop knowledge and rapid flow on “N—-z Know” with a sample from the classic Biggie and Bone Thugs collaboration, “Notorious Thugs.”
Listen = 1:19 and 1:35
Kanye West – College Dropout
Yeezy brought along the homies Talib Kweli and Common for 2004’s Get Him High off his debut album. The collaborative track featured a few cadences from Big’s telephone conversation flow, “Warning”.
Listen = :16
Sample = 1:38
Forever and ever, “we’ll always love Big Poppa.”
LaToya “Toi” Cross is the Senior Editor of Entertainment and Culture for EBONY’s Print and Digital brand. You can catch this laughing creative sharing work, art and capturing life on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.