The Notorious B.I.G.
Biggie Smalls aka The Notorious B.I.G. prophesied his short, but impactful career with his albums Ready to Die and Life After Death - two of hip-hop's most influential albums
Biggie Smalls – aka The Notorious B.I.G. – is celebrated as the greatest of his generation. Born Christopher Wallace in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, he earned the nickname “Big” as a teenager. His versatile rapping style - laid-back yet hard, complex yet relatable - drew the attention of Sean “Puffy” Combs and Puffy’s new label, Bad Boy records. In 1993, Biggie’s debut single – the raucous “Party and Bullshit” – proved he was a star in the making, and quickly made him the focal point of Bad Boy.
1994 saw the release of Ready to Die, which included signature classics “Juicy” and “Big Poppa” and fan favorites “Warning” and “Gimme the Loot.” Biggie’s music ranged from smooth R&B samples to hard-hitting beats, and his autobiographical approach to storytelling transported you into his life. The music complemented Biggie’s high-end, Versace-laced fashion sense to make him a superstar: the East Coast’s answer to Dr. Dre and Tupac. By 1995, he was the top-selling solo male artist on the rap, R&B and pop charts – all without compromising his art or his street cred.
In March 1997, Biggie was shot and killed at the age of 24, devastating the music community. Two weeks later, his final completed album Life After Death was released. A double-record with equal parts ambition and paranoia, it debuted at number one and included chart-toppers “Hypnotize” and “Mo Money Mo Problems” – making Biggie the first artist to earn multiple posthumous number ones. The world continues to hear Biggie’s voice through posthumous releases and the critically acclaimed biopic Notorious.
Biggie’s legacy finds him among the top of “Best Rapper” lists: he’s a direct influence on artists like Jay-Z, Eminem, and Nicki Minaj, and his lyrics have been quoted by Alicia Keys, Michael Jackson, and Usher. His 1997 public funeral turned grief into celebration when a fan blasted his #1 hit “Hypnotize” and set off an impromptu block party. Even in death, Biggie’s music exudes life.
“Party and Bullshit” (1993) • “Flava in Ya Ear” (Remix) (1994) • “Juicy,” “Big Poppa,” “Warning,” Ready to Die (1994) • “Player’s Anthem” (1995) • “Hypnotize,” “Mo Money Mo Problems,” “Notorious Thugs” Life After Death (1997) • “Notorious B.I.G.” Born Again (1999) • “Runnin’ (Dying to Live)” (2003) • “Nasty Girl” Duets: The Final Chapter (2005)