Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. Biggie Smalls, a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G., a.k.a. Big Poppa, arguably one of the greatest hip-hop lyricists of all-time, would have celebrated his 40th birthday today. Biggie’s timing and lyrical ability paved the way for countless other rappers behind him, but the magnitude of his legacy left little room at the top.
B.I.G. classics can be heard everywhere from housing projects to suburban gated communities. Wallace’s ability to transcend time and not just a genre but the entire hip-hop community is a somber reminder of the larger-than-life talent lost in 1997.
In honor of the G.O.A.T., we’ve brought back the Top 5 B.I.G. Essentials that every hip-hop fan should have in their collection (as if 5 selections were enough)
The perpetual house party classic. I’d be surprised to find more than 10 people on the face of the planet that don’t spout off the first two lines every time this track plays.
“Who Shot Ya?”
Many consider this track to have accentuated the growing rift between Biggie and rival Tupac Shakur in the mid-90′s. Wallace famously and fearlessly performed the song in Chicago in 1995, attempting to silence speculators that assumed Biggie was taking responsibility for the recent armed robbery of Shakur. Biggie took to Vibe Magazine to shut down the rumors, stating “I wrote that muthafuckin’ song way before Tupac got shot.”
My personal favorite. No other rapper has more skillfully described the preferred clothing tastes of women around the U.S. From NYC to Miami, D.C. to Philly, ladies love Biggie’s flashy ways. Guess that’s why everyone else is broke and he’s so paid.
“Ready to Die”
Wallace explores the darker side of his tormented mind in this back alley, late night classic. Featuring some of his most famed bars and couplets, Biggie is tragically prophetic about his untimely death at the age of 27.
“Brooklyn’s Finest” (technically Jay-Z)
Although this track is from Jay-Z’s debut album “Reasonable Doubt,” it’s hard to overshadow B.I.G., even on your own song. Jay and Big trade shots over a few furious verses, establishing Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn as the stomping ground of hip-hop royalty. A must-have for any fan of either MC.
And if you don’t know, now you know.