Eighteen years ago today rapper Notorious B.I.G. (real name: Christopher Wallace) was shot to death. One of the key figures in an East-West feud in hip-hop, Biggie was behind enemy lines, riding shotgun in a black Suburban, after he’d just performed at the Soul Train Music Awards in the Miracle Mile section of Los Angeles. At the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire, his Suburban was ambushed. In a spray of gunfire, Biggie was murdered. Many believe it was a highly-organized professional hit that involved members of the LAPD. The case remains an “open investigation.”
The sudden and surprise passing of the self-proclaimed “Black Rhinoceros of Rap” tore a hole in the heart of hip-hop that can never be filled. To remember his genius, to celebrate his legacy, and just to have an excuse to bump some Biggie, here’s a round-up of essential videos, links to mix-tapes, and a few historic recordings. #RIPBiggie
1. “FREESTYLE LIVE AT MISTER CEE’S CRIB”
Some of Biggies earliest recordings and his first demos were thanks to hip-hop legend Mister Cee. Here’s a link to one of his cuts, “Freestyle Live at Mister Cee’s Crib” (off Mister Cee’s The Best of Notorious B.I.G.)
2. “KICK IN THE DOOR”
From “Life After Death,” the album that was released just 16 days after his death, we have this song, “Kick in the Door” and it may be one of the swampiest things to ever come out of Brooklyn. It gave the world this legendary couplet:
“Kick in the door
wavin’ the four-four
all you heard was
Poppa don’t hit me no more”
3. “THE BEST OF BIGGIE”
From passionweiss.com, which is one of the best hip-hop blogs you can check online, we have these two deep cut collections, “Mister Cee-Best of Biggie (Left-Click),” and “Mister Cee-Best of Biggie (10th Anniversary Edition)”.
This was the first single from his debut album “Ready to Die.” Hearing that unmistakably distinctive voice shout out Robin Leach, The Source, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and his old red and black lumberjack–this was the track that introduced most hip-hop heads to Biggie.
5. “FLAVA IN YA EAR” But if you were down with real hip-hop (and you were alive and listening to rap in 1993) you first heard Biggie on “Flava In Ya Ear” from Craig Mack. Mack was originally slated to be the breakout star of Bad Boy records. Puff Daddy (as he was known at the time) imagined Mack would be the one to put his new label on the map. Instead, it was the unknown big man with the first verse on the remix, he became the face of Bad Boy Records.
6. “WHERE BROOKLYN AT?… “FEAT. BIGGIE AND TUPAC SHAKUR
On this live vid, you see the raw appeal of Biggie–spitting memorable rhymes as a violent poetry delivered in his inimitable cadence. For a bonus treat, watch Biggie and Tupac share a stage. It’s kinda like a huge holy shit moment in hip-hop: the two “greatest of all tied” performing live together!
Back in 1997, the music industry had money. They had never heard of Napster. The Internet was still something only hardcore geeks messed with. Enter two brothas on a really big fucking boat. Shot a month before his murder, Biggie’s last video was a hip-hop music mini-movie called “Hypnotize.” It’s something we’ll likely never see again. The paranoid thriller looks like Michael Bay and Tony Scott co-directed a rap video. The song went to number 1 after Biggie had died.
8. “DEAD WRONG”
When Eminem was first coming up he got a spot on this track. He established himself as a truly worthy emcee when he was featured with the big man, on this banger from Biggie’s second posthumous release “Born Again.”
9. RHYMING WITH SHAQ DIESEL (…LOL)
Proof that the BK gangster rapper and former crack dealer had a sense of fun with himself, here he is with Shaq on a track called “You Can’t Stop The Reign.” You have to have a sense of humor if your verse follows lines like:
“In the daytime you couldn’t see me with a flashlight…”
(We still don’t know which after-basketball career was funnier: Shaq rapping …or Michael Jordan the minor league baseball player.)
10. “BIG POPPA”
Finally, let’s remember Biggie Smalls the way he saw himself …and how we’ll always love him.
“I love it when you call me Big Poppa”