19. The Notorious B.I.G. "Who Shot Ya?" (1995)
Producer: Nashiem Myrick, Sean "Puffy" Combs, Poke
Label: Bad Boy
If "Juicy" is the dream, then "Who Shot Ya?" is the nightmare. As Biggie told VIBEin 1996: "[We did that] Muthafuckin' song way before Tupac got shot. It was supposed to be the intro to that shit Keith Murray was doing on Mary J. Blige's joint. But Puff said it was too hard." The story behind this record was a rap soap opera unto itself which only became more complicated recently when Poke of Trackmasters claimed in an interview with Complex that he contributed to the beat but never got the proper credit. But regardless of whether it was made with Pac in mind, or whether Poke got screwed, none of that backstory detracts from the effectiveness of the chilling instrumental.
Sounding completely unlike anything else from New York at the time, the "Who Shot Ya?" beat is sparse and understated, conjuring images of backroom dice games and hushed orders to underlings. While the foundation of the track is basically keys and drums, it's the layered chants, ad-libs, and crooning that create the atmosphere of conspiracy that made this one of Biggie's finest moments.
Related: The 50 Best Notorious B.I.G. Songs