The 30 Greatest Months in Rap History

19. March 1997

Notable Events:
- Scarface's The Untouchable is released on 3/11/1997
- The Notorious B.I.G.'s Life After Death is released on 3/25/1997

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Hip-hop's tale of two cities—New York and Los Angeles—came to a tragic conclusion in the early morning hours of March 9, 1997, when Christopher Wallace aka The Notorious B.I.G. was gunned down while sitting in an SUV shortly after leaving a Soul Train Awards after-party hosted by Vibe magazine at L.A.'s Petersen Automotive Museum. Biggie's murder at age 25 came just six months after his friend turned rival Tupac Shakur was killed in another car-to-car drive-by shooting. In the blink of an eye, hip-hop's two biggest, brightest lights were snuffed out. Biggie's funeral procession on March 19 caused unruly cathartic celebration in the streets of Brooklyn as throngs came out to pay their last respects to the assassinated King of New York. Less than a week later his double album Life After Death was unleashed on a still shell-shocked hip-hop nation.

The record Biggie hoped would cement his reputation as the best rapper alive sounded totally different knowing the virtuoso rapper heard on tracks like "Kick In The Door" and "Going Back To Cali" and "Notorious Thugs" wasn't alive anymore. Clouded by grief, it was painful to hear all those songs that referred to his "so-called beef with you-know-who"—"What's Beef" and "Long Kiss Goodnight" and "You're Nobody Till Somebody Kills You" for God's sake—not to mention the cover art featuring Biggie standing in front of a hearse. It was all too much. And at the same time, it was not nearly enough. Sixteen years later the album stands as one of the greatest in rap history.

That same month, Texas O.G. Scarface released The Untouchable, which hit stores just two days after Biggie's murder, and reached No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The lead single was called "Smile" and it opened with a posthumous verse from Tupac Shakur. "It's gon' be some stuff you gon' see/That's gon' make it hard to smile in the future," 'Pac said at the top of the track. "But through whatever you see/Through all the rain and the pain/You gotta keep your sense of humor/You gotta be able to smile through all this bullshit/Remember that-Mmm, yeah/Keep ya head up." And somehow we did. -Rob Kenner

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