This feature was originally published on July 22, 2017.
If you talk to any critic, new artist, hip hop head (young or old), or even the casual music fan, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn’t cite Biggie Smalls as among the upper echelon of music legends. It’s difficult to believe that despite his early passing and with not having left behind the sprawling discography of other greats, The Notorious B.I.G.’s influence has lasted the test of time.
Born Christopher Wallace, the young rapper achieved what current artists and musicians strive to accomplish within a lifetime in just a short 24 years. His come-up occurred at a time when getting discovered as an artist took place in a strictly offline world. There was no Twitter to track and assess his every move, no SoundCloud for him to freely upload material for others to discover, and no blogs to promote—or denounce—his easy going flow and master storytelling. Biggie made a name for himself by relying on his talent, street savviness and charisma.
Coming out hot with his debut Ready to Die in 1997, Biggie had the hip hop community’s attention. His easy-going flow, smooth persona, and instantly recognizable voice quickly captured listeners admiration.
Capitalizing on the burgeoning East Coast rap scene, B.I.G. finessed his way to the top of the charts and became a household name. A gifted MC, comedic storyteller, and revolutionary rap artist, he transcended his too-familiar upbringing and rose to claim his rightful title as King of New York.
Artists today might dream of having the success and lasting impact that Biggie has achieved, but that magic is reserved for only a special few. As time goes on, one thing is certain: Biggie will always be one of the greatest to ever do it.
May 21, 2022 would have been Biggie’s 50th birthday, and the rap world is remembering the legacy of the late New York legend. Today, we’re counting down his 50 best songs.