It’s been 15 years since the Notorious B.I.G. was killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. While there are plenty of unanswered questions in the still-unsolved homicide, one thing that can’t be questioned is Biggie’s game-changing contributions to rap music.
With only two albums of studio material under his belt (“Life After Death,” while released posthumously, was completed before his death), the man born Christopher Wallace made himself an incredible force in the genre and helped put the East Coast sound on the map at a time when west coast gangster rap was at its prime.
He exposed the underworld that came with slinging drugs on the streets of Brooklyn, using his ability to craft stories with witty wordplay and braggadocious swagger.
He used his delivery as something of a secret weapon, crafting lyrics that had the ability to creep up on the listener from behind. Pair this with the production work of Sean “Diddy” Combs, who pulled up soul samples to enhance the timelessness of Biggie’s voice, and his songs had a classic feel on arrival. Songs such as “Juicy,” “Warning,” “One More Chance” and “Hypnotize,” the latter two being his biggest singles on pop radio during his lifetime, easily stand as some of the more memorable moments in rap. Seriously, try to listen to the opening bars of “Hypnotize” without bobbing your head.
“Hah, sicker than your average Poppa / Twist cabbage off instinct … don’t think … stink / pink gators, my Detroit players / Timbs for my hooligans in Brooklyn / Dead right, if they head right, Biggie there every night / Poppa been smooth since days of Underroos.” — “Hypnotize”
Biggie didn’t leave behind a wealth of vaulted works. Unlike peer and rival Tupac Shakur, there have been only two traditional posthumous releases, with one serving as a duet/remix album. Wallace, in fact, was just getting started when he was killed at the young age of 24.
Friday marks the 15th anniversary of his death; at the end of the month, his critically acclaimed album, “Life After Death,” will also reach its 15-year mark.
There will never be another Notorious BIG, no comparisons. Some say his quality of work is better than his late rival, 2pac’s quantity of work.