It’s been 20 years since The Notorious B.I.G., whose real name was Christopher Wallace, was gunned down in Los Angeles.
He was shot four times in a drive-by-shooting March 9, 1997 and died about one hour later. The shooter was never found.
When he was murdered, Wallace, who went under the name Biggie Smalls early in his career, was in the midst of a huge rise in the music industry after releasing many top-selling — and charting — albums. He started rapping as a teen on the streets of Brooklyn and soon enough came out with a demo tape. The tape was heard by producer Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, who signed Biggie to his newly-formed label, Bad Boy Records. Soon enough, Biggie found his groove.
He appeared on a number of songs that charted on the Billboard Hot 100 list with artists like Mary J. Blige, LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes. Then, he released his first solo release, titled Ready to Die, in 1994. The album was critically acclaimed and charted as high as No. 15 on Billboard‘s 200 list and No. 3 on its Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums list. Biggie, as part of the group Junior M.A.F.I.A., also released an album called Conspiracy in 1995. The record continued on Biggie’s upward trend in the industry and sold over 500,000 records, becoming certified gold.
Biggie’s last studio album was titled Life After Death, and was released posthumously about two weeks after his death. The album received huge praise and was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and eventually was certified diamond, selling over 10 million copies.
Two more studio albums were released posthumously, titled Born Again (1999) and Duets: The Final Chapter (2005).
In February 2017, Biggie’s widow, Faith Evans, announced that another duet album is slated to be released May 19. It’s said to feature many unheard recordings of Biggie along with collaborations with other notable artists.
In honor of the 20-year anniversary of his death, here are some of The Notorious B.I.G.’s top songs to listen to:
‘Big Poppa’ Off of Ready to Die
The song was nominated for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 1996 Gramy Awards and won an award at the Billboard Music Awards. The single from the album reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard‘s Hot Rap Singles list in 1995 and was certified platinum after selling 800,000 copies in the United States.
‘Get Money’ By Junior M.A.F.I.A. on Conspiracy
The song, which was released in 1995, was the last single released on Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s debut album. It peaked at No. 17 on Billboard‘s 100 list and sold 500,000 copies, becoming certified platinum.
‘Juicy’ Off Of Ready to Die
The song was Biggie’s debut single and is widely considered one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time. It had no problem reaching the No. 1 position on Billboard‘s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Rap Singles lists.
‘Mo Money, Mo Problems’ Off of Life After Death
The song, which featured Puff Daddy and Mase, was released posthumously and topped Billboard‘s Hot 100 list for two weeks in 1997. It was nominated for a Grammy in 1998 for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
‘Hypnotize’ Off Of Life After Death
The single was the first released off the posthumous album in 1997 and also was the last one officially released before his unexpected death. The song debuted at No. 2 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 list and then hit No. 1 a few weeks later. It was nominated for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 1998 Grammy Awards.
‘Suicidal Thoughts’ off of Ready To Die
The track is the last one on his debut album and is about Biggie contemplating committing suicide. It ends with the rapper committing suicide, ending the album on a heartbreaking note.
‘Who Shot Ya?’ Off Of Ready to Die
The song was intended to be on Mary J. Blige’s album My life, but was deemed too violent to be one of the songs on the record. Biggie was asked to record his own version instead. When it hit the airwaves, Tupac Shakur and his fans thought the song was implied to be a diss against the West Coast legend. The song was released just two weeks after Tupac was involved in a robbery and shooting in New York. It added gasoline to the already-started feud between East Coast and West Coast hip-hop fans and artists.
‘Sky’s The Limit’ Off Of Life After Death
The song was the third single off of the album in 1997 and was certified gold one year later. Upon its release, the song charted at No. 1 on Billboard‘s Hot Rap Singles chart.