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The 50 Best Notorious B.I.G. Songs

On the 25th anniversary of the legendary rapper’s tragic death, we honour his incredible musical legacy by counting down his 50 best songs.

Chris Walter/WireImage; Clarence Davis/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images; Larry Busacca/WireImage

When Christopher George Latore Wallace was fatally shot at a Los Angeles traffic light on March 9, 1997, he was 24 years old and had released one album. But his stature at the time was towering, due both to his peerless artistic gifts and the desperately competitive atmosphere within hip-hop, viewed either rightly or wrongly as one of the few career dreams for Black kids boxed in by poverty, mass incarceration, racist drug policy, and corrupt, violent policing. That stature has only grown in the 25 years since. If the Notorious B.I.G. isn’t the greatest rapper ever (he is), then he’s the most respected. His narrative mastery, linguistic joy, dizzyingly rhythmic flows, emotional depth, and wry wisdom have never been equaled. Here’s why Biggie Smalls is still the illest.

From Rolling Stone US

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‘Flava in Ya Ear (Remix)’ Craig Mack feat. the Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, and Rampage (1994)

An ineffable moment when the attitude, the sound, the movement, the art, the fashion, the business, and the whole damn sociocultural engine of New York City went skrrrrrrrp. It started with the snare-crackin’, siren-swirling, funky-earth mover beat — produced by Easy Mo Bee on a SP-1200 sampler that he played like an eight-key grand piano. Apparently, Biggie thought Mack was, let’s say, “basic,” as an MC, especially beside three eventual G.O.A.T.s (plus Rampage). At the time, 22-year-old Biggie only had a single and a few features, but his opening verse set off car alarms around the world: “You’re mad ’cause my style you’re admiring/Don’t be mad, UPS is hiring.” —C.A.

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‘Juicy’ (1994)

“It was all a dream…” goes one of the most famous opening verses in history. “Juicy” was full of layers both prominent and subtle: It not only epitomized the Notorious B.I.G.’s evolution from street hustler to successful musician, but also symbolized how the East Coast rap establishment learned to adapt to shifting pop tastes and a then-omnipresent G-funk sound. Co-produced by Poke of the Trackmasters and Puffy, it’s a stark departure from the dusty boom-bap sound New York rap was known for and boasted a smoothly harmonized chorus from soon-to-be famous girl group Total. In his book Decoded, Jay-Z explained how Biggie’s ad-lib about being arrested simply for “trying to feed my daughter” held deep meaning. “I loved that he described what a lot of hustlers were going through in the streets — dissed and feared by teachers and parents and neighbors and cops, broke, working a corner to try to get some bread for basic shit — as more than some glamorous alternative to having a real job,” wrote Jay. “He elevated it to ‘the struggle.’ ” —M.R.