Biggie Smalls, also known as The Notorious B.I.G, was one of the most well-known and respected rappers of the 1990s. Raised by his Jamaican mother in the Clinton Hills area of Brooklyn, Biggie Smalls (real name Christopher Wallace) was signed by Diddy to Bad Boy Entertainment at the age of 21 and was the label’s top artist.
When talking about Bad Boy Entertainment, one immediately begins to think of the infamous East Coast vs West Coast feud that plagued hip-hop during the ’90s. As much as it may have entertained the culture, for those involved and on the fringes, it was an amalgamation of bloodshed and pure horror that ultimately ended with real deaths.
With Death Row Records on the West Coast and Bad Boy Entertainment on the East Coast. Both companies had their own stars, with 2pac signed to Death Row and The Notorious B.I.G signed to Bad Boy. In a perverse way, the feud actually fuelled sales, and by the end of the ’90s, Biggie Smalls was the highest-grossing hip-hop artist of the decade.
Biggie was a prolific writer, and upon his signing to Bad Boy Entertainment and writing his own material, Wallace began writing for his label mates, including Lil’ Kim, Ma$e and Craig Mack. In his short span as a recording artist, Biggie made two studio albums and two compilation albums with Junior Mafia. Three posthumous albums were released later in the ’90s.
Below, including posthumous albums that feature his unreleased material, we are going to rank his albums from worst to best.
Biggie Smalls’ albums from worst to best:
5. Born Again, (1999)
Biggie’s first posthumous album, released by Bad Boy Records in 1999, Born Again, mostly consists of Wallace’s early rap verses but put over different beats in an attempt to perhaps give them more life. However, released only two years after his death, some would say the release was a bit untimely and, perhaps, a little bit tasteless.
It is always interesting to hear unreleased material. However, previously heard material just thrown over something different and wrapped up as if it is something new is quite deceitful and tacky, especially considering it involves a deceased individual. Not the best by a long stretch.
4. Duets: The Final Chapter, (2005)
Actually not a terrible album. Released in 2005, it did spawn a hip hop classic, ‘Nasty Girl’; this album saw features from all of the most popular hip hop artists of the early noughties and was certified platinum. The album even reached number three on the Billboard 200.
However, many posed the question, what’s the point of making a posthumous album in tribute to Notorious B.I.G only to have him overshadowed by all the popular artists? The album seems to feature everyone from Fat Joe and Snoop to Akon and Missy Elliott. Regardless it is still a good listen.
3. Conspiracy, (1995)
Executively produced by the rapper along with Lance ‘Un’ Rivera, Conspiracy was the debut album of Biggie Smalls crew Junior M.A.F.I.A; he featured heavily on the album and wrote the majority of the album. The project did quite well commercially and debuted at number eight on the Billboard 200.
The album’s third single, ‘Get Money’, featured B.I.G, Lil’ Kim, and Lil’ Cease and was certified platinum upon release. Furthermore, it also had an accompanying remix produced by Diddy, which became very popular. The album overall is deserving of number three.
2. Life After Death, (1997)
Despite the fact it’s the rapper’s best-selling album, many believe Wallace’s murder earlier that year, in conjunction with the album’s emotionally provocative title, caused its sales to surpass Biggie’s previous album. Life After Death is now a Diamond certified record and is on its way to becoming 12x platinum.
The project boasts multiple hits, including ‘Hypnotize’, ‘Mo Money More Problems’ and ‘Sky’s The Limit’. It is every East Coast rapper’s favourite album. Speaking to Q Magazine about the record, the legendary Busta Rhymes even revealed he loved it, declaring, “It sounded for the first time like an East Coast artist had been able to make the perfect record. It was a pop record, a radio record, a street record, and a club record. It embodied every type of song that a hip-hop artist could make – would wish to make, would try to make – in one project. His death magnified the meaning, but ultimately the finished product was super-substantial.”
1. Ready To Die, (1994)
Released right in the middle of the East Coast vs West Coast feud, Ready To Die is a classic and undoubtedly Biggie’s best album. Recorded at The Hit Factory and D&D Studios in New York, Ready To Die is the ultimate East Coast rap record. Aside from the fact that it features a couple of G-funk-inspired records, the album exemplifies what a New York hip hop record should sound like.
With the album’s lead single, ‘Juicy’, widely considered to be one of the greatest hip hop songs of all time, the album also boasts hits such as ‘Big Poppa’ which debuted at number six on the Billboard Hot 100 with the remix for ‘One More Chance’ peaking at number two on the charts. It is undoubtedly one of the scene’s best albums ever and has one of the most striking album covers of any rap album.