Hip-hop has seen many unfortunate early demises. From 2pac to Big L and J Dilla, many of the genre’s most extraordinary talents never had the opportunity to fulfil their great potential. However, when such geniuses are taken, much of their rap music is bought and streamed in honour of their cultural contribution.
Posthumous releases are standard across all genres. However, hip-hop has placed an immense amount of significance on these kinds of projects due to the high rates of fatalities we see when provocative, gang-affiliated MCs achieve fame.
Furthermore, with an opioid crisis plaguing the US, unfathomable amounts of musicians are overdosing on drugs such as Oxycontin and Fentanyl. From Mac Miller to Juice Wrld and Lil Peep, the list grows ever longer, and posthumous projects remain hugely important when preserving legacies.
Posthumous albums commonly rise to number one following an artist’s untimely demise. Juice Wrld’s 2020 project, Legends Never Die, debuted at number one in the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, and even Ireland upon its release. The same occurred for Pop SMoke’s 2021 project Faith.
Many posthumous songs have also shot to the top of the charts. In 2004, the posthumous 2Pac album Loyal to the Game produced an anthem in ‘Ghetto Gospel’ featuring Elton John, which topped the UK Singles Chart for three weeks. Following XXXTentacion’s death on June 18th, 2018, his single ‘Sad!’ topped the Billboard Hot 100.
However, there are a few posthumous tracks released before the turn of the millennium that clinched the top spot. Although Harlem lyricist Big L was a popular figure, he didn’t have enough material in the vault for a number-one single following his death in 1999. The same can be said for Lost Boyz member Freaky Tah.
Fortunately, there was one legend who had a wealth of material in the vault following his death, which was posthumously released to the top of the charts. In 1997, Brooklyn legend Biggie Smalls was murdered in Los Angeles.
However, his posthumous album Life After Death produced two number-one hits. The iconic song ‘Hypnotize’ rocketed up the Hot 100 and became the first-ever posthumous rap single to top the charts. Following this, his track alongside Diddy and Mase ‘Mo Money Mo Problems’ also landed in the top spot.
You can hear ‘Hypnotize’ below.