If Ya Don’t Know, Now Ya Know: Notorious B.I.G.’s Final Album ‘Life After Death’ Defined An Era

Birthed out of Bad Boy Records in 1997, which was still in its infancy at the time, Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death was poised to be a breakout album from the rapper, that would continue to push forward Puff Daddy’s dream of getting big and changing an otherwise saturated industry.

READ: Family And Friends Of The Notorious B.I.G Celebrate His Legacy At Brooklyn Nets’ “Biggie Night”

While the album would serve as the follow-up to his 1994 project, Ready to Die, unbeknownst to just about everyone, it would also serve as a eulogy for his death. Even so, the album’s crisp, club-friendly beats on singles like “Hypnotize” and its striking storytelling on “You’re Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You),” made it a classic and turned Biggie into one of the greatest to ever do it.

The album was released on a somber note, rolling out two weeks after the late rapper was killed leaving a VIBE party in Los Angeles. But those who worked closely with him on the album remember the early stages of its creation and Biggie’s star power with fondness.

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Notorious B.I.G’s Life After Death album (March 25), hear stories from some of the producers who worked, created, and partied with Biggie, and how they defined an era of hip-hop.

The Producers

Steven “Stevie J” Jordan (“Mo Money Mo Problems,” “Notorious Thugs,” “Another”)
Nashiem Myrick (“Somebody’s Gotta Die,” “What’s Beef”)
DJ Clark Kent (“Sky’s The Limit”)
Easy Mo Bee (“I Love The Dough,” “Going Back To Cali”)
DJ Premier (“Ten Crack Commandments”)

READ: Watch: VIBE, SPIN & Billboard Editors Talk All Things Notorious B.I.G.

Meet the B.I.G. Crew: How They Got Started

Stevie J.: I grew up around music. My dad had a gospel group called the Jordan Gospel Singers. I used to listen to them sing and play music all the time. They used to have instruments sitting around after rehearsals, so I got in the mood of playing drums at seven years old. [My dad] gave me some pots and pans and said, ‘Once you beat a hole in these, I’ll give you some drums.’ Two months later, I had a hole in them joints. That inspired me to then pick up the guitar and the bass, the piano, trumpet, saxophone and xylophone. Then when I met this group by the name of Joe Public, they showed me how to make a complete song. From then on, I met Jodeci and after, I met Puffy and it was all history.

Nashiem Myrick: My father was a DJ and he introduced me to the turntables and music. I was in a group with a fella by the name of Harve Pierre, who works at Bad Boy still, and David Abraham. We were under Empire Management and signed to Payday Records. That’s my only experience with the music industry before Bad Boy because we got dropped on my birthday in 1991. My friend Harve was friends with Puff, so once Puff did the transition from Howard [University] to Uptown and then to his own label, [Harve] followed and brought me along.

DJ Clark Kent: I’ve been a DJ since nine, producer since 21. I’ve been a record company executive since 24. I’ve travelled the world as a DJ, as Dana Dane’s DJ, Rakim’s DJ, Biggie’s, Puff’s and Jay Z’s DJ. I make records. I have fun. I loved music since I can remember.

Easy Mo Bee: I grew up in Brooklyn in the housing projects of Lafayette Gardens. I had a father from the South, who’d always bring a lot of gospel, blues, soul and funk around. That’s where I got the love of music from. Besides him being the one who originally introduced me to music, I watched hip-hop begin to take place right in the back park in those projects. That’s where I caught the bug, watching those block parties with the DJs and turntables, and that’s how I became a DJ at 12 years old. After DJ-ing, I made the natural evolution from playing records to wanting to make them. I didn’t know what they called it. I just knew sooner or later I wanted to do that.

DJ Premier: I’m originally from Houston, Texas and I used to work at a record store in Houston called Soundwaves Records and Tapes. The guy that got me the job heard my demo with the group I was originally with when I was going to college. My main MC and I cut newer demos, and impressed Wild Pitch Records with something new, but it didn’t pan out. So my MC got to the point of frustration where he said he was going to join the military and [eventually] joined. That’s when I told Guru [original member of Gang Starr] that I’m down to join Gang Starr because now I’m without my MC. Next thing you know, I joined the group. The other members were from Boston and didn’t want to go to New York. I was brought into the group as the third generation of Gang Starr. There used to be Guru and Damo D-Ski. Prior to that, it was Big Sug and Guru and Swav D. Sug was incarcerated, so since he was gone, that’s how I ended up in the group and carried it on from there. The rest is history.

READ: Everyday Struggle: 9 Songs That Showcase The Notorious B.I.G’s Strength & Vulnerability As A Black Man

First Impressions: ‘You Know You Just Said F**k Your Mom?’

Stevie J: It was rare for an artist to just go in the booth without a pen and a pad. He would go in with nothing but a story in his head. It just blew my mind that an artist could write a phenomenal rhyme with just an imagination. He was one of the best artists to work with, not to mention that tone and his gifts to be the most fun and funny guy ever.

Easy Mo Bee: I hadn’t really worked with stuff too rough of a texture. I think about the roughest thing I had worked with was a remix for Freddy Foxxx a.k.a. Bumpy Knuckles. I started working with Biggie [on Ready to Die] and he said, ‘F**k the world. F**k my moms. F**k my girl. My life is played out like a jheri curl. I’m ready to die.’ He came out of the booth, and I said, ‘Yo, you know you just said f**k your mom?’ He said, ‘Yeah, yeah. This how I’m feeling. Not literally f**k my moms. But it’s hard out here. I’m going through a lot.’ But the more we worked together, the closer we got. He said, ‘Yo Mo, my mom got cancer on her breast. I got a baby on the way, and Puff talking about this music. I hope this sh*t is going to work out.’ He was optimistic about it and hopeful, but he still wasn’t really sure what was going to happen. I grew to understand him more, and from there, it made it easier for us to work together.

DJ Clark Kent: Nothing was hard. Nothing was a fight; nothing was confusing. There wasn’t anything that he was a hard a** about. If you could make him understand it, he would say, ‘Alright.’ It wasn’t no, ‘let me explain why you have to do this.’ It was, ‘This why we got to do it.’ He was the easiest artist I’ve ever worked with on any level. Even when I could tell there were things he didn’t want to do, if I could give him a clean, easy explanation, he was cool. He was the artist that if he respected you, he trusted you. That’s the reason why somebody like Puff could make a decision on “Juicy,” because he trusted him.

DJ Premier: Biggie used to be on the corner of Fourth and Washington Ave and I lived at this brownstone right down on Washington, in between Lafayette and Green. You had to go to the corner where B.I.G. was posted to go to the corner store for food, weed and our 40 oz. It just became normal to see each other posted on the block. I never had a chance to listen to his demo. When I finally heard it, I liked his attitude and his delivery, and the wit of how he constructed his rhymes. It matched the way he looked when you finally saw him, like, ‘Wow, you look like just what I heard on the tape.’

Live From The Studio

Nashiem Myrick: For the most part, me and B.I.G. had a kinetic relationship because I used to always give him my material and he would love it. Working with B.I.G. was natural. [We] would understand each other, as far as music was concerned. I’d sit in with B.I.G. on his sessions when everybody would leave and go out to a club. He’d bounce things off of me in the booth like, ‘Nash, how that sound?’ I’m like, wow, this guy is asking me to direct him. That’s the relationship we had. We had one big disagreement. He used to bring this one chick from around his way to the studio. I know they was involved at one time, but I don’t know if they was involved then. She was just a cool, beautiful chick. She would always come and pay me some attention when she came to the studio. So what happened was, B.I.G. married Faith [Evans], and then after the “Big Poppa” video, [the chick] came at me and told me the truth: ‘I like you. I always liked you.’ I knew this was going on! So me and her started dating, and she got pregnant by me. B.I.G. took offense, then me and him didn’t speak for like six months and we were working together! Imagine being in the studio with someone and he’s not talking to you, but we still have to produce songs together. It was crazy to me. One day, we had a party in Queens and B.I.G. stepped to me and we aired it out.

Stevie J: The relationship that me and B.I.G. had in the studio is, he trusted me with me being a musician and producer, to do what I do, and I trusted him as a phenomenal MC and storyteller that he was, to do him. It was never no, ‘Try and do it like this.’ He knew what it was. He knew what he wanted the outcome to sound like. So it was never a discrepancy in the studio with me and him. Nine times out of ten, all the beats I played him, he liked them all. B.I.G. would come in the studio with his Jarell Branson and his Don Perignon, his Malibu, cranberry pineapple juice, and might be some Remy there. He would be there with all the boys, they’d be talking while he’s writing, and by the time B.I.G. was ready to go in the booth, all the n***as was sleep. It would be  2 a.m., but you’d hear some of the stories that all the dudes was telling in the rhymes. So how could B.I.G. listen to every single thing in the room and put it all together? I mean phenomenal! That’s storytelling at its best.

Easy Mo Bee: B.I.G., Junior Mafia and Lil Cease used to be in the studio like, ‘Mo, just chill man. You sensitive!’ They used that word ‘sensitive.’ I’m from the projects in Brooklyn, and they just called me sensitive. Are you calling me soft? It got to the point that I stopped trying to talk to B.I.G. One time I went to Puffy and said, ‘Listen man, I’m telling you, you better be careful and think about some of the things he’s saying. If you ain’t too careful, you might have women’s rights organizations pulling your album off the shelf and all kinds of sh*t.’ He said, ‘Everything’s going to be alright. Just chill.’ Seriously though, I think the roughest thing that had come out of New York before Biggie was when Coogie Rap made that album Live and Let Die. Typically back then, that was the roughest thing that ever came out of New York. The West Coast was “ganstering” it up. We wasn’t really doing that yet. So the kind of lyrics he was kicking, I was just concerned about them. That’s all.

DJ Premier: It was just a regular studio situation. In hip-hop, you always got your crew there. Everybody’s smoking weed, drinking, talking sh*t. You always got girls in the room. Girls always want to be around rappers, especially in the 90s because we were really young, rock n’ roll stars in our culture and money was coming in. We didn’t have billions, but a couple hundred thousands was like being a millionaire back in the day. It was just like a frat party.

READ: Hip-Hop Fans Share Their Favorite Biggie Smalls Lyrics 20 Years After His Death

Disc Notes: Mixing and Mastering

“Somebody’s Gotta Die”

Nashiem Myrick: That’s the first track he had for Life After Death. I gave him that during the finishing of Ready to Die, right after I gave him “Who Shot Ya.” It wasn’t even for Life After Death because he didn’t even make that up yet. It was a year before we even started the album. He was working on it gradually. He’d let me hear a verse here, a line there. And then after he finished, I heard the whole story, and put all the sound effects in it. B.I.G. is just a great storyteller, and that was a signature on the album. It bridged the Ready to Die with Life After Death. The last track of Ready to Die, “Suicidal Thoughts,” goes right in “Somebody Gotta Die.” It’s the perfect blend. The way it’s constructed was fairly new because we had a lyricist like B.I.G., who was painting you such a picture, that we could add elements in it. If you listen to that song, it’s like a movie on wax. You hear all the sound effects, the backgrounds, the rain, people walking, the door shutting, and it goes right along where you can actually picture the song in your head as a movie. No one was doing that at all… We took a lot of things out of a lot of songs because I probably overloaded them too much, but we had time to really sit down and just master that album correctly. I finished “Somebody Gotta Die” after B.I.G. died. He didn’t hear the finished version.

“I Love the Dough”

Easy Mo Bee: It was kind of difficult picking the tracks because we had just finished doing Ready to Die. When it came time to submit tracks for [Life After Death], I’m submitting Ready to Die texture. Puff said, ‘No, we already did that. This time I want it to be more radio, more club.’ He said, ‘ We going to touch on that, but I already got them records from other people.’ I remember during the Ready to Die album, I had made a beat tape. At the end of the beat tape, I put “I Love You More” by Rene and Angela on there. I didn’t make a beat with it; I just knew it was a cool idea. Puff listened to the whole tape. I said to him that [the song] might be a good idea for B.I.G. to use, and he said, ‘Nah.’ So on the second album, when I submitted all these Ready to Die rough texture songs, and he’s like we want something more radio, club, I said, ‘Puff remember that “I Love You More?” What about that?’ His exact words were: ‘Well, hook it up.’ I went back home and hooked the beat up, drummed it up, added some keys, rounded it out, and I brought it back. We took that into the studio and I remember setting up the tracking session at Daddy’s House, but they were just beats. They didn’t have the lyrics. I remember Biggie came in, him and Jay Z, talking and stuff. Then after a while, they started to write in their heads and pace and mumble to themselves. They did that for a while and then B.I.G. told me: ‘Yo Mo, me and Jigga going to step out.’ That was the last time I ever saw him. I waited from that afternoon time to about two or three in the morning and he still hadn’t come back. I had another meeting the next day and I remember telling [Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie] I had to leave so I could get up in the morning. I never got a call about that next session.

“What’s Beef?”

Nashiem Myrick: The idea came from Carlos Broady, my partner that I produced with on many joints. He actually sent the raw version to me. When I got it, I immediately gave it to Puff, along with some other tracks. The thing with that is, B.I.G. did the song and I heard the verse, but I didn’t hear the hook. That was the one thing where I said, ‘I don’t know about this one.’ Puff is looking at me like, ‘What is this guy, crazy?’ But I didn’t hear the whole song, just the first verse. I’m like, ‘Puff, I don’t know about this track. Maybe it’s not the one for B.I.G.’ So Puff brought me in the studio one night and played me the whole song. He said, ‘You still feel that way?’ When I heard it, I got it. You can’t hear that in pieces; you got to hear the whole composition. Then I’m like, wow, B.I.G. did it again! This guy can’t fail. That joint is crazy. And he explains it to you, what’s beef. A lot of people was having fake beef in the industry and that was not beef, my man. Beef is when your life is in jeopardy.

“Mo Money Mo Problems”

Stevie J: I’m in the lab in the Midi Room and Ma$e came through. Ma$e said, ‘Diddy, I want you to flip this right here. You got to freak this for me.’ They put that on, I sampled it, looped it up, put the drums on it, replayed the guitar part and added a baseline to it, and that’s that. Ma$e went in and laid his part, then B.I.G laid his. It was actually supposed to be for Ma$e and B.I.G was like, ‘I’ll trade you a song for that. Let me get that.’ That’s how B.I.G. got it. Then Kelly Price came and laid the hook. At the time, and even still today, she had that real sultry voice. Once she put that hook on there, we knew it was gone. After, Puff laid his rap, and it was a wrap.

“Notorious Thugs”

Stevie J: I’m in the Midi Room at Daddy’s House studio. I wasn’t a smoker. That wasn’t my thing; I just liked to sip a little bit. We were supposed to be going to L.A. the next day to do the track with Bone and B.I.G., but we didn’t have the track yet. We had a lot of tracks, but B.I.G said, ‘I want you to do a new track for the Bone joint. Here, smoke this.’ It was a weed blunt with liquid hash in it. He’s like, ‘It got leak leak in it.’ I’m like, ‘What is that?’ I didn’t know what it is. He said, ‘Man, just smoke that sh*t.’ So that’s the track that happened after that. The rest of it was history. We got on a private jet, went to L.A., and went in the studio with Bone and B.I.G. Puff kept playing everybody else track. B.I.G. said, ‘Man, play the track from last night.’ That’s when the room erupted. B.I.G. did a song with Bone and cloned the whole sh*t New York style! Who does that?

“Another”

Stevie J: [Lil’] Kim and him were really beefing so you hear all that stuff at the beginning where she said, ‘F**k you,’ and he said, ‘F**k you, b***h.’ They were really going back and forth at each other at that moment. That was real; it wasn’t just ad-libs. So what I did with that track, I pretty much played everything over on the sample [“Another Man” by Barbara Mason], which is what I’d do if I sampled anything. I played all the instruments over and I found the exact drum sounds from the samples and put them on that.

“Going Back to Cali”

Easy Mo Bee: That song is based upon “More Bounce to the Ounce” by Zapp. Mind you, this is the time when B.I.G. and Pac are having their difficulties. It had spilled over into a full fledged East, West war. I told my old manager, in New York at the old block parties and house parties, that joint that would always make everybody go, ‘ohhh yooo!’ is and always will be,“Love is the Message” by MFSB. That’s an anthem. So I was asked, ‘In California, what is compared to what we got in New York? What is that anthem out there at the house parties.’ With no hesitation he said, ‘Man, “More Bounce.”’ So I hooked up the “More Bounce” beat. I must have chopped that song into so many pieces. I was trying to cater to the West Coast. I was trying to get everybody on the same accord musically. I figured if I could use an ingredient, something that they loved, maybe that could take our attention off of this nonsense. Let’s party.

Mind you, I didn’t know what kind of lyrics B.I.G. was going to put on there. We did not sit down together… The way I found out the song was titled “Going Back to Cali” was I was in the store around the way one night, and Blake C from Junior Mafia came in the store. He said, ‘Mo! What up man? I just came from out there from Cali. I had to leave and come back. They out there balling, having mad fun.’ First of all, it took me by surprise because I was like don’t they got beef, Biggie and Pac, and the East-West tensions? What is he doing out there? Anyway, Blake C was like B.I.G. laced my joint. He said, ‘Yeah, yeah. That “More Bounce” one, he called that “Going Back to Cali.”’ I said, ‘What the f**k! Come on man!’ ‘He said, ‘Nah Mo, it ain’t dissing Cali. Matter of fact, it’s bigging them up. You got to hear it.’ I said, ‘Don’t do this sh*t man!’ He said, ‘Trust me, you’re going to love it when you hear it.’ I heard the song, and I was like okay, but I still had this fear about how they would receive it. What’s crazy about that song is here I am just musically trying to cater to California, stroke them a little bit, not knowing that Biggie would come along and he would do that lyrically on the song. I had no complaints about the mix.

“Ten Crack Commandments”

DJ Premier: That was a promo that we did for Angie Martinez on Hot 97. Back then she did a show called “The Hot Five At Nine,” where she played the top five records at nine o’clock. If you listen to the scratch at the beginning, it only goes to nine before the beat drops because it’s nine o’clock. Then when the beat drops, I only go to five because it’s five at nine. It was never ten because it was never intended for Biggie to begin with. Angie was the biggest thing on Hot 97 at that time. Everybody from Wu-Tang to every popular artist that was on the radio at that time, was doing dope promos for Angie’s “Hot Five at Nine” show. So [me and Jeru The Damaja] did our hot five and it just happened to be that beat. That’s why it was so simple. I didn’t want to overproduce. Puff happened to be on the radio that particular day. He heard it, and was like, what’s that? He started putting word out on the radio, ‘Yo Premier, if you hear this, call us on Hot 97.’ He didn’t say he wanted the beat at the time; he just said call. This was back in the time of pagers. All my homies are hitting me up telling me Puffy telling me to call him. I’m said, ‘Word? I’m in the car listening.’ I hear him interviewing, and then maybe 20 minutes in, he said it again. ‘Premier, I’m still looking for you baby. Call Hot 97.’ Once I heard him say it, because I needed to hear it myself, I called. He got on the phone and said him and B.I.G. wanted that beat. He told me the song was called “Ten Crack Commandments” and it was already done. I brought the same reel to Daddy’s House and muted Jeru’s vocals and added a ten because it was only intended for “Hot Five at Nine.” I didn’t have a ten so I put the T-minus ten countdown from NASA when they launch the rockets. Flew that in, and we had a record in maybe an hour. I really like that beat because it was simple. I’ve been driving for a long time and hip-hop comes from the car booming system and the radio. Everything I do is geared towards boomboxes and cars.

“Sky’s the Limit”

DJ Clark Kent:  I didn’t have “Sky’s the Limit” in mind. I’m a producer, so I was making tracks all the time. It wasn’t like it was something specific. I made the track and it was actually given to Jay Z first. LL Cool J even had it, but they didn’t want it. We were on the road, and B.I.G. said, ‘When we go back out, bring some tracks so we can start working on Junior Mafia’s album.’ I’m like, ‘You serious.?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, we going to make an album.’ We get back on the tour bus and we sat there playing tracks, and he picked what he wanted for Junior Mafia. He came up with the hooks immediately and simply went back home, but in the midst of him picking “Player’s Anthem,” he heard the track for “Sky’s the Limit.” He said, ‘I need that.’ I said, ‘For who?’ Because all I’m thinking is Junior Mafia. He goes, ‘I need that for me.’ I’m like, ‘You’re going to do a solo on this album?’ ‘Naw I need that for my album.’ In my mind I’m going, no. You can’t have it. I’m like, ‘You’re not doing that album right now.’ He goes, ‘Yeah, but I’m gonna. I need it.’ I said, ‘So you want me to hold this record until after we do all this other stuff and you maybe make a new record?’ He’s like, ‘I need it.’

The funny part about the track is that I had given it to somebody before. I had to go back to that person and say, ‘Do you want it? Yes or no? This is how much it costs because if you don’t want it, I got to give it away.’ The guy was like, ‘No, it costs too much.’ So I was like okay, forget it. I kept it for B.I.G. He came up with the hook while he was listening to it, so I knew immediately that it was going to be that good of a record. When Biggie came up with the hook, I was like, oh yeah that’s crazy and he just kept singing the hook. Not everybody can discern Biggie’s voice, but if you listen to “Sky’s the Limit” well enough, you can hear him singing with 112. When it got mixed, I forgot to take his voice out. He sang the whole hook and the verses and everything, then we gave it to 112 for them to sing. In the process, the track gets laid first. The artist goes in, does his verses, puts a scratch hook in. 112 got the record, they sang the hook, and then the record went to mixing, which was the part where you make the song as beautiful as possible. In the mixing, you’re supposed to take out what you didn’t want. The song didn’t really have anything that we didn’t want except for that Biggie vocal on the scratch hook, but it kind of got stuffed in there by accident.

READ: Who Shouted Ya? 50 Famous Namedrops From The Notorious B.I.G.

Was It A Hit?: Initial Reactions

Easy Mo Bee: I already knew [Life After Death] was going to be a hit, but when I saw that cover art with the hearse and him standing [to the side] in all black, it shocked me. It looked eerie and spooky. When I saw that cover I said, ‘He is going to die.’ From that point on I became very worried and fearful for him.

DJ Premier: When it got time to drop Life After Death I definitely knew he had some joints. I was already like damn, this guy got some f**king sh*t. He played me “You’re Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You),” which scared me because that can manifest itself, which it did. And not that, that’s not true of what he said lyrically, because it is. It also made me fear that something could happen to him. Especially after Pac had already passed, it made it even worse. It was frightening.

DJ Clark Kent: I don’t know if it was the first of any kind, I just knew that it was dope. When you’re in it, you’re not thinking we’re making history. You’re like, are the records good or not? That’s all that really matters and we knew the records were good. You have to understand, he already had Ready to Die. That was amazing. Then he had Snoop Dogg’s, Nas’ album, and Reasonable Doubt to look at to go, ‘Alright, what I gotta do?’ But the best thing about him is that he didn’t change who he was. He still is the best rapper we ever heard. He understood that Jay Z was the best MC, but he also understood he was the best rapper.

READ: Biggie Smalls’ Mom, Voletta Wallace, Reflects On His Unsolved Murder 20 Years Later

B.I.G.’s Downfall

DJ Clark Kent: There’s video tapes of me in the party dancing, drinking champagne and wearing a Versace shirt. I was Vice President at Motown Records, and B.I.G. said, ‘Yo, we gotta go to London.’ And I’m looking at him like, ‘N***a I got a job.’ He’s going, ‘Dog, I need you to come to London.’ This is the conversation we’re having inside the party. Twenty minutes later, I got on the phone and was like, ‘Yo, I think I need to do this.’ Then we all were leaving. I turned one corner, he turned around the other corner. I’m at the stop light, the light changes, and then you hear shots ringing. His car was stuck at the light. We didn’t know that they were shooting at his car. We get to where we’re going and I get a call, ‘Yo, your man got shot.’ I had to double back and go to the hospital. We were going to go to London. Earlier in the day, we were laughing about sh*t.

Stevie J: I was in the car in front of him. I was in the party. I had bought all of the Don Perignon that night, spent about $7,000. I was with him earlier that day. We were at Andre Harrell’s house listening to the album and talking about going on tour, making a whole bunch of money every show. Just a few hours later, he’s not with us. The day before that, me and him in the studio and he’s having a baby with Faith and I’m having a baby with Antoinette [Bennett]. And he said, ‘You could be my son’s godfather.’ I said, ‘You could be my son’s godfather.’ We talking about getting money together for the rest of our lives and this happened. It’s just f**ked up that you could take a life of somebody so [phenomenal]. He didn’t deserve that. That part of the history of my man’s story was not the coolest part.

Nashiem Myrick: That night before B.I.G. went to Cali, we was in the studio and had a chance to talk. I told him, ‘I’m not going to L.A. with ya’ll.’ I had a feeling about that because I usually go everywhere with them. If the whole crew is going, I’m there, but I said, ‘B.I.G., you know how we do. You got problems out there.’ Even if a n***a live around the corner from you, if you got beef with n***as, you don’t go around the corner. I said, ‘Just be careful.’ He said, ‘Yeah, we got that. We got that.’ I felt good when he said it. I was like alright, he must know what they doing. So to get that call, it really didn’t sink in until later on. How did B.I.G. die? It doesn’t happen to people, a big artist in the prime of his career getting murdered.

READ: This Brooklyn Congressman Rapped Biggie’s “Juicy” On The House Floor

Life After Death: The Legacy

DJ Clark Kent: The only reason reason why it holds so much weight is because it’s a great album. Him dying had nothing to do with the fact that it’s a great album. Him dying is the tragedy of that album. That ain’t the impact, that’s the tragedy. Still, if he lived, it would be an amazing album. It ain’t about life or death; it’s about the music. A great album is a great album. There’s no science. Bet you know a song by Stevie Wonder. They’re great songs. They can’t go away. You can’t erase what a great song is going to do to you. If a great song is made, it’s going to be great forever.

Nashiem Myrick: Not to boast or brag, but we was making classic joints. We wasn’t making music that was involved with the times. We was doing music on a whole other level. We wasn’t caring about what the sound was at that time. We was the sound at the time. The imagery in those songs comes from a whole different circumstance. We was doing things so different, and I think that imagery that we had then, still transfers to today. You have records from the 50s and the 60s that still big hits today if you really look at the charts. And it’s because of the imagery that Motown had back then. That doesn’t come around every year or every decade. That comes around once in awhile, and [Life After Death] was one of those times. I was involved in one of those moments.

Stevie J: The music that was on Life After Death is timeless music. I listen to a lot of songs right now in the club, and I’m turnt. But I’m not going to be turnt next year to hear that joint. I’m going to go back to that classic Life After Death album. I’m going to go to “Nasty Boy,” “Notorious Thugs,” “Mo Money Mo Problems,” and I’m going to be like, damn, I can play that for the rest of my life. Classics are around forever.

DJ Premier: You can’t deny greatness. Even those younger generations… I know Lil Yachty said, ‘I wasn’t into B.I.G. or Pac.’ And that’s cool, but it doesn’t disservice to B.I.G’s longevity. B.I.G. didn’t hold down two decades alive; he’s holding down decades dead. His music is not forgotten in the presence of his situation.