The Notorious B.I.G.’s status as a not only a rap, but music icon, is undisputed. The rap phenomenon from Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant section’s run atop the rap game may have been cut tragically short, but his legacy, contributions and impact are still at the forefront of the public’s mind decades after the fact. Over the course of five years, Biggie accounted for two classic studio albums, a successful group album with Junior M.A.F.I.A., and some of the most timeless rap hits of all-time. These feats, as well as intangibles like his cool, yet gregarious personality, wit, style, and ambition, crystalized his place among the titans of culture.
Sunday (May 21) marks what would have been The Notorious B.I.G.’s 51st birthday and is a day that his family, friends, peers, and fans celebrate annually in his memory. To commemorate the date that one of the greatest rap artists was born into this world, VIBE highlighted his most lyrically-intense collaborative efforts to date.
The Notorious B.I.G. - "Come On" Feat. Sadat X
Originally recorded in 1993 and intended to be released on Ready to Die, this holdover eventually saw the light of day via The Notorious B.I.G.’s Born Again album in 1999. While the original version, which was produced by Lord Finesse, is a rare find and went officially unreleased, the remixed version is a great consolation prize, as it still contains Biggie’s original vocals and an electric guest spot from Sadat X.
The Notorious B.I.G. - "Last Day" Feat. The LOX
In contrast to Ready to Die, Life After Death saw The Notorious B.I.G. working with a bevy of heavy-hitters that had established themselves as bankable stars. Yet, the most bar-heavy joint on the album was born with the help of then newcomers The LOX, who had yet to release a debut single, let alone an album. That inexperience meant little being that they lived off it, making them a formidable match for Biggie to test his mettle against. Not that the task was any issue to him, as he once again delivered a dominant performance while anchoring the track.
"The Points" Feat. Jamal, Knowledge The Pirate, Menace Clan, Ill Al Skratch, Heltah Skeltah, The Notorious B.I.G., Coolio, Redman, Busta Rhymes, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Big Mike & Buckshot
Rapping first on a song with elite talent has been known to give even the most skilled Hip-Hop artists some cause to pause, as the probability of having their rhymes bested is a risk many are fearful of. Yet, this predicament didn’t phase The Notorious B.I.G. during his appearance on “The Points,” which saw him setting the tone on a track that featured a who’s who within the rap game. Nonetheless, none of the near-dozen guests on the song were unable to make listeners forget about Biggie’s performance, which was simply immaculate
The LOX - "You'll See" Feat. The Notorious B.I.G.
In 1996, a new group named The LOX signed to Bad Boy and were touted for their ability to demolish any track or cipher put before them. Their hunger and style caught the attention of The Notorious B.I.G., who quickly took the trio under his wing, resulting in a potent string of posse cuts that still ring off to this day.
“You’ll See” marked one of their earliest recordings on the label and got a major boost with a guest spot from Biggie, whom Jada, Styles and Sheek believe was letting them know who’s boss with his masterful closing verse.
DJ Eddie F & The Untouchables - "Let's Get It On" Feat. 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G., Heavy D, Grand Puba & Spunk Bigga
Much of the conversation revolving around The Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac pertains to their discord and tragic deaths. However, the world is fortunate that they shared airtime on the same song on multiple instances during their prime years, including this track by producer Eddie F, which saw Big and Pac joined by Heavy D, Grand Puba & Spunk Bigga. Rhyming towards the end of the song, the Brooklyn don anchors the track in grand fashion, bodying one of the more slept-on gems in his catalog.
The Notorious B.I.G. - "Spit Your Game" Feat. Twista & Krayzie Bone
One of Biggie’s most quoted couplets became the backbone of one of his most memorable posthumous efforts in “Spit Your Game” from the rapper’s Duets: The Final Chapter album. Featuring Midwesterners Twista and Krayzie Bone, Biggie’s verse from “Notorious Thugs” gets tacked onto Swizz Beatz frenetic production and is identical to the original, but the Chi-Town spitter and Bone Thugs member’s performances helped give it new life.
The Notorious B.I.G. - "I Love The Dough" Feat. Jay-Z
The Notorious B.I.G. and JAY-Z sparred thrice on wax, first on Hov’s Reasonable Doubt cut “Brooklyn’s Finest,” and the last instance being alongside Diddy on the No Way Out track “Young G’s”. Yet, their second collaboration, “I Love The Dough,” may take the cake in terms of their most lyrically intense face-off. Unabashed in their affinity for federal notes, Jay and Biggie go toe-to-toe, with both icons showing why they’re regarded with the utmost esteem.
The Notorious B.I.G. - "Notorious Thugs" Feat. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
Amid the talk of costal tensions, The Notorious B.I.G. was more concerned with showing love to all borders of the rap landscape. This resulted in the New Yorker connecting with Cleveland reps Bone Thugs-N-Harmony on “Notorious Thugs” for his sophomore album Life After Death. What is said to have been a legendary studio session resulted in a timeless record and gave Biggie the opportunity to show off his dexterous flow.
The Notorious B.I.G. - "The What" Feat. Method Man
It can be argued that the two hottest rap artists to make their solo debuts in 1994 were The Notorious B.I.G. and Method Man, as Ready to Die and Tical both catapulted them to their upper echelon of stardom. Despite underlying tension between their crews, the two wordsmiths’ mutual respect for each other culminated in this showdown from the former, the lone guest appearance on the entire album. From debating who has more firepower, lyrically and figuratively, to the harmonic hook, “The What” is flawlessly executed and is the product of some of the best one-liners in rap history.
The Notorious B.I.G. - "The World Is Filled…" Feat. Too Short, Puff Daddy, and Carl Thomas
The Notorious B.I.G. drops game alongside Too Short and Diddy on this smoothed-out selection from Life After Death. The Bed Stuy bully makes it hot over a beat crafted by Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie, which is less wordy than some of his other joint-efforts, but finds him laying down unforgettable bars about finessing and profiling.