The Notorious B.I.G. controlled tracks and needed little more than a producer and engineer to create magic n the studio. His first two albums Ready to Die and Life After Death are certified hip-hop classics (but you already knew that). Biggie was one of the greatest rappers of all time on his own, but he shined alongside others artists too. As we celebrate his birthday anniversary of his 41st, VIBE revisits some of the guest artists that contributed to the brilliance of these projects. –-Sowmya Krishnamurthy
“The What” feat. Method Man
Biggie’s 1994 debut Ready to Die was a true introduction to the rapper. Part menacing, oftentimes heartbreaking, the album wove vivid tales of living in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. The album’s lone collaboration is also one of its best songs, “The What” featuring Wu-Tang’s Method Man. Big and Meth trade memorable verses like “Biggie Smalls is the illest/Your style is played out/Like Arnold and that, what you talkin’ bout Willis.”
“I Love the Dough” feat. Jay-Z and Angela Winbush
If Biggie was NY’s greatest, then Jay-Z comes in at a very close second. Hearing these two well-matched rappers go toe-to-toe with each other again (They collaborated on “Brooklyn’s Finest” on Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt) and see who could out-ball the other was what competitive rap should be.
“Mo Money Mo Problems” feat. Puff Daddy and Mase
One of Biggie’s biggest crossover hits, “Mo Money Mo Problems” also spawned a catchphrase that has found its way into larger pop culture. Try not to swing your (fake) Rolex in the air when this track comes on.
“Fuck You Tonight” feat. R. Kelly
Strange upon first look, but ladies loved Big Poppa. “Fuck You Tonight” featuring 90s rap’s resident crooner, R. Kelly, gave the ladies a song to vibe to that wasn’t soft or corny. No tricking dough on this one, just “Strictly sex that’s pretty and leftover spaghetti.”
“Notorious Thugs” feat. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
Biggie showed lyrical versatility on “Notorious Thugs,” in that he could kind of rap like Bone, which is not easy task. The piano-laden song about drugs and regrets remains a fan favorite to this day.
“Sky’s the Limit” feat. 112
One of the more optimistic songs on Life After Death, “Sky’s the Limit” painted Biggie’s rise to the top from humble beginnings. A “Juicy” redux if you will, with R&B accompaniment by Bad Boy collective 112.
“Another” feat. Lil’ Kim
Before Chris Brown and Rihanna, Biggie and Lil’ Kim exemplified hip-hop love gone wrong. The caustic “Another” is a back-and-forth between the real-life lovers, each accusing the other of wrongdoing. Their delivery and conviction was so real, it was hard to tell where life ended and art began.