Becoming a musical legend or icon is a tall order in itself, but being able to accomplish that feat within the span of five years puts you in rare air, which is exactly where The Notorious B.I.G.‘s legacy resides. One of the more notable artists across all music genres in the past quarter-century, the late rapper’s name is spoken with the kind of reverence reserved for creatives of the highest respect, which is understandable if you’re at all familiar with his short, but flawless resume.
As a rising MC in New York, Biggie would be tapped by Sean “Puffy” Combs and offered a record deal with Uptown Records, appearing on classic remixes from the likes of Mary J. Blige and Super Cat. However, following the release of Biggie’s 1993 track “Party and Bullshit,” Puffy would be booted from his position at Uptown Records, prompting him to form his own record label, Bad Boy. The flagship artist? The Notorious B.I.G. Releasing his landmark debut album, Ready to Die, in 1994, the Brooklyn heavyweight would put on his crew, Junior M.A.F.I.A., lend his midas touch to a slew of other artists via guest appearances and mold Lil’ Kim into a superstar prior to his untimely death on March 9, 1997.
Although his time on the top of the game was short-lived and he was less prolific than his counterparts, The Notorious B.I.G. still managed to leave an unforgettable legacy in his wake. His sophomore LP, Life After Death, was released posthumously six days after his death, giving fans music to forever remember him by. While he didn’t have much material to be released following his death, dozens of classic deep cuts, singles, remixes and rare loosies continue to get burn more than two decades after they were recorded.
With the 20th anniversary of his death here, we’ve compiled the 50 most essential songs from or featuring The Notorious B.I.G. to celebrate the life of Brooklyn’s Finest.