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It seems like until the end of time people will have the debate about who’s the best rapper, 2Pac or Biggie Smalls, and regardless where you stand on this question there’s no denying the greatness of either man. There aren’t as many Notorious BIG songs as there are 2Pac’s, but it’s still a real struggle to pick out the 10 best from the repertoire of Brooklyn’s finest, and then rank them. The master of flows has a very diverse track history, utilizing smooth storytelling equally adapt as hardcore gangsta bar bursts, so this list has something for everybody.
Along with Notorious Thugs, which deserves an honorable mention, Hope You Niggas Sleep is Biggie’s fastest paced track, having the East Coast rap king spit mad bars over the pumping beat. It also features Biggie’s least unknown collab with Cash Money Millionaires, a group that was more than lucky to share a track with one of the greatest, but Smalls’ energy is so high in this one that he could carry a Hannah Montana.
One of B.I.G.’s posthumously released tracks, and one that was released eight years after Biggie’s death, in 2005. Besides his longtime friend and collaborator P. Diddy, the track features Nelly, Avery Storm, and group Jagged Edge, and while people had their doubts about this combo it really worked wonders. It’s one of few Biggie’s track that deals with women, and surely his catchiest one.
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While the two previous tracks might not be “typical” Biggie songs, this one is him in his core, storytelling at its best. First two lines set up the tone of this highly relatable song, and B.I.G. plays into that relatability great, but making it seem genuine. Biggie slides over the silent, mellow, jazzy beat, and he changes his flow slightly as the track progresses getting louder in volume and topics both.
The song that bears the name of the whole iconic 1994 album, it really crowned Biggie’s ability to emphasize and highlight every syllable by his smooth, but still broken down intonation. While Biggie is not loud in the track, it can be heard that he is truly rapping from his heels, preaching in a way, and even though the theme is grim, especially after what happened, rapper manages to ease up the tone with his trademark humorous lines.
One of the things Biggie fans regard as one of the reasons he is better than Tupac is that Biggie is a bigger hit maker, making more tracks that are alluring for audiences outside of the hip hop world, and this posthumously released song is one of them. Notorious B.I.G. got Grammy Nominated for this track which was number 1 on the Billboard’s Hot 100 for two weeks. A feel good track with a really recognizable funky beat and a beautifully sang chorus is finalized by Biggie’s effortless flow.
The man himself said that this was his favorite track, and as it screams “Brooklyn” it’s easy to see why is that. One of Biggie’s rawest tracks, a true representative of old school rap, and a track that shows all of his talents. The often, fluid and short changes of flow keep the track interesting throughout, while the producer Easy Mo Bee is a worthy partner in crime to Biggie as the subtle beat packs several unique surprises.
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Probably the best storytelling song of the era, but it’s not one of Biggie’s most recognized tracks probably because of the heavy gangsta vibe it has. It’s also the most humorous songs from Biggie’s treasury, while also having a really popping chorus, perfect for live shows. It has the same team behind it as the Machine Gun Funk, and the same characteristics of flow and tonality changes, but done in a different manner, an ability that is one of the main reasons why Biggie is so highly regarded.
Hardest Biggie Smalls track right from the get-go as the start is as iconic as they come, and this one is the last song released during Christopher Wallace’s lifetime. It was the fifth song in history that hit the number one spot on the Billboard’s hot list posthumously. The polished, sleek delivery goes great with a very minimalistic beat that is cut out by the iconic sounds from the beginning of the song, and Diddy’s back vocals.
While Biggie is a true representative of the East Coast rap school, he takes the West Coast beat P. Diddy co-made and merges with it completely. One of Biggie’s signature feel-good tracks was the second single for his first album and it sold 800,000 in US alone. Of course, Big Poppa was one of Biggie’s many nicknames, and while the song is initially about him personally, it’s also relatable and impossible to resist.
Magnum Opus of Biggie’s career. The intro alone is enough to understand why it touched so many people, as a lot of people found themselves in the place Notorious once was, and to see him prevail against all odds is what gave others strength. As the first album debut single it sold 607,000 copies, and while the tone that the chorus and beat set is much more mellow than other track Biggie released during his life, it’s the perfect track to remember Biggie by.
What are your favorite Notorious BIG songs?