The year was 1997. Hip Hop was still in a state of mourning as the genre’s biggest artist at the time was gunned down in Los Angeles.
We were all exhausted. But if there was one thing we knew was going to live on. It would be the music and his legacy.
On March 25, 1997, The Notorious B.I.G. posthumously released his long-awaited sophomore album ironically titled Life After Death. After three years of waiting, it was the album he was excited about, as he was ready to show his growth as an artist. Is he not still here? Is this even real?
Starting where Ready To Die left off three years earlier, it only took one track to raise the goosebumps on your arms. The sounds of the sirens began to ring in your ears, the heart monitor starts beeping, the intense keys begin to roar. All while Puff Daddy pleads with Biggie, “you have too much living to do. Too much unfinished business. It ain’t over.” The sound of the raindrops hitting the pavement kept our emotions in check before we heard the sound of Biggie Smalls for the first time on this album. “I’m sittin’ in the crib dreamin’ about Leer jets and coupes, the way Salt shoops and how they sell records like Snoop. Oops! I’m interrupted by a doorbell…”
He was bigger than life. His storytelling skills shined throughout the project as we got to see the progression of someone who is considered the best rapper of all time by many. He gave us a range of all kinds of different tracks. Between his signature hard raps in “Last Day,” “What’s Beef, “Ten Crack Commandments,” to fun tracks like “Another,” and “Back To Cali” to reminencient tracks like “Miss U.” This album not only told an album, but had it all.
Not many artists can deliver a double album. Even less can do so without you wanting to skip a single track. He outdid himself on this one.
After having one feature on his debut project, Biggie brought out the big guns for this one. And not one of those features were wasted. The fast paced rap from Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, back-and-forth between himself and Lil’ Kim, the hard bars from the LOX, slick talk with Jay-Z, freakiness from R. Kelly, or the smooth sounds of 112. If you were featured on this album it was with good reason.
Biggie’s right hand man Puff Daddy was ruling the charts with his hit single “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” at the time of his death. Following his passing, the first single of the album “Hypnotize” which was released on the first of March began taking over as the weather began to warm up showing the dominance of Bad Boy during this time. His singles weren’t only hits. They became classics. 20 years later, “Mo Money, Mo Problems” is still a favorite in the party. No matter what age you are.
His third single “Sky’s The Limit” can’t do anything but put a tear in your eye as Biggie speaks about his growth as not only an artist, but as a man, his success, and where he was headed next.
Track 11 on disc two helps close a script no one could have even think of writing only weeks earlier. The echoing sounds of Puffy saying “baby” repeatedly as the cold lonely wind blows in the background. First the keys come. Then the drums. The beat builds as Puff continues to speak in the background. Then Biggie comes in: “Ni***s in my faction don’t like asking questions. Strictly gun-testing, coke-measuring, giving pleasure in the Benz-ito, hitting fanny, spending chips at Manny’s, hope you creeps got receipts, my peeps get dirty like cleats.”
A fitting end to a classic album, and a legendary career. By the end of this album, Christopher Wallace became a prophet to his own life. At only 24-years-old, he was gunned down in Los Angeles effectively ending the senseless east coast vs west coast wars of the early 1990’s. Watching television late one night gave Biggie the idea of the album’s last track. Hearing Dean Martin sing “you’re nobody until somebody loves you,” sparked motivation in the hook. A hook which became an underlying, and unfortionate fact. “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Kills You.”
Listen to Life After Death below.