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In hip hop, few names loom larger than The Notorious B.I.G., who is considered by many as one of the greatest rap artists of all time. Breaking in the industry after joining forces with Sean “Diddy” Combs, Biggie continued the east coast prominent streak with a pair of rap albums, 1994’s Ready to Die, and the posthumously released Life After Death, both of which cemented his status as a bonafide rap phenomenon. Unfortunately, his murder in 1997 left pages of his life story unwritten, one of the biggest tragedies in the history of the culture to this day.
While that fateful day, March 9, is the one that sticks in many fans’ minds due to its magnitude, the one that’s more appropriate to celebrate is May 21, The Notorious B.I.G.’s birthday. Instead of a day of mourning, we take out the time to honor his contributions to hip hop, and review the impact he’s had on the new generations of rap artists and fans that have come after him.
In celebration of what would’ve been his 48th birthday, REVOLT looks back at nine instances where a rap artist paid homage to The Notorious B.I.G., either by giving their best rendition of his greatest hits, rhyming over his beats, or flipping his old classics into new songs. Check them out below.
1. Meek Mill
In 2018, Meek Mill joined forces with JAY-Z and Rick Ross for “What’s Free,” a marquee offering from the rapper’s fourth studio album, Championships. Putting his own spin on The Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death track “What’s Beef,” same sample and all, Meek shines a light on the injustices facing Black America, while subtly giving the Bed-Stuy representative his proper due.
2. King Combs
Also in 2018, Bad Boy’s resident heir to the throne King Combs took a page out of the book of The Notorious B.I.G. by borrowing the concept for the late rapper’s star-studded “One More Chance” video for his own single “Love You Better.” Directed by Andrew Sandler, the visual, which finds Combs and R&B singer Chris Brown joined by an array of celebrities, captures the spirit of Biggie’s iconic Bed-Stuy house party and is one of the more clever nods to the “Black Frank White.”
3. Rick Ross
In 2014, Rick Ross, who’s been compared to The Notorious B.I.G. on various occasions, collided with French Montana for “Nobody,” a single from Rozay’s sixth solo studio album, Mastermind. Produced by Diddy, the song, which samples the Life After Death track “You’re Nobody (Until Somebody Kills You),” further fueled talk of similarities between Biggie and Ross.
4. Kendrick Lamar
In 2015, Kendrick Lamar channeled the spirit of The Notorious B.I.G. during a visit to Big Boy’s Real 92.3 radio show when he drops a few lyrical bombs over Big beats of “The What” and others. This was evidence that young rapper, who once deemed himself “The King of New York” in spite of his west coast roots, had more than a little California love to extend to the notorious one.
5. J. Cole
In 2016, J. Cole showed his reverence for The Notorious B.I.G. with an impromptu performance of the rap icon’s 1997 single “Hypnotize” during a performance at the Air + Style Festival. The Dreamville MC, who has attacked a number of Biggie tracks on various occasions, cited him as an inspiration for his own artistry.
6. Megan Thee Stallion
One recent example of a young rap artist showcasing their adoration for The Notorious B.I.G. is Megan Thee Stallion’s freestyle over Biggie’s ”Hypnotize” beat last year. Known for dropping bars over classic and modern instrumentals, the Houston rapper has made her affinity for Biggie evident in a number of interviews, as well, and lists him among her short-list of rap influences.
7. Snoop Dogg and Diddy
In 2005, Snoop Dogg joined Diddy onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards to profess his love and respect for Big with a performance of two of his own personal favorites: “Juicy” and “Warning.” This was one of the more explosive tributes to Biggie between two superstars to date.
In 2017, Fabolous received the ultimate honor as a Brooklynite when he was given a key to the borough. In celebration of the prestigious honor, Fab shared a clip of him rapping the first verse to The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1994 hit “Juicy,” which highlighted the rapper’s own ascension within the culture in lyrical form.
9. Joey Bada$$
In 2016, Joey Bada$$ celebrated The Notorious B.I.G. with the release of a new song titled “Brooklyn’s Own,” which finds him spreading love in a manner his predecessor set the precedent for. While the song doesn’t name-check the late MC, phrases like “Ready to Die” are embedded in the lyrics and makes it clear who was the inspiration behind this onslaught.