On March 9, 1997, the world received the horrible news that The Notorious B.I.G. - one of the most promising and engaging young rappers of his generation - was killed in a drive-by shooting. His second album, Life After Death, would be released two weeks later and top the charts thanks to the singles "Hypnotize" and "Mo Money, Mo Problems." But the prolific rhymer had some material stockpiled that was fit for release over the next several years - and some of it served to maintain his rich legacy as one of the best in the game. Here are five of our favorites.
"It's All About the Benjamins" (1997)
Biggie's producer and label head, Sean "Puffy" Combs, was ready to step even further into the spotlight with an album of his own, 1997's No Way Out. Naturally, there were some verses from B.I.G. on deck, including one on "It's All About the Benjamins," a killer track with The LOX and Lil Kim that got a memorable rock remix featuring Rob Zombie, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighers, and others.
"Been Around the World" (1997)
Like "Benjamins" before it, "Been Around the World," also from No Way Out, was another No. 2 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Biggie's part was more subtle here: he sings(!) the chorus, based on the melody of Lisa Stansfield's '90s hit "All Around the World." (The hook is taken from David Bowie's chart-topping 1983 single "Let's Dance.")
"Notorious B.I.G." (1998)
It was only a matter of time before Puff Daddy paired a Biggie verse with Duran Duran's 1986 hit "Notorious." Released on his first posthumous album, 1999's Born Again, Puff and Lil Kim do most of the lifting here, but the track's video, featuring a young Tracy Morgan and a cadre of contemporaries paying tribute to the fallen rapper, is charming in its own right.
"Runnin' (Dying to Live)" (2003)
While The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur became unwitting avatars of a bitter East Coast-West Coast hip-hop feud that left both of them dead well before their time, the two started out as admirers of each others' work, collaborating on an underground track called "Runnin'" in 1995. Eight years later, the track was dusted off and produced by Eminem for the soundtrack to a Tupac documentary and became one of the most significant posthumous hits for either rapper, reaching the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100.
"Whatchu Want" (2005)
The release of Duets: The Final Chapter indicated that perhaps The Notorious B.I.G.'s vault wasn't as deep as some had hoped, with most verses coming from previously released tracks and augmented with artists that the rapper might never have collaborated with in life. A notable exception, though, was "Whatchu Want," an unreleased track featuring a new verse by another legendary Brooklyn rapper who'd shared the mic with Biggie in life: Jay-Z. The duo had in fact planned on setting up a supergroup known as The Commission before B.I.G.'s death; this track serves as a glimpse of what could have been.