The Notorious B.I.G.'s 'Life After Death': All the Essential Samples

Submitted by notoriousclassics on Fri, 03/25/2022 - 19:41
St. James Place, New York City

With his second album, The Notorious B.I.G. proved not even death could slow him down.

Life After Death, one of 1997's most anticipated album, was released on March 25 of that year; tragically, the rapper was not there to experience it, having been gunned down in a still-unsolved drive-by just over two weeks earlier. Despite (or perhaps because of) this incredible loss, the album was a runaway success, topping the U.S. album charts and spinning off No. 1 singles "Hypnotize" and "Mo Money, Mo Problems."

READ MORE: The Notorious B.I.G.'s 'Life After Death' to Get Deluxe Reissue

25 years on, an 8LP super deluxe box set of the album will arrive on June 10. In honor of the album's incredible legacy, here's a look back at some of the essential samples as heard on these unforgettable tracks.

Herb Alpert, "Rise" (heard in "Hypnotize"): Legendary trumpeter-turned-record mogul Alpert (the "A" in A&M Records) had a No. 1 hit with "Rise" in 1979. Sean "Puffy" Combs' warm memories of the track secured the use of the sample; Alpert's nephew told Songfacts that Puff recalled how "Rise" and CHIC's "Good Times" "were 'the songs' that all the kids were dancing and roller skating to that summer. He had always remembered that summer and that song."

READ MORE: When The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize" Ruled the Charts

Diana Ross, "I'm Coming Out" (heard in "Mo Money, Mo Problems"): Both of Life After Death's No. 1 singles were built off samples of previous chart-toppers. For "Mo Money," which featured guest verses from Puff and Ma$e, Diana Ross' disco classic "I'm Coming Out" (written and produced by CHIC hitmakers Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards) formed the backbone of the track. "Ma$e came to me in the studio one day with this 'I’m Coming Out' sample," co-producer Stevie J told XXL. "So we laid the track first but nobody knew who was gonna get it. And then when Big came with the “B-I-G P-O-P-P-A!” What!? That was Big’s joint. Everybody felt that."

READ MORE: The Notorious B.I.G.'s 'Life After Death': Five Tracks to Know

Liquid Liquid, "Cavern" (heard in "Nasty Boy (Remix)"): When the ribald "Nasty Boy" was remixed and released as a single, Puff went for a classic hip-hop throwback when it came time to reconstruct the track. "Cavern," by dance-punk act Liquid Liquid, had earned notoriety more than a decade earlier when Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel flipped the track for the old-school classic "White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)"; here, it tracks some eye-popping sexual boasts from Brooklyn's most beloved emcee.

Bobby Caldwell, "My Flame" (heard in "Sky's the Limit"): While Puffy's samples often veered toward the obvious party-starters, sometimes he could flip a cratedigger classic into something really special. Case in point: "Sky's the Limit" was built around the hook of "My Flame," as sung by the soulful Bobby Caldwell (who issued "Flame" as the follow-up to his Top 10 smash "What You Won't Do for Love").

The Gap Band, "More Bounce to the Ounce" (heard in "Going Back to Cali"): Fan favorite "Going Back to Cali" found the NYC-based Biggie addressing the state of the East Coast-West coast rap rivalries, so it's only fair that the backbone of the track was in somewhat neutral territory. That relentless beat came courtesy of Dayton, Ohio funk outfit Zapp, whose debut single "More Bounce to the Ounce" established a new sound on the dance floor, with minimalist grooves and a howling talkbox-driven lead vocal from Roger Troutman (who'd incidentally also supply the hook for rival Tupac Shakur's "California Love"). Neither rapper would be standing by the time this song hit the airwaves - but the shadow both cast on the game still looms large.