Biggie: The Best Ever?

Biggie: Biggie Got That Hype Sh–
Demo version (~1992) Courtesy Spine Magazine).

Biggie: Machine Gun Funk (DJ Premier Mix)
Unreleased remix (1993) Courtesy The Low End Theory.

First off, yeah, I know, I’m a few days late to properly commemorate the 10 year anniversary of Biggie’s death[1]. It’s hard – seriously hard – to believe it’s been 10 years. 1997 feels like a lifetime ago which probably isn’t too far off the mark; a lot changes in 10 years but seriously – it feels like it was just the other week.


For starters, I pulled (well, “borrowed” to be more exact) two “lost tapes”-style songs from the Biggie archive. “Biggie Got That Hype Sh–” is something which I had never heard before until Spine Magazine threw it up the other day (make sure you visit them to cop a few other rare Biggie joints). Even though the sound quality is terrible – man, this song is sick. I love how Biggie flowed; it wasn’t the most stylized but he had an uncanny sense of timing and vocal flair that made his best songs a joy to listen to.

“Machine Gun Funk” – the LP version – was probably my favorite non-single cut off Ready to Die (though “Gimme the Loot” is pretty hard to deny too) but I had never heard this unreleased DJ Premier mix before until The Low End Theory put it up about a year ago or so. I have – I’m glad to hear it, for history’s sake if nothing else – but much as I’m a fan of Primo’s stuff from this era, the Easy Mo Bee album production can’t be faded.

This all said: here’s the question to get heads buzzing… Can Biggie really be considered the G.O.A.T. if he only had two albums and a sprinkling of cameos to build that consensus from? (I know I’m not the first to raise the question but whatever). Or do we lionize Biggie because his untimely death meant that we never had to wait to watch him fall off (assuming he would have). After all, if Big Daddy Kane had died after his second album, imagine how different his legacy would look. Or what if Run DMC had disbanded and stopped recording after Raising Hell.

I’ve never denied Biggie his props (he’s not #1 to me but Top 5? Sure.), but I also thought Life After Death didn’t deserve the intense praise it got (like most double albums, it was just too long with a lot of tracks I’ll never ever care to listen to again) but obviously, coming out post-death, it was treated like the best-thing-ever. Had he lived, I have the feeling that Life After Death would have been seen as a smart commercial effort but I imagine Biggie could/would have surpassed it later. It also imagine, easily, he would have dropped some mediocre material later too: it’s impossible to think he would have escaped a fate that even his most talented peers: Jay-Z, Nas, Snoop, etc. have fallen victim to at some point.

So yeah, my question is: do we give Biggie too much credit because his catalog was unnaturally frozen in time? Is he like the Robert Johnson of hip-hop?

Lastly, can I just say how absurd it is that the murders of Biggie, Tupac and Jam Master Jay still remain unsolved? Maybe you can blame it on the “stop snitchin'” ethos amongst the rap community or maybe it’s police disinterest at dead Black men. Or maybe both. It’s shameless, regardless.

[1] The whole “Notorious B.I.G.” name never sat with me. The only reason Biggie wasn’t “Biggie” was on some legal bullsh–, same reason Diamond D. had to go by Diamond and why Common Sense was Common. To me, Biggie will always be Biggie, period.