To hip hop fans around the world March 9 will always be remembered for one thing: the death of Biggie Smalls. Sixteen years after his murder, his legacy, impact and influence remain just as strong as when he was alive. You've already heard "Hypnotize" and "Mo Money Mo Problems" a million times, but here are 10 tracks you may not know to expand your knowledge past the rapper's scant album discography.
Tracey Lee - "Keep Your Hands High"
Lee had a minor hit with "The Theme (It's Party Time)" in the late nineties, but it was this monster that hip hop fans always associate with his name. From the first (unprintable) word, Biggie's flow has never been more ferocious.
2pac - "Runnin' From tha Police"
One of only a handful of collaborations between Tupac and Biggie, B.I.G. goes back and forth with rapper Stretch over a smoothed out beat. Eminem would remix the track in 2003, but come on; it's the original all day. (Biggie's verse starts at 2:06.)
Neneh Cherry - "Buddy X" (Remix)
In America, Neneh Cherry will forever be the "Buffalo Stance" girl, but this 1993 remix from the singer's second album is one of Biggie's earliest appearances. (Skip to 2:45 for Biggie's verse.)
Shaquille O’Neal - "You Can't Stop the Reign"
I debated for hours whether to include this one. So bad—and on so many levels—is this song, that I'm only posting to show you that not even the giants are infallible. Shaq is as good a rapper as Biggie was a basketball player, and the poor man's "One More Chance" beat does nothing for Biggie. For completists only.
Pudgee tha Phat Bastard – "Think Big"
You've never heard of Pudgee tha Phat Bastard?! It's cool. Most people haven't. The rapper teamed up with Biggie and Lord Tariq, but sample issues (read: never cleared it) prevented this one from officially being released. Arsenio, "Street Fighter 2" and Star 69 references are like tree rings confirming the track's mid-'90s recording date.
Heavy D – "Jam Session"
Biggie and fellow Jamaican Heavy D go back and forth on this 1994 track for the soundtrack to NBA Jam. (Side note: NBA Jam made a soundtrack album.) Biggie sticks to theme, incorporating double dribbles, "monster dunks" and virtually every major basketball star of the era.
R. Kelly – "(You to Be) Happy"
Most Biggie fans know that R. Kelly sings the hook on the romantic "F**k You Tonight," but Kels got Biggie two years earlier for his 1995 self-titled second album. The track samples Biggie's then-wife Faith Evans' "You Used to Love Me."
Red Hot Lover Tone – "4 My Peeps"
Rapper Red Hot Lover Tone hung up the mic to become one-half of Trackmasters, the production duo that would eventually work with Rihanna, Will Smith and Mariah Carey. But we all need a side hustle, right? Tone gets assists from Organized Konfusion and M.O.P., but skip to 0:57 for Biggie.
Bandit - "All Men Are Dogs" (Remix)
A posse cut from rappers you've probably never heard of (plus Brand Nubian's Grand Puba and "I Got a Man" rapper Positive K), the track flips George Clinton's "Atomic Dog" to discuss why dudes are... well, just read the title. (Skip to 4:15 for B.I.G.'s part.)
Da Brat – "Da B Side"
Biggie hooks up with Da Brat over a bouncy, Jermaine Dupri beat, proving that the rapper could adapt to any producer's style. Fans of Biggie's grimy street flow will roll their eyes at this one, but the club-hop contingent will be satisfied.
What'd we miss? What's your favorite Notorious B.I.G. song? Drop a line in the comments below.