20 Best Biggie Smalls Songs

Photo of NOTORIOUS BIG
Redferns / Getty Images

Biggie Smalls is the illest. The Coogi sweater-rocking, Gucci shades-wearing Brooklyn poet was a rapper's rapper. He's often heralded as one of the greatest rappers of all time. And for good reason. Big made consistently great hip-hop music before an assassin gunned him down on March 9, 1997. But Biggie's legacy lives on through his music. Here are the best songs by The Notorious B.I.G.

01
of 20

"The What"

biggie-ready-to-die-remaster-lp.jpg

"Flows just grow through me/ like trees to branches/Cliffs to avalanches/It's the praying mantis/Deep like the mind of Farrakhan A motherf****n rap phenomenon."

"The What" is a lyrical showcase between two of the best MCs of the era. Method Man was in peak form here, yet Biggie outmatched the Wu-Tang MC. He drizzled the exchange with witty punchlines too numerous to name. The only collaborative track on Ready to Die eventually became one of Biggie's best songs ever.

02
of 20

"Get Money"

Junior M.A.F.I.A. was the crew of friends Biggie assembled. They crashed onto the spotlight with the triumphant hit anthem,"Get Money." It had Biggie going up against Junior M.A.F.I.A.'s eventual breakthrough star, Lil Kim. The tandem delivered one for the ages. "Get Money" became the group's most popular hit, reaching No.17 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1996. 

03
of 20

"One More Chance" Remix

The Notorious B.I.G.
The Notorious B.I.G. © Adger Cowans/Getty Images

Party rap was Biggie's bread and butter, a point solidified by this track's meteoric flight to the Billboard Hot 100 where it docked at a record-setting No.5.

04
of 20

"Notorious Thugs"

Bone Thugs N Harmony
© UMG

 Biggie Smalls kicking double time, melody-driven floetry a la Bone Thugs-N-Harmony alongside Bone Thugs-N-Harmony? Not too shabby. But give props to Bone (the only rap group to ever share airtime with both Biggie and 'Pac in their lifetime) for setting the pace and surviving Biggie's behemoth presence.

05
of 20

"Live at MSG Freestyle"

Biggie-Lil-Kim-Puff
Biggie with Lil Kim and Sean "Puffy" Combs. © Evan Agostini/Getty Images

Biggie starts off bragging about his guns, then shifts to a bragfest about his riches. He ties it all together with a reference to MC Hammer and his 357 dancers. The brilliance in that last lies in the double entendre “357″–it alludes to both Oaktown’s 357 group and the 357 Magnum revolver.

06
of 20

"Dead Wrong"

Eminem-Oscar
© Universale

 In the land of blind posthumous Biggie songs, "Dead Wrong" is the one-eyed king. Some of that has to do with Eminem's larva-red verse. Most heads can recite “Dead Wrong” without breaking a sweat, even if they have trouble remembering the rest of the songs on the album that spawned it.

07
of 20

"Things Done Changed"

Notorious-BIG-Ready-To-Die-cover.jpg

When that menacing beat drops, you just know you're in for something special. Luckily, "Things Done Changed" doesn't disappoint. It's the perfect hood tale of formative years. Dr. Dre's "Little Ghetto Boy" sample provides the bleak perspective you knew was coming but aren't ready for: "Remember they used to thump, but now they blast, right?"

08
of 20

"Suicidal Thoughts"

notorious-big.jpg
Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

After reels and reels of depressing pictures, Biggie capped off Ready to Die with these cold, suicidal words. The opening line -- "When I die, f--k it I wanna go to hell/Cause I’m a piece of sh-t, it ain’t hard to f--kin’ tell" -- is the equivalent of starting a gangster flick with a homicide scene.

09
of 20

"Hypnotize"

Classic Biggie: Commence with a boast ("Hah, sicka than your average"), conclude with a threat ("Poppa/Twist cabbage off instinct n---as, don’t think sh-t stink”). That you can to dance to it is cherry on top.

10
of 20

"Everyday Struggle"

The Notorious B.I.G. © Bad Boy.

 Biggie didn’t need an entire song to capture the weight of everyday struggle. He did it in one rhyme. You could visualize him grudgingly dragging his 400 pound body out of bed. “Everyday Struggle” was a portrait of hopelessness and Biggie set the tone from the jump. Contrary to popular belief, though, the story wasn’t autobiographical. It was actually inspired by Big’s childhood friend Henney Loc.

11
of 20

"I Got a Story to Tell"

Notorious B.I.G. - Life After Death
Notorious B.I.G. - Life After Death. © Bad Boy Records

 B.I.G. was one hell of a storyteller. Here, he weaves a hilarious tale about almost getting caught with his pants down. But seeing as this is is Biggie, one of hip-hop's greatest narrators, he throws in all sorts of twists and turns to keep the movie-on-wax scenes playing in your head after the song ends.

12
of 20

"Big Poppa"

NotoriousBig-Big-Poppa.jpg

Biggie was an unlikely candidate for the Rapper Most Likely to Charm the Pants off the Ladies. But that's exactly what he was: charming. Part of his charm lies in his self-deprecating sense of humor. "Heartthrob never, black and ugly as ever," he famously rhymed on "Big Poppa." Biggie pretty much wrote the manual for the big boy anthems in the 90s.

13
of 20

"Flava in Ya Ear Remix"

Biggie and Diddy
Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

 This is that one song you break a rule for because it's, well, exceptional. So while it's not technically a Biggie song, it's definitely a song that's become synonymous with Biggie and guest-rhyme perfection. (Hands up if you knew this was a Craig Mack song.) B.I.G. spelled trouble for his collaborators when he opened with, "“N---as is mad I get more butt than ash trays." Every word, every syllable, every rhyme oozed excellence, none more memorable than an advice Mack will still find useful two decades later: "Don't be mad, UPS is hiring."

14
of 20

"Kick in the Door"

Notorious B.I.G. - Life After Death
Notorious B.I.G. - Life After Death. © Bad Boy Records

Big used this gem from Life After Death to call out tough-talking bad boys, including one Queens rapper. Frank White wasn’t much for dancing around the issue. While "Kick in the Door" didn't reference Nas directly, it was as subtle as a shot of glass to the dome.

15
of 20

"What's Beef?"

Biggie-2Pac
Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

The Notorious B.I.G. was certainly an expert on the subject of beef. He had gone to war with 2Pac. He threw darts at Nas ("Who you thought 'Kick in the Door was for?"). And on this ominous cut from Biggie's second album, Life After Death, he lays out, piece by piece, his war methodology. He illustrates his plan of attack--troops, weapons, timing, etc. And by the end of the song, you're not only scared of getting on Biggie's bad side, you're also reminded of his storytelling genius.

16
of 20

"The 10 Crack Commandments"

The Notorious B.I.G.
Al Pereira/Michael Ochs/Getty

Hood Economics 101 boiled down to its essence, sprawled atop a Primo knocker, wrapped up in the greatest flow rap has ever witnessed. 

17
of 20

"Sky's the Limit"

Notorious Teaser Clip
Notorious Teaser Clip. © Fox Searchlight

The "Sky's the Limit" is so tuneful, so delightfully appealing that it's easy to forget it's a rags-to-riches story. That's a nod to 112's cameo. For his part, Biggie weaves his origin story in a similar fashion to "Juicy." Plus, it gave us one of the most memorable hip-hop videos of all time--kiddie versions of Biggie (he wasn't alive for it) and friends partying in a mansion, lounging in swimming pools and driving fancy cars. Big Poppa would have loved nothing less.

18
of 20

"Who Shot Ya"

Notorious Biggie
Catherine McGann/Getty Images

 Biggie swore it wasn't a shot at 2Pac, but it still sent ripples when Puffy released it right after 2Pac was literally shot at Quad Studios, so Pac called bull and shot back with the comedic "Hit 'Em Up," but "Who Shot Ya" stands superior as a battle track for its discipline, consistency and, above all, subtlety.

19
of 20

"Warning"

Biggie
Getty

 “Warning” helped establish Big Poppa as one of the most compelling narrators of our time. This 1993 smash turned Isaac Hayes' jazz gem on its head, transforming it into a gritty story about a heist gone-awry.

20
of 20

"Juicy"

Biggie Smalls
Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

"Juicy" is the greatest Biggie Smalls song of all time. It's a rare moment of self-introspection when he sheds his thugcore persona and takes stock of his grass-to-grace rise. Biggie died three years after this song came out, but like any true classic it lives on through those who remember the fabulous days of The Source and Mr. Magic. One of the greatest hip-hop songs of all-time.

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Adaso, Henry. "20 Best Biggie Smalls Songs." ThoughtCo, Oct. 25, 2017, thoughtco.com/best-biggie-smalls-songs-2857995. Adaso, Henry. (2017, October 25). 20 Best Biggie Smalls Songs. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/best-biggie-smalls-songs-2857995 Adaso, Henry. "20 Best Biggie Smalls Songs." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/best-biggie-smalls-songs-2857995 (accessed November 22, 2017).