The 5 Best Posthumous Rap Albums

God bless the dead

Something strange happens when artists die. Legacies get strengthened. Positive traits get time in the sun. The dead becomes larger in death than in life.

Posthumous legacies rarely resemble their living versions. This tends to distort our perspectives on the music that comes after life. Good or bad, quality or not, we heap praise on them for fear of speaking ill of the dead. God bless the dead, but not all posthumous albums are worth visiting. In fact, many are haphazard attempts by record labels to exploit the dead.

Let's look back at the five greatest posthumous rap albums, organized in order of importance.

05
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Big L - The Big Picture

Big L - The Big Picture

Artist Death: February 15, 1999
Album Release: August 1, 2000

Big L was a rising talent when his life was cut short. L was a young 24 when he was killed in 1999. Luckily for us, he left enough music behind to make his case as one of the greats. If you're a hip-hop fan and you've never heard The Big Picture and you have a subwoofer, you should go pick up a copy immediately. Big L is about to become your favorite rapper. His wit, humor and sharp delivery make his songs unforgettable.

04
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J Dilla - The Shining

J Dilla - The Shining

Artist Death: February 10, 2006
Album Release: August 8, 2006

was 75% complete when J Dilla died. His friend Karriem Riggins completed the project on Dilla's behalf. It's a wide-arching articulation of Dilla's varied influences. As a testament to his creative genius and great influence, The Shining featured a long lineup of music talent, including D'Angelo, Common, Black Thought and will.i.am. Dilla passed away on February 10, 2006, three days after his 32nd birthday. The Shining was released on August 8, 2006.

03
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Pimp C - The Naked Soul of Sweet Jones

Pimp C - The Naked Soul of Sweet Jones

Artist Death: December 4, 2007
Album Release: October 5, 2010

Pimp C laid down a major portion of the material while he was still alive. Pimp's wife and Rap-a-Lot head honch J Prince took the baton and carried the project across the finish line. In 2010, three years after Pimp C's death, The Naked Soul of Sweet Jones officially hit shelves. To the delight of UGK fans, it combines that pure old school sound with soul samples. Drake and Rick Ross stop by with some memorable guest turns.

02
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Makaveli - The Don Killuminati: The 7-Day Theory

Tupac - Makaveli

Artist Death: September 7, 1996
Album Release: November 5, 1996

Tupac Shakur has a larger posthumous discography than most living emcees. And The Don Killuminati: The 7-Day Theory, released under the moniker Makaveli, is by far the best of the bunch. Recorded and mixed just weeks before Shakur's murder, it eerily predicted his demise. The Don Killuminati Theory is a snapshot of Tupac's paranoid mind state in the days leading to his death.

01
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The Notorious B.I.G. - Life After Death

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

Artist Death: March 9, 1997
Album Release: March 25, 1997

Life After Death arrived just two weeks after The Notorious B.I.G.'s assassination. It solidified Biggie Smalls as one of the greatest MCs of all time. The double album is often quoted in rap circles. It' has been referenced and repurposed; sampled and interpolated; idolized and emulated. It's one of the best-selling rap albums of all time. Life After Death is not just the best posthumous rap album ever released, it's one of the best rap albums ever. Period.