Debuting nearly two decades after hip-hop was birthed uptown in the Bronx, N.Y., Brooklyn's Biggie Smalls -- or the Notorious B.I.G. to many -- almost instantaneously reinvented the East Coast sound. The Bed-Stuy native could freestyle, weave tall, menacing tales or just spit bar after endless bar, leaving listeners in awe of the detail and wit he had easily made his signature.

In the mid-'90s, Biggie and Jay-Z were both up-and-coming artists, but Big was officially on his way to stardom by the time Jay dropped his debut in 1996. 'Ready to Die' was released two years before -- just to put things into perspective.

The 'Big Poppa' creator called himself "big, black and ugly" but had the charm to garner a sizable female fan base. LL Cool J he was not, but Big had the support of the streets and the ladies, when at that time it seemed LL was catering strictly to his female supporters. Biggie Smalls entered the industry at the perfect time.

He was NYC's rap saviour and before his untimely death in 1997, he gave the five boroughs something to believe in. Although his catalog didn't have a chance to grow past two albums and a few unreleased cuts, Big still wears the crown in the minds of many. Here, offers the Top 10 Notorious B.I.G. Songs.

  • 10

    'The What' Feat. Method Man

    'Ready to Die'

    Method Man can say he scored the only guest spot on one of hip-hop’s best debuts of all-time. The two rappers trade verses as if they came up freestyling together on street corners. ‘The What’ is simply some boastful, trash-talking over dope production. Biggie raps, “Welcome to my center / Honeys feel it deep in they placenta / Cold as the pole in the winter / Far from the inventor, but I got this rap shit sewed...”

  • 9

    ‘N----s Bleed’

    ‘Life After Death’

    ‘N----s Bleed’ was one of the best jewels on ‘Life After Death.’ On the track, Biggie tells a tale of debauchery from the perspective of a hired enforcer whose agenda was to carry out a deal. Playing the role of his alias, Frank White, Big gives details on his assignment, from meeting with his “boss” to actually carrying out the forbidden armed robbery that turns violent fairly quickly. In his way, Big throws an extra punchline in at the end, just to keep listeners on their toes.

  • 8


    ‘Ready to Die’

    Although Big had released quite a few notable freestyles and mixtape cuts, ‘Juicy’ was Biggie’s first official single and the lead from his debut album, ‘Ready to Die.’ It was the perfect lead-in for the Brooklyn native: he explained his impoverished youth, his absentee father and his hip-hop aspirations quickly becoming reality. On the hook Big raps, “I’m blowing up like you thought I would / Call the crib / Same number / Same hood / It’s all good...”

  • 7

    ‘Big Poppa’

    ‘Ready to Die’

    ‘Big Poppa’ was Big’s second single from ‘Ready to Die’ and his first track “for the ladies.” Here, the rapper consistently toes the line between charming and just plain fresh. He was smooth but in the next moment, brash. In the first verse, he kicks the scenario off with: “To all my ladies in the place with style and grace / Allow me to lace / These lyrical douches / In your bushes...” Um...

  • 6


    ‘Ready to Die’

    ‘Warning’ was easily one of the biggest hip-hop records of the 1990s -- and it was only meant to be a promotional single. It was the first time many heard Biggie tell a full story in his verses. On the track, Big is awakened by a page coming through on his beeper -- a hint to how old this song is, while remaining a classic -- he calls the number back and his homeboy proceeds to warn him about enemies wanting to take his life. As said enemies begin descending on his house, Big handles business.

  • 5

    ‘Who Shot Ya’

    B-Side to 'Big Poppa' Single

    ‘Who Shot Ya’ was undeniably one of the eeriest Biggie songs out while he was on the rise. The song was released in February 1995, just months after that fateful night at NYC’s Quad Studios when Tupac Shakur was robbed and shot in the lobby. Shortly after the track dropped, ‘Pac openly accused Big, Puff and the entire Bad Boy entourage of plotting the shooting. Biggie created the song as a result, which remains an undeniable hip-hop classic. Big spits lines on this where people have to wonder how he even came up with the imagery.

  • 4

    'One More Chance (Remix)' Feat. Faith Evans & Mary J. Blige

    'One More Chance (Remix)' Single

    Biggie struck gold when he dropped the remix to his song ‘One More Chance.’ The track featured his wife Faith Evans and longtime friend Mary J. Blige on the hook and background, and sounded nothing like the original track, which was more upbeat and bold. The remix was mellow and had a heavy R&B influence throughout as Big remained as fresh as always. This lead fans to believe that maybe he had a bit of trouble making a genuine love song.

  • 3

    ‘I Got a Story To Tell’

    ‘Life After Death’

    It’s fitting that ‘I Got a Story to Tell’ was placed to follow ‘N----s Bleed’ on ‘Life After Death.’ Big was in his storytelling mode at that point. ‘Story’ is a lot funnier than the previous track though. While fooling around with the girl of a professional basketball player, Biggie never stops to wonder exactly why “she pressing me to f--- / Like she was in a rush...” He doesn’t put it together until the boyfriend walks in, then instead of making a run for it, Big fakes a robbery. And keeps the money.  

  • 2

    ‘Sky’s the Limit’ Feat. 112

    'Life After Death'

    When Diddy’s influence showed up on a record, it was obvious. With the release of ‘Sky’s the Limit,’ Biggie finally had his inspirational, family-friendly hit single on his second album -- to an extent. The song touched on his humble beginnings, sewing emblems onto plain polos and bullying his “crew” in school to dropping school altogether while reciting a “hustler’s prayer.” “If the game shakes me or breaks me / I hope it makes me a better man / Take a better stand / Put money in my moms hand / Get my daughter this college plan, so she don't need no man,” he rhymes.

  • 1


    ‘Life After Death’

    By the time ‘Hypnotize’ dropped, Biggie was a bonafide rap star. It was common knowledge that the Bed-Stuy native that started from nothing was on an entirely new level with the promotion of his second album, ‘Life After Death.’ The production of this track was clearly Diddy’s doing as it was the most commercial song of Big’s career up until that time. ‘Hypnotize’ was the lead single from his last LP and vastly different from the lead single of ‘Ready to Die,' out just three years before.