Twenty years ago, The Notorious B.I.G. died in what has become one of the most tragic moments in hip-hop history.
The still-unsolved shooting in Los Angeles cut Biggie’s career short, but it didn’t erase the New York wordsmith’s legacy or impact. Since that fateful night, Christopher Wallace has become an iconic face for hip-hop and music worldwide.
In the years that followed, Big’s memory has been carried on by fellow musicians who’ve been inspired by his work, including Nicki Minaj, J. Cole, Childish Gambino, Logic, Nas, and, of course, Jay Z.
Today, on the 20th anniversary of the late legend’s passing, Rap-Up looks back on his influence with tracks he’s inspired.
Ariana Grande feat. Childish Gambino – ‘Break Your Heart Right Back’
When Childish Gambino appeared on Ariana Grande’s “Break Your Heart Right Back” off 2014’s My Everything, he took a page out of Biggie’s “Mo Money Mo Problems” verse. Spelling out his name, he mimicked Biggie’s style and melody. In fact, the “Mo Money Mo Problems” sample actually appears on the track when he tips his hat to B-I-Double-G-I-E.
J. Cole – ”03 Adolescence’
J. Cole went double platinum without features on 2014 Forest Hills Drive, but he didn’t do it without using a Biggie line. Instead, he kicked off “’03 Adolescence” with these memorable lyrics from Biggie’s posthumous Tupac collaboration “Runnin’ (Dying to Live)”: “I grew up a fuckin’ screw up.” Cole is clearly a fan. Prior to this, he also famously borrowed from B.I.G.’s appearance on Lil’ Kim’s “Crush On You” for Drake’s “Jodeci Freestyle” and pulled inspiration from Biggie’s “Hypnotize” for “You Got It,” his Friday Night Lights collaboration with Wale.
Ludacris feat. Jeezy – ‘Grew Up a Screw Up’
Cole wasn’t the only one to like B.I.G.’s “screw up” line. In fact, Ludacris used it as the anchor for “Grew Up a Screw Up,” a single off his 2006 album Release Therapy. A chopped and screwed sample of Biggie’s voice plays throughout the song’s hook while Luda and the Snowman show Big’s influence had no regional limits.
The Game – ‘Dreams’
One of Biggie’s most provocative moments of “ghetto comedy” appeared on “Just Playing (Dreams),” as he sat back, relaxed, and thought about the R&B singers he wanted to sex. For his 2005 debut Documentary, The Game decided to do the same, reimagining the track on “Dreams.” Other artists have also done the same, including Teyana Taylor (“Dreams”), Lil’ Kim (“Dreams”), and Nicki Minaj (“Dreams”).
Big Sean – ‘Story to Tell’
Nicknamed Rap’s Alfred Hitchcock, B.I.G. was a celebrated storyteller. This was evident on the cinematic “I Got a Story to Tell” off 1997’s Life After Death. Ten years later, on his 2007 mixtape Finally Famous, Sean Don used the same beat to tell a story of his own on “Story to Tell.” The influence is clear from the jump, as the Detroit spitter even mimics Big’s “Who y’all talkin’ to?” intro.
Wiz Khalifa – ‘The Race’
Even B.I.G.’s skits have been remade. For instance, the intro sketch to Life After Death’s “Going Back to Cali” — where Diddy famously phones a sleepy Biggie about his flight plans — was remixed by Wiz Khalifa on his Rolling Papers track “The Race” in 2011. “I’m up, man, I’m up,” Khalifa says on the skit, copying Big’s early morning frustrations. “I’m up!”
Nas – ‘Last Real N***a Alive’
Nas used “Last Real N****a Alive” off 2002’s God’s Son to shed light on his feud with Biggie. “Y’all don’t know about my Biggie wars,” he raps. “Who you thought ‘Kick in the Door’ was for? / But that’s my heart.” Later, he shows love by quoting a line Big used on “4 My Peeps” by Red Hot Lover Tone. “Lord have mercy,” he raps, directly quoting his former rival. “Jesus Christ / He’s just nice / He just sliced like a ginsu.”
Nicki Minaj – ‘I’m Cumin’
Before joining Young Money, back when she was still on Dirty Money, Nicki Minaj used Notorious’ Ready to Die “Warning” to share her own storytelling skills. “Who the hell is this?” she rapped on the track, quoting Big directly, before making it her own. “Calling me at 12:47 in the night.” As part of the same project, Nicki also rapped over Biggie’s “Mo Money Mo Problems” instrumental for “I’m Cumin” and “Just Playing (Dreams)” for her own aforementioned take on “Dreams.”
Logic – ‘No Biggie’
As Logic was trying to make a name for himself with 2012’s Young Sinatra: Undeniable, the young wordsmith borrowed from two Notorious B.I.G. songs on an homage track titled “No Biggie.” Over Biggie’s “Kick in the Door” instrumental with a scratch sample from “Juicy,” Logic launched into his punchline-heavy freestyle.
Jay Z – ‘What More Can I Say’
Jay Z will be the first rapper ever to enter the Songwriters Hall of Fame, but he’s been criticized for using his late friend The Notorious B.I.G.’s lyrics on songs like “Big Pimpin’,” “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It to Me),” and “Squeeze 1st,” just to name a few. But Hov expertly and famously addressed that on “What More Can I Say”: “I’m not a biter, I’m a writer for myself and others / I say a B.I.G. verse, I’m only biggin’ up my brother / Biggin’ up my borough / I’m big enough to do it / I’m that thorough / Plus I know my own flow is foolish.”