In a BBC Music poll of the best hip-hop songs of all time, rapper Biggie Small was selected No. 1 for his “Juicy” single in a poll of more than 100 critics in over 15 countries as No. 1. The American artist, aka The Notorious B.I.G. to fans, captured the interest of rap and hip-hop fans with his storytelling abilities that highlighted hardship and crime.
Born Christopher George Latore Wallace in Brooklyn, NY on May 21, 1972, his parents, Selwyn George Latore and Voletta Wallace, were both of Jamaican descent. His father was a politician and welder, his mother a preschool teacher. Small is credited with almost single-handedly bringing rap and hip-hop back to the East Coast from Dr. Dre’s West Coast gangsta-funk.
The songwriter, actor, and hip-hop artist was known for his East Coast gangsta rap and including references and slang in his lyrics that were specific to Jamaican music and culture. Dancehall music and uniquely Jamaican patois played a significant role in the lyrics he created and was instrumental in popularizing a variety of Jamaican terms and phrases. He had an innate ability to manipulate language to create intense emotional responses in listeners.
In addition to the BBC Music distinction, Small was named by Billboard as the greatest rapper of all time and Rolling Stone magazine called him the “greatest rapper that ever lived.” He had certified sales of more than 28 million records in the U.S., including 21 million albums.
During his career, Small released four studio albums, two of which were released posthumously. Nine films were made in which he appeared or of which he was the focus, along with four TV appearances. He received seven top awards in 1995 at the Source Hip-Hop Music Awards.
Small received three awards at the Billboard Music Awards in 1995; one at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1997; two at the Soul Train Music Awards in 1998; and two at the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Music Awards in 2005, one of which was bestowed posthumously in 2017.
The rich baritone and smooth lyrics of Biggie Small was silenced forever on March 9, 1997 when he was shot and killed in Los Angeles, CA. The murder was never solved.
The BBC Music Poll named the following as the greatest hip-hop artists of all time, including a tie for No. 25.
- Juicy, Notorious B.I.G. (1994)
- Fight The Power, Public Enemy (1989)
- Shook Ones (Part II), Mobb Deep (1995)
- The Message, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five (1982)
- Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang, Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Doggy Dogg (1992)
- R.E.A.M., Wu-Tang Clan (1993)
- 93 ’Til Infinity, Souls of Mischief (1993)
- Passin’ Me By, The Pharcyde (1992)
- Y. State Of Mind, Nas (1994)
- Dear Mama, Tupac Shakur (1995)
- Electric Relaxation, A Tribe Called Quest (1993)
- Runaway, Kanye West ft. Pusha T (2010)
- Paid In Full, Eric B & Rakim (1987)
- Rapper’s Delight, Sugarhill Gang (1979)
- They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.), Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth (1992)
- O.B., OutKast (2000)
- It Was A Good Day, Ice Cube (1992)
- Fuck Tha Police, NWA (1988)
- N.I.T.Y., Queen Latifah (1993)
- International Players Anthem, UGK ft. OutKast (2007)
- Doo Wop (That Thing), Lauryn Hill (1998)
- Lose Yourself, Eminem (2002)
- Grindin’, Clipse (2002)
- All Of The Lights, Kanye West ft. Rhianna, Kid Cudi (2010)
- *Rosa Parks, OutKast (1998)
- *Alright, Kendrick Lamar (2015)