They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It also can be a way to show the utmost respect to a legend.
Christopher Wallace, aka The Notorious B.I.G., widely is considered by many to be the greatest rapper to ever hold a microphone. Brooklyn’s son took the still-youthful art of hip-hop and pushed it beyond boundaries no one knew existed.
Since his 1994 debut, Ready To Die, rappers everywhere have been, for better or worse, using the late MC’s indistinguishable lines. Here are five of the best examples of always loving Big Poppa.
“2nd Round K.O.” – Canibus
1998 saw one of the most lyrical rap beefs the genre had seen in some time. Spawned internally from invitation to guest on the song “4, 3, 2, 1” when Canibus asked, within his 16, if he could borrow the microphone tattoo of James Todd Smith. L.L. Cool J then launched a counter attack and changed up his own verse, staking his claim to his mic and the genre he thought he owned. ‘Bus retaliated with one of the most vicious lyrical attacks ever put on wax.
“2nd Round K.O.” was a furious jab to the midsection of the self-proclaimed G.O.A.T. Within the song, he tells the listener who he thinks really holds the crown by cleverly referencing one of B.I.G.’s classics from Life After Death, “What’s Beef?,” and launching a line that is annually used to remember that day the world lost Wallace. “That shit was the worse rhyme I ever heard in my life, cause the greatest rapper of all time died on March 9th/God bless his soul, rest in peace kid, it’s because of him now at least I know what ‘beef’ is.”
“Announcement” – Common
One of the things Biggie was most known for was making sure we all knew where he came from—the Brooklyn projects know as Bed-Stuy. “Live from Bedford-Stuyvesant, the livest one, representing B.K. to the fullest, gats I pull it,” B.I.G. announces in the second to last track from Ready To Die, “Unbelievable.” Common is no stranger to giving his city props. He is considered one of Chicago’s finest, as well as one of the best MCs in the post-Wallace era. On the Pharrell-assisted “Announcement” from Universal Mind Control, Common puts his own, Windy City-spin on the classic line. “Live from the South Side, this one, hide your guns, representin’ Chi-town to the fullest, raps or bullets … ”
“E.I.” – Nelly
No one is going to confuse Nelly with a lyricist. But in the summer of 2000, the St. Lunatic had trunks rattling from Brooklyn to Compton with his freshman album Country Grammar. The harmonic, melodic flow Nelly was blessed with was infectious and the album was full of beats that enhanced his unique ability. No song exemplified this more than the single “E.I.” Nelly’s knack for hooks was aided by borrowing a line from Biggie’s “Hypnotize”: “If the head right, Biggie there every night.” As Nelly seamlessly inserted his name for Biggie’s, he created the greatest ode to mouth-lovin’ since Kilo and Big Boi teamed up.
“What Means The World To You” (Remix) – Cam’ron featuring Ludacris, Juelz Santana, UGK and Trina
Ma$e cohort and Harlem World representer, Cam’ron called in a star-studded guest list to lace the beat to his already sick cut from S.D.E., “What Means The World.” With the late Pimp C, Bun-B and Juelz giving the track an improved face lift and Ludacris laying down what might possibly the best 16 of his career, Killa’ Cam opens the track with a familiar, choppy flow. “You would, too, if you knew what this game’ll do to you, been in this shit two years boo, look at all the bullshit I’ve been through/So-called beef with you-know-who…” Cam rhymes, borrowing from the Bone Thugs-N-Harmony aided track, “Notorious Thugs.”
“The Ruler’s Back,” “D.O.A.” – Jay-Z
The list wouldn’t be complete without Hova. Not only the most notable MC on the list or the most frequent user of the philosophy, he also was one of B.I.G.’s closest friends. Since Reasonable Doubt, when Biggie guested on “Brooklyn’s Finest,” the two have been musically inseparable. On the opening track to his own classic, The Blueprint, Jay pays tribute by quoting a line from the aforementioned “Kick In The Door.” “Your reign on top was shorter than leprechauns.” Jay begins as he leads into his own followup line, “You can’t fuck with Hov/What kind of ‘X’ you on?” He then goes back to the well, a few years later on The Blueprint 3, as he taps into the eerily prophetic “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Kills You” by taking the line, “Stop your blood clot crying, the kid, the dog, everybody dying, no lying,” and delivering it to a new generation. There’s no one more fitting or more equipped to carry the words of that late, great Wallace.