With every passing year, The Notorious B.I.G.’s verse on "Mo Money, Mo Problems" rises up the ranks as one of rap’s most potent verses and it’s all thanks to one line: "Me lose my touch? Never that." It was 1997, when a 24-year-old Biggie Smalls rhymed some of that triple beam lyrical dream for the Life After Death verse and almost 20 years since, his legacy has grown, loomed, persevered through generations and a genre that still thrives on the foundation laid within his short-yet-everlasting career.
To think, only two studio albums were produced during his lifetime, but with work on group albums like 1995’s Conspiracy for Junior M.A.F.I.A., executive production for the likes of Lil Kim (1995’s Hard Core ) and Puff Daddy (1997’s No Way Out), not to mention his string of untouchable guest verses for Jay Z, Michael Jackson, R. Kelly and Shaquille O’Neal among others, Biggie’s "touch" defied mortality, thus lending weight to the mantra: Quality over quantity.
In 1994, B.I.G. dropped his debut, Ready to Die, an album best described as a poignant scream from the ghetto. Within its first week on the chart alone, B.I.G. already had three songs in the top five of the Billboard rap charts: Craig Mack’s "Flava In Ya Ear (Remix)," "Juicy," and, his first gold single RIAA plaque, "Unbelievable." By the time the summer of '95 rolled around, Ready to Die had gone double platinum, equipped with the million-selling remix to “One More Chance/Stay With Me,” a song that gave Biggie his first Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs No. 1 and eventually knocked Michael Jackson’s "You Are Not Alone" out of top spot of the pop charts. In addition, according to Billboard, the track also tied M.J. and Janet Jackson’s "Scream" for the highest Hot 100 debut of all time when it opened at No. 5. By 1996, the self-proclaimed “Rap Phenomenon” was responsible for six Top 20 hits in the Hot 100 chart.
"First Brooklyn nigga to go platinum," he would tell makers of the 1995 rap documentary "Rhyme & Reason" as the cameras captured the Big man, dressed in a butter leather, Versace shades, and Kangol, unwrapping his RIAA-certified plaques for "Juicy" (Gold), "Big Poppa/Warning" (Platinum), and "One More Chance" (Platinum). "Straight out of 'hood, a nigga did good."
With all the feats accomplished off that one album, the follow-up, 1997’s Life After Death was bigger. In making the album, the plan was to outshine and dwarf the predecessor, and it did. Despite the tragedy of March 9, 1997, B.I.G.'s sophomore revolutionized the game. It transformed the "Hypnotize" MC from pop superstar to icon and stretched his reign on the charts with two back-to-back No. 1’s ("Hypnotize," "Mo Money, Mo Problems") and earned him the feat of becoming the first rapper to go diamond (for sales of over 10 million) off a double-album. As he tells it on "Mo Money": "Playboy, I told ya, mere mere mics to me."
Off the strength of those "mere mics," The Notorious B.I.G. is untouchable, uncrushable — perhaps more than ever almost 20 years later. Earlier this week, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams agreed to officially recognize May 21 as "Christopher ‘The Notorious B.I.G.’ Wallace Day" and last night (May 20) his spirit ushered in 19,000 into the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to celebrate what would have been his 44th birthday today.
B.I.G. lose his touch? Never that.