It would be easy to dismiss the fact that Notorious B.I.G. released an album called Life After Death on this day in 1997 (only a few weeks after his own murder) as just a sick coincidence, but in reality it was party of a larger theme for the man born Christopher Wallace. For all of his raps about living large, Biggie was obsessed with death. After all, this is a man who titled his debut album Ready to Die and often rapped about his own funeral. He was constantly aware of his own mortality, and it permeated every inch of his musical persona.
Still, the whole idea of Life After Death hitting store shelves only 16 days after Biggie passed away is more than a little bit haunting. The album cover depicted the MC standing next to an old style hearse, draped in spooky shadows with a ghostly look on his face. Despite the greatness of flashy singles like “Hypnotize” and “Mo Money, Mo Problems,” the best songs on the two-disc affair are loaded with dark imagery that vividly portrays the dark side of the gangster lifestyle, including the claustrophobic album opener “Somebody’s Gotta Die” and the bracing “You’re Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You).”
Tragically, that was Biggie at his best. His biggest hits were about his the high-class pimp lifestyle (“Big Poppa”) or love jams (“One More Chance”), but he was never better as a rapper when he tapped into that rare combination of hunger and paranoia that fueled his death-filled fantasies. The Biggie that gave the world “Warning” — that’s the Biggie that will live forever in the minds of hip-hop fans everywhere.