Birthdays are times for celebration and reflection. You think back on what you have accomplished this far and look ahead at what still needs to be done. Today we celebrate the birthday of one of hip-hop’s—scratch that—music’s icons, The Notorious B.I.G. Biggie would have been 43 years old today had his life not been taken at 24.
As we celebrate the born day of the legend, we look back and reflect on what Biggie did in his short time with us and also on what could have been. Imagine how different the music landscape would have looked with Biggie around to usher in the 2000’s. Does gangsta rap still become the new sound of hip-hop? Does 50 Cent still become 50 Cent? Does New York ever lose power to the South and West with Biggie still around? Follow me as we visit an alternate timeline where Biggie’s last album isn’t Life After Death.
Still a Diamond
As you well know, Biggie’s album Life After Death released 16 days after he was murdered and went on to go certified Diamond (10 million albums). Does the album still do these type of numbers had the shooting never happened? I don’t think so. His debut album Ready to Die went double platinum (200,000) so I’m not saying this wouldn’t do numbers, but 10 million?
For whatever reason art sells more when the artist is no longer around so Life After Death still does well, “Hypnotize,” “Sky’s The Limit,” “Ten Crack Commandments” and “I Love The Dough” still become classics and the album goes double or triple platinum in its first year.
Bad Boy for Life?
The one person affected the most by Big’s death was Diddy. Yes, he did lose a close friend and top artist, but that forced Diddy to have to do more. With Biggie still around does Diddy pursue a pseudo career as an artist? Probably not, instead becomes a mogul by making Bad Boy Records the new Def Jam. Maybe Biggie spits on “Bad Boy For Life” instead of Diddy. Can you say “holy sh*t”.
This type of Diddy is Russell Simmons level boring and we miss out on all the funny sh*t he has done over the years. Making The Band never happens meaning the classic Chappelle’s Show parody never happens. Yes this never happens:
I’m sure if Diddy had his choice he’d take the corporate life if he had his friend back.
Imagine if we got Watch The Throne before Kanye West even thought about pursuing rap. According to Jay-Z he and Biggie planned on releasing a joint album called The Commission. Their friendship is well documented and in Jay-Z’s book Decoded he talks about what an influence Big was to him.
And we already heard the fire tracks that occur when these two are on the same track. It’s like Michael Jordan running a pick-and-roll with Shaquille O’Neal. It can’t get much better than that. So had The Commission occurred is it the greatest rap album ever? It’s almost unfair to speculate, but using “Brooklyn’s Finest” and “I Love The Dough” as precursors it would be wise to assume it would be near the top on the all-time list.
The East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry was one of the biggest feuds in rap history that ended in a virtual tie with both sides losing their top guy (Tupac obviously). The huge void left by the deceased legends gave way for artists such as Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Outkast a piece of the limelight to shine.
But what if the East Coast never lost Biggie? The New York hip-hop scene remains loaded with talent headlined by Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas and the Wu-Tang Clan to dominate the game. With such dominance do we get to hear Outkast? Does Eminem blow up like he did? Does 50 Cent work his way into a crowded NY hip-hop scene?
The Legend That Never Was
I already told you Diddy was the person most affected by Big’s death so let’s talk about the second person most affected—Ma$e. With Biggie still acting as Bad Boy’s top dog Ma$e doesn’t have to carry the load, pull a Barry Sanders and leave the game too early. Instead he gets to play sidekick to Big, no different than what we hear on “Mo Money, Mo Problems”—by the way I forgot to mention this with the other classics on Life After Death earlier and for that I say I’m an idiot—and slowly rise to superstardom.
If you think I’m crazy please visit YouTube and check out old school Ma$e (Harlem World, Children of the Corn) and tell me you don’t hear the potential. His smooth flow matched with Biggie could have been hits for days and be the one-two punch Diddy envisioned Craig Mack and Biggie being.
As you can see the possibilities are endless. The main thing to take away from this is that Christopher Wallace was a once in a lifetime artist. Had he been alive for his 43rd birthday I believe he’d be celebrating it to the fullest, living the lavish life and drinking a lot of Ciroc and smoking the finest loud.
In his short time with us he made memorable. You can’t quantify the effect Biggie has had on my generation (name me one person who hasn’t heard “Juicy”) and he wasn’t even around for most of it. Today we give thanks and celebrate to the only Christopher we acknowledge.