Happy 20th Anniversary to Born Again, the first posthumous album by the late, great, Notorious B.I.G., released by Bad Boy Records and Arista Records on December 7, 1999. It features early recorded verses with newer beats and guest rappers. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart with 485,000 albums sold in the first week, and was certified 2x Platinum by the RIAA on January 14, 2000, and has sold over 2,350,000 copies in the United States. The album boasted two singles “Notorious B.I.G.” featuring Puff Daddy and Lil Kim and “Dead Wrong” featuring Eminem. “Born Again” teamed B.I.G. up with hip hop and R&B artist including many artists Wallace had never collaborated within his lifetime.
The Notorious B.I.G. is considered to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. B.I.G. was noted for having a loose, easy flow with dark, semi-autobiographical lyrics; and storytelling abilities that were unmatched, which he focused on the streets and hardship. Born and raised in Brooklyn, The Notorious B.I.G. signed to Sean “Puffy” Combs label Bad Boy Records in 1993 and gained exposure with features on several singles the same year. Before his break came he was heavy into the street life and received jail time after being caught with a handgun. After being released from jail, B.I.G. made a demo tape called “Microphone Murderer”, using the name Biggie Smalls, a reference to a character in the 1975 film Let’s Do It Again. The tape was promoted by New York-based DJ Mister Cee, who had previously worked with Big Daddy Kane, and in 1992 it was heard by the editor of The Source.
In 1992, B.I.G. was featured in The Source‘s Unsigned Hype column. The demo tape was heard by Uptown Records A&R and record producer Sean “Puffy” Combs, who arranged for a meeting with Wallace. He was signed to Uptown immediately and made an appearance on label mates Heavy D & the Boyz’s “A Buncha Niggas” (from the album Blue Funk). In mid-1993, a year after Wallace signed his recording contract, Combs was fired from Uptown and a week later, Combs started a new label, Bad Boy Records. B.I.G. followed and signed to the label on the same day that Bad Boy Records was started. He continued selling drugs to support his daughter financially but once Combs discovered this, he forced Wallace to quit. Later in the year, Notorious B.I.G. gained exposure after featuring on a remix to Mary J. Blige’s single “Real Love”. He recorded under this name for the remainder of his career, after finding the original moniker “Biggie Smalls” was already in use. “Real Love” peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was followed by a remix of Blige’s “What’s the 411?”. He continued this success, to a lesser extent, on remixes with Neneh Cherry (“Buddy X”) and reggae artist Super Cat (“Dolly My Baby”, also featuring Combs) in 1993.
In April 1993, his solo track, “Party and Bullshit”, appeared on the Who’s the Man? soundtrack. In July 1994, he appeared alongside LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes on a remix to label mate Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear”, which reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. His debut album Ready to Die (1994), considered his best work by far, made him a central figure in East Coast hip hop and increased New York City’s visibility in the genre at a time when the West Coast hip hop was dominating. It gained strong reviews and has received much praise. In addition to “Juicy”, the record produced two hit singles: the Platinum-selling “Big Poppa”, which reached No. 1 on the U.S. rap chart, and “One More Chance”, which sold 1.1 million copies in 1995
The following year, he led Junior M.A.F.I.A.—a protégé group composed of his childhood friends—to chart success. In 1996, while recording his second album, The Notorious B.I.G. was heavily involved in the growing East Coast–West Coast hip hop feud. Following Tupac Shakur’s death by a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on September 7, 1996, rumors of his involvement with Shakur’s murder spread. On March 9, 1997, The Notorious B.I.G. was murdered by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles, both murders to this day are still unsolved. His second album, Life After Death (1997), released two weeks later, reached number one on the Billboard 200 and became one of the few hip-hop albums to be certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Over the course of time, his vocals were heard on hit songs with Michael Jackson and also songs such as “Foolish” and “Realest Niggas” by Ashanti in 2002, and the song “Runnin’ (Dying to Live)” with Shakur the following year. In 2005, Duets: The Final Chapter continued the pattern started on Born Again, which was criticized for the lack of significant vocals by Wallace on some of its songs. It’s lead single “Nasty Girl” became Wallace’s first UK No. 1 single. Combs and Voletta Wallace have stated. the album will be the last release primarily featuring new material. A duet album, The King & I, featuring Evans and Notorious B.I.G., was released on May 19, 2017, which largely contained previously unreleased music. In total three more albums have been released since The Notorious B.I.G.’s death, and he has certified sales of over 28 million records in the United States including 21 million albums. Rolling Stone has referred to him as the “greatest rapper that ever lived” and Billboard named him the greatest rapper of all time. In 2019, The Notorious B.I.G. was nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for 2020.
“Born Again” came at a time when the world was just not over the lost of B.I.G. We were all waiting for some new material or to just hear his voice over the airwaves again. “Notorious BIG” featuring Lil Kim and Puff was almost nostalgic, and “Dead Wrong sounded like a track that could have been on the Ready to Die album. Salute to Notorious B.I.G., a talent taking way to early from a star who didn’t get a chance to see his full potential. Congratulations on the 20th year Anniversary for “Born Again”, We’ll always love you, Big Poppa.