Check Out How Biggie’s ‘Life After Death’ Was Made

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    Album: <em>Life After Death</em><br />Artist: The Notorious B.I.G.<br />Release Date: March 25, 1997<br />Length: 109:12<br />Double Disc Worthy?: Yes. Big’s final opus is widely regarded as one of the greatest rap albums of all-time.
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  • Notorious B.I.G. 1995

[Editor's Note: This Originally appeared in XXL's April 2003 issue]

Life After Death proved to be a sadly prophetic title for 24-year-old Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace’s second album. Clearly, the Brooklyn rhyme slinger had it all mapped out. B.I.G. would follow up his platinum 1994 debut Ready To Die—a street hustler’s morality tale that ended with the narrator’s gunshot-inflicted suicide—with an expansive musical statement that unapologetically celebrated the successful MC’s newfound love of life and all its rewards.

Recorded over 18 months, in New York, Los Angeles and Trinidad, Life After Death documents the extraordinary and ultimately tragic final chapter in the life of an ascending star. The sessions were interrupted by B.I.G.’s arrest for marijuana and gun possession, a car accident that shattered his left leg and the increasing pressures of fame. And of course, everything was taking place under the shadow of a media frenzy surrounding the interpersonal strife between B.I.G. and California rapper Tupac Shakur.

Released March 25, 1997, less than a month after B.I.G. was tragically gunned down while leaving a Soul Train Awards party in Los Angeles, Life After Death sold a mammoth 690,000 copies its first week, according to SoundScan, debuting at no. 1 on both Billboard‘s Pop and R&B charts. Eventually, it went on to surpass the sales mark set by Tupac’s nine-times platinum double album All Eyez On Me, joining Hammer’s Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ’Em as rap’s only diamond-certified discs.

On the sixth anniversary of the notorious MC’s passing [eds. note: 2014 is the seventeenth anniversary], XXL interviewed friends, associates and fellow artists who played a part in the making of his classic opus. Assembled here, their remembrances give a track-by-track glimpse into a creative process that resulted in one of hip-hop’s most enduring artistic achievements. All hail Big Poppa!—KEITH MURPHY

Life After Death Players:

B.I.G.’s Hitmen:

Sean “Puffy” Combs CEO of Bad Boy Records and Executive Producer of Life After Death • Steven “Stevie J.” Jordan Former member of the Hitmen, Bad Boy’s in-house production team.• Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie CEO of Crazy Cat Records. Former Hitman. A&R of Life After Death. Voice behind skit character, the Madd Rapper. • Lil’ Cease Longtime friend of The Notorious B.I.G. and member of the Brooklyn-based rap crew Junior M.A.F.I.A. • Lil’ Kim Bed-Stuy-born rapper and first lady of Junior M.A.F.I.A. • Nashiem Myrick Former Hitman. • Jadakiss Member of rap trio The LOX, formally signed to Bad Boy. • D. Roc Childhood friend and longtime confidant of B.I.G. • Havoc One half of the infamous rap group Mobb Deep. • DJ Premier One half of the revered rap duo Gang Starr. • Chucky Thompson Former Hitman. • Krayzie Bone One fourth of groundbreaking Cleveland, Ohio rap group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. • Layzie Bone One fourth of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. • Carlos Broady Former Hitman. • Carl Thomas Bad Boy R&B singer. • Easy Mo Bee Brooklyn-based rap music producer. • RZA Mastermind behind Staten Island rap conglomerate Wu-Tang Clan. • DMC Legendary MC from Run-DMC. • Kay-Gee Former member of Naughty By Nature, CEO of Divine Mill Records. • Buckwild Bronx-based hip-hop producer. • Schoolly-D Philadelphia gangster rap pioneer. • Clark Kent Mild-mannered hip-hop DJ and producer.

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  • M.O.E.

    Lyrical genius, what else can I say?

  • EnglandRepresent

    The best to ever do this shit, representin hip-hop to the fullest, Big Poppa aka Frank White – hold it down upstairs homey, we ain’t never gonna forget the REAL King of New york

  • oklahoma

    dont kill me but i want to know whats the deal the two cdz were cool but niggaz have came harder this nigga made tricking an art makeing niggaz give bitches they dreams and shit then he came on some killa shit there was no message nor substance. money clothes and hoes is all a nigga knows.if im a nigga on the block i really aint hearing that im live’n it.i like it but biggie over rated

  • h-town represnta

    biggie aight but pac is the greatest period!!!!!!!!!!!!


    im from l.a. to me its all about pac (r.i.p.) but big is like the yang to pac ying no matter where u at both remain legends inthe heartz of men.


    we still love u big RIP



  • ripsta

    Big one of da best him and Pac NO 1 WILL EVA BE ON THERIR LEVEL 4 REEL

  • John

    i no everyone that don’t no shit about rap likes biggie better but i no shit about rap and i think pac is better. also any one that doesn’t no shit sbout rap doesn’t no they were friends untill pac thought biggie got people to kill him at a studio. biggie is still great but… r.i.p. both of them. Greatest Rsp rivalry ever. i heard pac might b alive i dunno if he is or isnt but anyways the comment is on biggie good CD.

  • Scholes

    Greatest Album ever… 2 many hard lyrics and real gangstar rap on this album. Past 9 years is dictated by the rhyme bars on this album, It makes you think Hov is not creative (No disrespect coz jay-z is creative.) The story on somebody gotta die is just blazing, niggarz bleed, what’s beef?,missing you, u nobody till somebody kill you, Notorious thugs… The list is endless 10 crack commandments… Pliz I gotta go


    Biggie in my opinion..Made The Two Best Rap Albums in History…Close Behind is All Eyez On Me….

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  • Lu Tang Clan

    Lil Cease sayin’ “oh Biggie had said something about ‘Pac in the begining of Long Kiss Goodnight, but we took it off”. Yeah right, Biggie didn’t have the balls to do it. Puffy denies it right after him. Jay-Z said the same thing, that Jay had recorded a 2Pac diss but never released. How come all these guys recorded all these disses but never released them? At least one would get out.

  • frank

    great account of the making of…I have always wondered in what circumstances the songs were made – great work ! thanks XXlmag

  • Gargarmel

    Pac ain’t ready for this nigga biggie. one album and this niga tours the world.he switches from rapping slow to fast then r&b. who ready for big.wen pac ryhmes u can hardly picture the shit but wen u hear big u right there seeing it going down.r.i.p rapper to ever do it.

    • Frankie

      Big is by far the best….. As they’ve said already……the stories he tells are vivid as hell…… To this day I play the album song by song…… You can’t do that with any other rapper….


      yea ok. biggie was awesome but he had to do pop songs with puffy to sell

      • Thoma$

        Wasn’t Pac dancing around, with a nigga with a pickeled nose, & doing Jodeci records, before he died? So let’s save the pop shit, Pac had to run to Death Row, to compete with B.I.G’s one album resume.

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    Жалею, но ничего нельзя сделать.

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  • danTHEMAN

    yo. im from africa and i can tell u rite now big changed the rap game. respect to pac too. but i feel pac got big involved in his bullshit and thats why big aint here no more. we’ll always luv big poppa. yo, and big up to puffy for bringing us the greatest rapper of all time

  • 8====D~~~~(.)(.) = babies

    it didnt surpass all eyes on me in sales . tupacs album went 9x platinum in one and a half yrs .. it has to do with the time period of certification . if u ask me they dint want all eyes on me to have that diamond certification..

    • Thoma$

      Yes it did, surpass “All Eyes on Me”. How long “AEOM”, been out, still not at 10XPlatinum? It was out a lot longer, than B.I.G’s album, with a lot more exposure, & features. Pac’s “Greatest Hits”, haven’t even sold ten mil, for that matter five mil, it’s still in the 4.6mil – 4.9mil sold mark. Afeni felt bad, that Voletta was shining up B.I.G’s diamond plaque, ten years plus, but the then highest selling rapper had ten times the material, but no diamond album.

      • 8====D~~~~(.)(.) = babies

        it is way past 10x platinum .. thats what im telling u . it took one and a half yrs to get 9x .. of course its more than 15 now .. u get it ?

        • Thoma$

          “All Eyes on Me”, took two, & half years to get to 9XPlatinum, it was certified 8XPlatinum two days, before it was certified 9XPlatinum, in the same year, & as of today, in 2013, it still haven’t been certified 10XPlatinum, but “Greatest Hits”, that’s still at 4.6mil – 4.9mil sold, can get certified 10XPlatinum. Just face it bruh, B.I.G won this debate.

          & both albums took about the same amount of time, to reach their overall sales, “All Eyes on Me”, took two, & half years, & “Life after Death”, took three years, not too much of a gap, for an album, that was out a lot less, to sale more.

          • 8====D~~~~(.)(.) = babies

            2 pacs greatest hits got recertified last yr . its diamond . if they did thesame with all eyes on me it would be diamond in 2013 . .. foh

          • Thoma$

            Slick Rick, Rakim, Nas, & Eminem,…yeah, but Snoop? GTFOH, with ignorant shit, Snoop has admitted he has ghostwriters, & his best album, was twenty years ago. When Pac was alive, no one ever said that shit, comparing him to John Lennon, or Bob Marley, so just because dudes dead, don’t mean he gets a pass now.

            Believe what you want, “Greatest Hits”, is UNDER 5mil U.S sales, so how the heck is it 10XPlatinum, but “AEOM”, is only a couple hundred thousand, from 10mil, at about 9.3mil – 9.7mil, but that’s not certified 10XPlatinum, where it’s CLOSER to 10XPlatinum.

            Save that Quincy Jones excuse, Quincy has no say so, in albums being certified, if that was the situation, Pac’s shit would’ve been certified long before by Quincy, after all, didn’t Pac date Quincy’s daughter??????? It’s possible for any rapper to have more than one diamond album, Em has two, because Em sold 10mil twice, Pac has yet to do it. & Pac has more albums, than any rapper, but still haven’t officially crossed the U.S 10mil sold mark.

            They didn’t want Pac to have, blah, blah, ever since Pac was the highest selling rapper, they rubbed it in, fabricating dudes sales, just like “Greatest Hits”, sales stands at 4.8mil, but some stupid way, it’s 10XPlatinum. Numbers don’t lie, & sound scan, is too respected, & they have “AEOM”, at 9mil sold, & “Greatest Hits”, at 4.8mil U.S sold, get mad at Pac, & sound scan.

          • 8====D~~~~(.)(.) = babies

            u didnt say one thing to refute what i said in that essay u wrote sir

          • Thoma$

            & you can’t explain, why “Greatest Hits”, by Pac’s sales are UNDER 5mil, at 4.8mil sold, but certified 10XPlatinum, but “All Eyes on Me” sold DOUBLE than what “Greatest Hits” sold, why isn’t that album certified 10XPlatinum, when it’s CLOSER to 10mil U.S sales.

            Call it a “essay”, I picked apart EVERY last one of your conspiracies, & you have no legitimate comeback response, that’s all that is.

          • 8====D~~~~(.)(.) = babies

            lol u said it was whatever number . but it was bullshit . now u trynna say they lied lmao u didnt research common knowledge .thats all

          • Thoma$

            Chart Watch Extra: All The Greatest Hits

            “23. 2Pac, Greatest Hits,
            4,848,000. This 1998 release is the best-selling greatest hits album by
            a rap or hip-hop artist. It peaked at #3. Key hits: “California Love”
            (featuring Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman), “How Do U Do It” (featuring K-Ci & JoJo). Top 200 ranking: #165.”

            You can say whatever you want, & try & turn this into a “conspiracy”. Fact of the matter is, Pac’s highest certified album, didn’t even sell 5mil. Wonder why “Greatest Hits”, is 10XPlatinum, but sales are UNDER 5mil, at 4.8mil. Took that nigga Pac, thirteen years to sell 4.8mil, “Life after Death”, sold DOUBLE that. B.I.G whooped Pac’s ass in this debate, B.I.G sold 10mil back in 2000, Pac still haven’t..Get over it, LOL!

          • 8====D~~~~(.)(.) = babies

            u are talking like a retard … pac greatest hits is over 10mil sold . i dunno where u got ur info from . but u look really sad . arguing over facts .smh

          • Thoma$

            Soundscan, has “Greatest Hits”, at 4.8mil, CERTIFIED 10XPlatinum. The album hasn’t even sold 5mil yet.

            Fact of the matter is, if you don’t know requirements, of double disc albums, just STFU.

            You can say what you want, Pac’s highest certified album sold 4.8mil, & “AEOM”, in REALITY is the highest selling album, of Pac’s resume, with over 9mil sold, seventeen years been released, YET to sell U.S 10mil sales. “Life after Death”, sold 10mil, in the U.S three years tops, 1997 released, 2000 10mil sold…diamond.

          • 8====D~~~~(.)(.) = babies

            loook dumb fuck … all eyes on me , life after death , greatest hits .. those albums have sold way over 5 mil=10mil units= diamond better believe that . if u dont u are a full blown retard . I DONT GIVE A FLYING FUCK WHAT SOME STUPID SOUND SCAN SAYS. u dont need soundscan to know that. fool

          • Thoma$

            The Best Selling Albums
            of All Timetm

            Top 40 Positions
            / As of: January 10, 2013

            Life After Death, The
            Notorious B.I.G.,
            10/2, Bad Boy/Arista

            Where’s “All Eyes on Me, & Greatest Hits”? Oh, right, they haven’t sold 10mil, in the U.S yet. “All Eyes on Me”, actually SOLD 9mil, but “Greatest Hits”, is CERTIFIED 10XPlatinum, but the sales are 4.8mil. Neither of those albums sold 10mil, in the U.S yet. Face facts! LOL!

          • 8====D~~~~(.)(.) = babies


    • Thoma$

      23. 2Pac, Greatest Hits,
      4,848,000. This 1998 release is the best-selling greatest hits album by
      a rap or hip-hop artist. It peaked at #3. Key hits: “California Love”
      (featuring Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman), “How Do U Do It” (featuring K-Ci & JoJo). Top 200 ranking: #165.

      & “All Eyes on Me”, sold 9mil, but how’s this album diamond/10XPlatinum, but it sold half of what “All Eyes on Me”.

      Fact of the matter is, Pac has no 10mil sold U.S albums, B.I.G does, B.I.G easily won this debate.

      • 8====D~~~~(.)(.) = babies

        pac doesnt have 10 mil sold in us because they dont wanna give it to him. its really easy to just do a sound scan in 2013 and he will get it. but ur dumbass cant see that . foh . how much do u think all eyes on me sold world wide then ? and greatest hits ? so who gives a fuck about riaa certifications ? u dont see its a marketing tool to say biggie was greater . when it shouldnt be that debate . ?

        • Thoma$

          LOL! This shit is REALLY HURTING YOUR feelings.

          Where do you not see, that “Greatest Hits”, U.S sales stands at 4.8mil, but the albums certified at 10XPlatinum, when it’s still stuck at under 5mil, the certification is what saved Pac’s ass. Without that 10XPlatinum certification, “Greatest Hits”, is just another fabricated, fake 9mil selling album, in reality, took thirteen years, just to sell 4.8mil.

          Like I said, face facts. I’m going by respected resources, you’re just a feelings hurt sissy, mad, because your favorite rapper got outsold, by a fat, cock-eyed nigga. They don’t want Pac to have blah, blah, blah, nigga STFU, if that was the case, they wouldn’t had been fabricating “Greatest Hits”, at 9XPlatinum, knowing full well, that the album sales, it’s REAL certification by the way, was at 4mil…4XPlatinum.

          Far as the better rapper, B.I.G is the only rapper in history, with limited material, two albums, & labeled G.O.A.T. What other rapper gets that title? Pac has fifty albums, & when he was alive, couldn’t even go platinum, it took Pac four years, for “2Pacalypse Now”, to go 500K/gold.