The Notorious B.I.G.’s Greatest R&B Guest Spots
The Notorious B.I.G. was able to majorly affect the course of hip-hop music in just a few short years. Repping Brooklyn to the fullest, the man born Christopher Wallace would briefly land at Uptown Records before mentor Puff Daddy launched his own label, Bad Boy Entertainment, with The Notorious B.I.G. as its flagship artist. Dropping his debut album Ready to Die in September 1994, Biggie would achieve double-platinum status, wowing the country with his hard-boiled raps about life on the streets of Bed Stuy and the paranoia and pain that clouds the life of a small-time hustler.
While Ready to Die put the streets on lock, The Notorious B.I.G. would broaden his base with guest appearances on various R&B records, displaying his nimble flow and suave persona in between vocals from some of the hottest acts in R&B. Although The Notorious B.I.G. had already showcased his ability to enhance an R&B track via early remix features from Mary J. Blige’s Whats The 411? album, Biggie would eventually lend his voice to tracks from other major acts ranging like R. Kelly and Michael Jackson. These guest appearances would help The Notorious B.I.G. became as much of a mainstay for R&B audiences as he was to rap fans, and added to his omnipresence over mid-90s Black music. Spearheaded by Puffy, Biggie’s embrace of R&B greatly influenced the late 90s fusion of the two genres. Suddenly, hardcore rappers and sultry singers were regularly featuring on each other’s music; and that melding would define popular sounds for the next 20 years.
Biggie’s influence on 90s music shaped both hip-hop and R&B. mWe handpicked and ranked the best R&B guest appearances of The Notorious B.I.G.’s short, but legendary career.
“Why You Tryin’ to Play Me”
Released posthumously, “Why You Tryin’ to Play Me” is one of the more unsung instances of The Notorious B.I.G. collaborating with an r&b star.
Included on The Projects Presents: Balhers Forever project, “Why You Tryin’ to Play Me” was released in 2000 and features a Biggie verse in which he’s calling out a scandalous hottie for her thirsty ways. Rhyming “Tuesday I saw you in the Z, but you still wanna get with me/Wednesday is the Benz day, that’s what your friends say/So I guess you think I’m slippin cause I ain’t flippin/Baby I’m Big Poppa ain’t no need to be trippin,” The Notorious B.I.G. may be aware, but also knows bosses never take a loss and plays it cool on this underrated cut.
“Real Love Remix”
“Look up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane/Nope, it’s Mary Jane, ain’t a damn thing changed,” The Notorious B.I.G. raps on “Real Love (Remix),” lifted from Mary J Blige’s What’s The 411? (Remixes) album. Recorded during his brief stint on Bad Boy Records, “Real Love (Remix)” would be one of Biggie’s first high-profile guest appearances and give the world a glimpse of the unknown rapper who they would get to know very soon.
Neneh Cherry hooked up with The Notorious B.I.G. for the remix of her 1994 song “Buddy X.” Gliding over a hazy beat, Biggie gifts Neneh with one of the better rapper guest spots on an R&B record, with lines like “Butt naked, you know you love it when I lick it/Some honeys says I’m lovely but Nenah says I’m wicked,” as he bounces off of the songstresses vocals. Other Biggie collabs may be more well-known, but “Buddy X (Remix)” is a testament to the big one’s prowess when touching on matters of the heart.
Before his ill-fated collabs with Jay Z, R&B’s greatest hitmaker of the 1990s connected with Hov’s Brooklyn counterpart for “(You To) Be Happy,” from Kels’ 1995 self-titled release. Produced by R. Kelly, “(You To) Be Happy” was a very high-profile R&B feature, and the Brooklyn heavy made sure not to disappoint. Dropping zingers like “Smokin’ blunts on the veranda with Amanda/She’s fillin’ your head with he said, she said/Poppa doin’ this, poppa doin’ that/But don’t tell him I said it ’cause my jeep might get wetted.”
“This Time Around”
“This Time Around” is one of MJ’s edgier songs and even features the King of Pop spewing a little profanity before Biggie steps in for a home-run of a verse. Leaving the roses at home and grabbing his firearm, Biggie touches on friends with ill-intentions and ulterior motives, with lines like “But they aren’t friends if they robbing me/Stopping me from making a profit see/Apology shallow like the ocean/I guess I’ll resort to gun-toting” suggesting that any such movements will not be tolerated. “This Time Around” is a monstrous collab between two of music’s most iconic artists and is one of Biggie’s superior features.
Bad Boy Records may have initially made waves with rappers like The Notorious B.I.G. and Craig Mack in 1994, but the subsequent years would see them riding a wave of R&B hits from acts like 112, who would release their debut album in 1996. Introducing the quartet in grand fashion, Diddy got The Notorious B.I.G. to lend a verse to 112’s debut single “Only You,” a definitive cut during Bad Boy’s memorable mid ’90s run. “Je-sus the notorious just/Please us with your lyrical thesis/We just chillin,milk em,top billin/Silk and pure linen, me and little Ceas,” The Notorious B.I.G. spits over breezy production courtesy of Stevie J. Reaching the Top 20 of the Billboard 200, “Only You” would help launch 112, and added to Biggie’s streak of hot R&B features.
“What’s the 411 (Remix)”
During his time at Uptown Records, The Notorious B.I.G. would hook up with Mary J. Blige for a pair of records, one of them being the remix of the title-track to her debut album. Produced by Rashad Smith, “What’s The 411 (Remix)” would include one of the more quotable guest verses Biggie has ever committed to wax. “As I sit back relax, steam a blunt, sip a Becks/Think about the sexy singers that I wanna sex/I’d probably go to jail for fucking Patti LaBelle/Ooh Regina Belle, she’d probably do me swell,” The Notorious B.I.G. rhymes. “Real Love (Remix)” may be the more recognized of his Mary J. Blige collabs, but “What’s The 411 (Remix)” is the more superb offering and ranks high on the list of Biggie duets.
“Can’t You See”
“Give me all the chicken heads from Pasadena to Medina,” The Notorious B.I.G spits on “Can’t You See,” the lead single from R&B act Total’s Bad Boy self-titled debut, which also doubles as one of the more popular songs in the label’s catalog. Produced by Rashad Smith and powered by a sample of James Brown’s “The Big Payback,” “Can’t You See” contains what is arguably The Notorious B.I.G.’s most popular guest verse of his career. Mixing murderous bars like “The last one, word to mother, brother, listen/I seen it when he kissed ’em at the wake/Made his body shake” with an ample amount of finesse, The Notorious B.I.G. turns in a monster of a verse with his contribution to “Can’t You See,” which is still a staple 20 years later.