Greatest-hits albums are kind of like reunion shows on television. Nobody really cares much for them, and most are just vein attempts to re-live past glory days. In hip-hop, they usually follow a pretty standard format: a few hit singles, a few new tracks of B-side quality (or, in the case of a deceased rapper, posthumous appearances alongside the latest big names in rap), and none of the bangers that hardcore fans love but radio never spun. And it’s often the case that even when said greatest hits come care of a legendary artist — even an artist who can easily be considered one of the greatest of all time in his genre — the compilation offers nothing out of the ordinary. Such is the case here.
There’s no debate that songs like “Warning” and “Juicy” (both of which are included) are classics, so the faults lie not with the songs but with the selection. Perhaps Diddy is still trying to boost sales of the posthumous Born Again and Biggie Duets releases by including terrible tracks like “Notorious B.I.G.” and “Nasty Girl,” passing over “Kick in the Door” and “Going Back to Cali” to do so. And though it was definitely not his best work, “Mo Money Mo Problems,” perhaps B.I.G.’s most popular mainstream hit during his career, is nowhere to be found, excluded to make room for a Ja Rule collabo. Even Bad Boy-crew cuts like “Playa’s Anthem,” the remix of “Only You” or “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” would have been more fitting. Or even some of his cameos (which are some of his best verses, after all): “Brooklyn’s Finest,” “All About the Benjamins,” the “Flava in Ya Ear” remix, the “Real Love” remix or the legendary ’95 Live freestyle at Madison Square Garden with 2Pac.
The album’s release coincides with the ten-year anniversary of Notorious B.I.G.’s death. But it almost seems like it was just thrown together in order to get it on the shelves by the first week of March. Because there are plenty of more interesting things to do here; even compiling his best verses (a la Termanology’s recent 50 Bodies mixtape) might have been better. (Trying to chop down his best lyrics over years of freestyles, remixes, and solo joints would be open to more discussion, not to mention highlight just how dope he was.)
If you truly want a best-of Biggie, just wait until next spring. Each year on March 9, New York’s Hot 97 radio station plays nothing but B.I.G. tracks. It’s a real hip-hop lesson, and it does more justice to his talent than this comp does. Just break out the tape deck, hit record, sit back, relax, and grab your dick if you love hip-hop.