On March 9, 1997, rapper Christopher Wallace, better known as The Notorious B.I.G., was gunned down. He was only 24 years old. His 1994 album Ready to Die had made him a superstar. His 1997 album Life After Death, released just two weeks after his death, immortalized him.
The Notorious B.I.G. and Puff Daddy
Devastated over the loss of his best friend, rapper Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs wrote a tribute around samples of The Police’s 1983 #1 hit “Every Breath You Take,” a song featured in the book The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999. Combs tapped singer Faith Evans, B.I.G.’s widow, to sing the song with him alongside R&B group 112. The song made its chart debut on June 14, 1997. It was huge from the onset. According to the 2001 Guinness World Records British Hit Singles book edited by Dave Roberts, it was the first to debut at #1 in both the United States and England. DR-64
It was only the fifth song in history to debut atop the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. (See full list here). Chart tracking methods changed in the 1990s, making the feat possible for the first time. Michael Jackson’s 1995 hit “You Are Not Alone” was the first to accomplish the landmark. As of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” which debuted atop the chart on February 26, 2011, it is still an accomplishment as only twenty songs can boast to doing it.
At its release, “I’ll Be Missing You” claimed the title of biggest selling rap song of all-time. DR-64 With 11 weeks atop the charts, it is also one of the biggest #1 pop songs in U.S. chart history. Only Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” has logged more time on top (although pop-meets-rap group Black Eyed Peas went to #1 for 12 weeks with “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Got a Feeling” hit the summit for 14 weeks).
1997 proved a mixed blessing for Combs. Even as he mourned his friend, he capped one of the most successful years in pop history. His song “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” topped the chart for 6 weeks right after B.I.G.’s death. It was replaced by B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize,” a song which Combs helped write and produce, for three weeks. A three-week stint by Hanson’s “Mmmbop” interrupted the Combs/B.I.G. stranglehold briefly – then “I’ll Be Missing You” began its chart run. It was then supplanted by “Mo Money Mo Problems,” another B.I.G. hit with Combs featured as a writer and producer. All told, Combs spent 22 weeks on top of the Hot 100 chart in 1997 as a writer, producer, and/or performer.
“I’ll Be Missing You” ranks as one of the top 1000 songs of the 20th century according to Dave’s Music Database.
For more information, including special recognitions for acts, songs, and albums, check out individual entries in the DMDB music makers’ encyclopedia for Puff Daddy and the Notorious B.I.G.. Also check out the DMDB pages for Ready to Die and Life After Death for reviews and more details about those albums.