Life After Death is the second and final studio album by American rapper The Notorious B.I.G., released on March 25, 1997, on Bad Boy Records and Arista Records. A double album, it was released sixteen days after his death. It features collaborations with guest artists such as 112, Jay-Z, Lil’ Kim, Mase, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Too $hort, Angela Winbush, D.M.C. of Run-D.M.C., R. Kelly, The Lox, and Puff Daddy. Life After Death exhibits The Notorious B.I.G. further delving into the mafioso rap subgenre. The album is a sequel to his first album, Ready to Die, and picks up where the last song, “Suicidal Thoughts”, ends
The album was nominated for Best Rap Album, Best Rap Solo Performance for its first single “Hypnotize“, and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for its second single “Mo Money Mo Problems” at the 40th Annual Grammy Awards. In 2012, the album was ranked at No. 476 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Life After Death received widespread acclaim from critics upon release. Jon Pareles of The New York Times described the album as “flaunting affluence with a leisurely swagger, midtempo grooves and calmly arrogant raps”. Anthony DeCurtis of Rolling Stone magazine called it a “conscious continuation of Ready to Die“, and stated “Life After Death captures crime’s undeniable glamour but doesn’t stint on the fear, desperation and irretrievable loss that the streets inevitably exact”. Cheo Hodari Coker from the Los Angeles Times wrote that “Life After Death reflects both the dark and the heartfelt sides of the rapper’s Gemini personality. It’s not only a complex testament to who he was in his private life, but also a demonstration of his amazing rhyming ability. In key moments, B.I.G. does a marvelous job of surfing between accessible music fare tailored for the radio, and more challenging material that will be savored by hard-core rap fans who have long admired B.I.G.’s microphone skills. Rarely has a rapper attempted to please so many different audiences and done it so brilliantly”. In a five-mic review for The Source, Michael A. Gonzales felt that it would “undoubtedly become a classic to any true hip-hop fan”. Although David Browne of Entertainment Weekly was unfavorable of the album’s long length, and some of its violent and materialistic content, he commended Notorious B.I.G.’s “bicoastal respect” by working with other hip-hop styles and artists from other regions of the United States.
Since its release, Life After Death has received retrospective acclaim from critics. Rob Sheffield, writing in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), called it “a filler-free two-disc rush of musical bravado” and commented that the Notorious B.I.G.’s voice and lyrics were “deeper” than before. AllMusic‘s Jason Birchmeier wrote, “It may have taken the Notorious B.I.G. a few years to follow up his milestone debut, Ready to Die, with another album, but when he did return with Life After Death, he did so in a huge way. The ambitious album, intended as somewhat of a sequel to Ready to Die, picked up where its predecessor left off.” Birchmeier further said, “Over the course of only two albums, he achieved every success imaginable, perhaps none greater than this unabashedly over-reaching success.” Evan McGarvey of Stylus magazine wrote in his review, “Life After Death is a grand exercise in personal mythology, narrative sweep, and truly diverse, universal pop excellence. As a double album it is the very definition of cinematic; it essentially perfected the concept and standard in hip-hop … Sequenced as an unpacking of sorts, the album’s progression from song to song is an essay itself.” In 2013, VIBE named Life After Death the greatest Hip-Hop/R&B album since 1993.
Life After Death was released to a significant amount of critical praise and commercial success. The album sold 690,000 copies in its first week. In 2000, the album was certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting shipment of 5 million copies (the threshold for double albums) and it has been credited as one of the best-selling rap albums of all time. It also made the largest jump to number one on the Billboard 200 chart in history, jumping from number 176 to number one in one week. Also, it spent four weeks at number one on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and topped the Billboard Year-End chart as a Billboard 200 for 1997.
Chart (1997)Peak position
Australian Albums (ARIA) 59
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders) 30
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100) 63
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100) 16
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ) 28
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan) 30
Chart (1997) Position
US Billboard 200 8
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard) 1
Chart (1998) Position
US Billboard 200 112
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard) 79
Chart (1991-1999) Position
US Billboard 200 96
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada) 2× Platinum 200,000^
United Kingdom (BPI) Platinum300,000^