With two new Tupac albums potentially on the way, CASSIUS figured: why NOT round up some of the best posthumous albums of the last quarter century? Scroll through our picks below, then holla at us about your faves.
Nirvana – MTV Unplugged in New York (1994)
MTV Unplugged in New York was filmed on November 18, 1993—before Kurt Cobain’s death. But it wasn’t until after his passing in 1994 that it was released as an album and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The album went on to become Nirvana’s most successful posthumous drop, earning them a Grammy for Best Alternative Album in 1996 and being certified 5x platinum in 1997.
Eazy-E – Str8 off tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton (1995)
Eazy-E’s second and final album, Str8 off tha Streetz was released on January 20, 1996—just ten months after his death from AIDS. Entertainment Weekly called it “his most musically varied and enjoyable album.” It’s also certified platinum, and peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s list of Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.
The Notorious B.I.G. – Life After Death (1997)
An album that needs no introduction, Life After Death was Biggie’s second studio album and gave us hits like “Hypnotize” and “Mo Money Mo Problems.” In 1998, it was nominated for three Grammy awards, and in 2003, it was included on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Biggie was shot just two weeks before the album’s release.
Big L – The Big Picture (2000)
Big L’s second album was supposed to drop in 1999, but was postponed for a posthumous release following his death. The album dropped via Rawkus Records on August 1, 2000 after being finished by his manager and partner, Rich King (it was incomplete at the time of his passing). Not only did it sell over 72,000 copies in its first week and 500,000 units overall, but it ended up becoming Big L’s most successful release.
Aaliyah – I Care 4 U (2002)
In 2002—one year after Aaliyah’s plane crashed in the Bahamas—Blackground Records and Universal Music put out her posthumous compilation album, which included previously unreleased tracks recorded between ’93 and ’01. The album was received well by fans, who pushed it to No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and the top ten of UK record charts. The album was certified platinum and has sold over 6 million copies worldwide.
J Dilla – The Shining (2006)
Like Big L’s The Big Picture, Dilla’s The Shining was incomplete at the time of his death on February 10, 2006. It was finished by entrusted friend and fellow Detroit hip hop artist Karriem Riggins before being released on August 22, 2006 (with an instrumental version of the album arriving shortly after). Fun fact: “So Far to Go,” which appeared on Donuts as “Bye,” was reworked with the intention of becoming the remix to Common’s “Go!” Instead, it ended up finding its way onto Finding Forever, with an indelible feature from D’Angelo.
Jimi Hendrix – People, Hell and Angels (2013)
People, Hell and Angels is the fourth release under Experience Hendrix’s deal with Legacy Recordings. The compilation album includes twelve previously unreleased songs that Hendrix was cooking up for the follow-up to Electric Ladyland, including “Somewhere,” “Izabella,” and “Villanova Junction Blues”.
James Brown – Live at the Apollo, Volume IV: September 13-14, 1972 (2016)
Though James Brown had released multiple albums recorded at the famed Apollo, his fourth—which included recordings from September 13-14, 1972—wasn’t physically released until 2016. “To this day, it’s not clear Imade [sic] made the decision to ice Live At The Apollo Volume 4: Brown himself, or his then label, Polydor,” NPR wrote at the time of its release. But now that it’s here, it’s become one of his most astounding releases yet (though not as trailblazing as the first Apollo record, NPR notes). The album features The J.B.’s, Bobby Byrd, and Lyn Collins, and is available on both CD and vinyl.
Prince – 4Ever (2016)
A list of memorable posthumous albums wouldn’t be complete without Prince. Released on November 22, 2016, the album arrived as a two-disc, 40-song set featuring songs from 1978’s For You to 1993’s The Hits/The B-Sides recorded in July 1982. Also making an appearance is the previously unreleased “Moonbeam Levels,” which was while working on 1999.