And he's just one of the rappers who's enjoying a successful afterlife

By Evan Serpick
May 01, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Tu Pac: Danny Clinch/Outline

An untimely demise is always tragic, but for rappers it can be a good career move, too. In fact, the last month alone brought new albums from two long gone MCs: 2Pac and Big Punisher. Herewith, résumés of hip-hop’s late greats.

IN LIFE Rapper actor on the rise and in the news with four albums, three movies, and a high profile, shoot ’em up feud with East Coast rivals. IN DEATH Poet prophet for the ages with five new albums (so far), a book of poetry, and enough of a fan base to support a yearly Elvis like convention. STILL KICKING? His posthumous albums — including the recent No. 1 debuting two CD set — have outsold his prior efforts. Another double disc set later this year ensures a long commercial afterlife.

IN LIFE His critically lauded debut, ”Ready to Die,” peaked at a promising No. 7 on Billboard’s R&B chart. IN DEATH A pair of albums, including the two CD bestseller ”Life After Death,” spirited to No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart and sold 5 million copies. STILL KICKING? For sure: Bad Boy Records is still searching for a rapper with a pulse who can move units like he does from the grave.

IN LIFE The 700 pound Bronx MC put Latin hip-hop on the map with 1998’s No. 1 R&B album, Capital Punishment, and ubiquitous single ”I’m Not a Player.” IN DEATH First posthumous disc, ”Yeeeah Baby,” hit a lively No. 3, while last month’s Endangered Species kept the Big man alive at No. 7. STILL KICKING? Pun’s career rolls on, reaper be damned. But sales fade with the Latin legend’s memory.

IN LIFE The drug dealer turned MC was a founding (and funding) member of N.W.A, whose 1988 double platinum Straight Outta Compton became a gangsta landmark. IN DEATH The MC turned cautionary tale released two posthumous discs after his 1995 AIDS related passing, but sales were Elusive. STILL KICKING? Unlike the other rappers here, Eazy’s best years were gone before he was.