This song is a tribute to Notorious B.I.G., a rapper and good friend of P. Diddy (known as Puff Daddy at the time) who was shot to death on March 9, 1997 at age 24. The incident happened in the early morning after an industry party in Los Angeles when B.I.G. was riding in the passenger seat of an SUV. A gunman opened fire from a vehicle that pulled alongside, firing four shots that hit the rapper. No arrest was made in the case.
Notorious B.I.G. was signed to Diddy's Bad Boy label, and after the shooting, another Bad Boy artist, the Lox, recorded a tribute song called "We'll Always Love Big Poppa." This prompted Diddy to record his own song for his fallen friend as a way of getting closure. "When I made the record, I was finally able to talk to him," Diddy said. "That's all it was, a conversation."
This samples "Every Breath You Take
" by The Police, which was one of Diddy's favorite songs. He didn't sort out the legal issues until after the song was released. Sting, who wrote the Police song, was granted a writers credit, resulting in substantial royalties. Sting appreciated the sentiment in Diddy using "Every Breath You Take" to honor his fallen friend. The Police frontman even performed the song with Diddy and his crew at the MTV Video Music Awards, where he sang the chorus.
Faith Evans, wife of Notorious B.I.G., sings on this along with the R&B group 112. They all recorded for P. Diddy's Bad Boy record label.
This won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. No Way Out also won the Grammy for Best Rap Album. This didn't go over well with Wu-Tang Clan's Ol' Dirty Bastard, who came on stage during the ceremony while Shawn Colvin was accepting an award to complain. Said Bastard: "Puffy is good, but Wu-Tang is for the children."
Combs was sued and settled with Albert Brumley and Sons, a gospel and country music publishing company that owned the rights to a 1929 song called "I'll Fly Away," which contained the line "Some glad morning when this life is over," which Evans sings in the chorus.
It was later revealed that P. Diddy's lyrics were written by the rapper Sauce Money (Todd Gaither), who had previously worked with Jay-Z on the song "Show and Prove." Diddy didn't write lyrics - he laced the track and let other rappers lock the flow. Gaither drew inspiration from his mother, who had recently passed away.
This song sold over 3 million copies in America, the second-biggest seller of 1997 in that country. It was a distant second to another tribute song: Elton John's "Candle In The Wind '97
," which was re-written in honor of Princess Diana and went on to sell over 11 million copies in America.
On July 1, 2007, Diddy performed "I'll Be Missing You" at the Concert for Diana held at Wembley Stadium in London. This performance was downloaded so many times that it returned the song to the UK chart, this time making #32.
In America, this was the #1 song for most of the summer of 1997, claiming the top spot on June 14 and spending 11 weeks there ("Candle In The Wind '97" stayed for 14 weeks, starting October 11).
The song topped the charts in numerous countries across the world, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, New Zealand UK and the US. It is the biggest selling rap single in the UK with over 1.4 million copies sold.
Hype Williams shot the music video in Chicago, including several scenes in a passenger walkway tunnel at O'Hare International Airport. Williams also directed the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Big Poppa
Rap songs often overuse the word "bitch," but this touching tribute kept Meredith Brooks' song of that title
out of the top spot for four weeks.
BTS covered the song
during their BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge debut on July 27, 2021. The K-Pop septet delivered a rocked-up version accompanied by a full band with additional guitars and drums.