Highlights

  • Posthumous albums allow fans to celebrate the lives and enjoy the remaining and unreleased works of their favorite musicians. They can be highly successful in terms of chart rankings and album sales.
  • Big Pun’s album “Yeeeah Baby” became platinum-certified years after his death, debuting strong on the Billboard 200 with 179,000 first-week sales.
  • Amy Winehouse’s album “Lioness: Hidden Treasures,” featuring unreleased songs and demos, sold over 1.9 million units and aided the Amy Winehouse Foundation.

Tragedies can take anyone’s life, and musical artists are not immune to that. Death is inevitable, and nobody knows when, where, and how their time comes. As such, some artists left unreleased and unfinished works behind before their death.

Hence, many record labels have come up with the idea of releasing an album of their songs’ collections after a musician passes. Called “posthumous” albums, these records allow fans to celebrate their lives and enjoy the remaining and unreleased works of their favorite musicians. And from a money-making standpoint, labels stand to make a pretty penny if talented artists leave the world too soon and leave music behind to be released.

Related: Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain Hated Playing One Of His Greatest Songs Of All-Time

From Amy Winehouse’s Lioness: Hidden Treasures to The Notorious BIG’s Life After Death, here are ten of some of the finest posthumous albums from every genre.

Updated November 2023: What all of these artists have in common is that their posthumous albums did amazingly well on the charts and in album sales. In some cases, the posthumous album was the most successful of the artist’s career, with albums being certified gold, platinum, or beyond.

10 Yeeeah Baby – Big Pun

Billboard Chart Peak: Number 3

Date Released

April 4, 2000

Units Sold To Date

1 Million

Certified (US)

Platinum

Frequently hailed as one of the best emcees of all time, Big Pun emerged from the underground hip-hop scene in the Bronx and shot to stardom for his work with Fat Joe and the Terror Squad.

After he died in 2000 from a heart attack, Pun’s estate released his sophomore and final album, Yeeeah Baby, which became a platinum-certified album years later. The album enjoyed a strong debut on the Billboard 200 chart, amassing a total of 179,000 first-week sales.

9 Genius Loves Company – Ray Charles

Billboard Chart Peak: Number One

Ray Charles performing
via Instar

Date Released

August 31, 2004

Units Sold To Date

4,470,602

Certified (US)

3x Platinum

Before his death, legendary soul musician Ray Charles had one more trick up his sleeve. Genius Loves Company, his posthumous 2004 album, ventured into jazz, blues, R&B, urban contemporary, and even country radio stations.

The triple-platinum album ranked second on the Billboard 200, later on, that week, and received a Grammy Award for Album of the Year and Record of the Year.

8 Lioness: Hidden Treasures – Amy Winehouse

Billboard Chart Peak: Number Five

Amy Winehouse performing
via Instar

Date Released

December 2, 2011

Units Sold To Date

1,934,000

Certified (US)

409,000 Soundscan

Filthy-mouthed but down-to-earth diva, Amy Winehouse had always been the subject of controversies throughout much of her life. She enjoyed her youth with a plethora of nominations and accolades before health problems took her in 2011.

Lioness: Hidden Treasures is her one last goodbye. The compilation album features unreleased songs, covers, and demos and aids the Amy Winehouse Foundation.

Related: Amy Winehouse’s Death Put A Stop To A Family Member’s Promising Music Career

7 Dreaming of You – Selena

Billboard Chart Peak: Number One

Selena Quintanilla being interviewed
via YouTube

Date Released

July 18, 1995

Units Sold To Date

3,590,000

Certification (US)

59x Platinum

After she died in 1995, Selena made history as the first singer to have a predominantly Spanish-language album to debut atop the US Billboard 200.

Dreaming of You, her fifth and final record, elevated Selena to a whole new audience and nailed her an Album of the Year award at the 1996 Tejano Music Awards and Female Pop Album of the Year at the Billboard Latin Music Awards.

6 MTV Unplugged In New York – Nirvana

Billboard Chart Peak: Number One

Kurt Cobain singing and playing the guitar
via YouTube/Nirvana

Date Released

October 31, 1994

Units Sold To Date

12,779,430

Certification (US)

8x Platinum

Regardless of whether you’re a fan of grunge or not, there is no denying that MTV Unplugged in New York was one of the best albums that Nirvana ever released. The acoustic versions of the songs, including “All Apologies” and “Comes as You Are” are hauntingly beautiful. This is especially true given that the album was released after Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994.

The album also won the band a Grammy, the only one they received. Unfortunately, Cobain was not around to appreciate the award.

5 Milk And Honey – John Lennon & Yoko Ono

Billboard Chart Peak: Number Eleven

John Lennon and Yoko Ono on a city street
Via: Instar

Date Released

January 19, 1984

Units Sold To Date

763,600

Certification (US)

1x Gold

Former Beatles John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, were two of the most controversial figures in the genre. Before his cold-blooded murder at the hands of a crazy fan in 1980, the two recorded Milk and Honey album.

Singles like “Nobody Told Me,” “Borrowed Time,” and “I’m Stepping Out” propelled the album to where it’s at now.

Related: Paul McCartney Slams Yoko Ono For Hurting The Beatle’s Career Decades After John Lennon’s Death

4 Xscape – Michael Jackson

Billboard Chart Peak: Number One

Michael Jackson in concert
via Instar

Date Released

May 9, 2014

Units Sold To Date

1,124,724

Certification (US)

1x Gold

Years after his controversial death in 2009, Michael Jackson’s estate released the King of Pop’s sophomore posthumous album. Titled Xscape, the album compiles some of the unreleased and unheard songs from 1980 until 1999 during the Bad, Dangerous, and Invincible albums’ recording sessions.

The album stars production highlights and features from Justin Timberlake, Paul Anka, and many more.

3 Circles – Mac Miller

Billboard Chart Peak: Number Three

Mac Miller posing for portrait
via Instar

Date Released

January 17, 2020

Units Sold To Date

570,000

Certification (US)

1x Gold

It feels like just yesterday that Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller was still around. His estate honored the legacy of the rapper by completing his unreleased body of work, Circles, and releasing it in early 2020.

Circles complete the “swimming in circle” art concept, with two different albums complimenting each others’ artistic styles. Swimming, Miller’s final album before his passing, was the first of the intended trilogy.

The album ended up charting on several publications’ year-end must-listen albums lists.

2 The Don Killuminati – 2Pac/Makaveli

Billboard Chart Peak: Number One

Tupac Shakur looking unsure
Via: Instar

Date Released

November 5, 1996

Units Sold To Date

4,150,000

Certification (US)

4x Platinum

Two months after 2Pac’s death in 1996, Suge Knight, under Death Row Records label, released The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. The album embraces the new Tupac on a new moniker, Makaveli, and retrospects Pac’s anger and eerie side.

It’s Pac’s last grand artistic statement before a series of disappointing posthumous releases later, including Eminem’s produced Loyal to the Game.

1 Life After Death – The Notorious B.I.G.

Billboard Chart Peak: Number One

Notorious BIG Juicy music video
via YouTube

Release Date

March 25, 1997

Units Sold To Date

6,890,000

Certification (US)

11x Platinum

Although short-lived, The Notorious B.I.G.’s career has cemented his name on the Mount Rushmore of Hip-Hop for his influence and silky-smooth flows. Life After Death, the New York rapper’s second and final double album, exhibits the rapper’s position in the mafioso rap community and completes the “Ready to Die” statement he boasted on the previous album.

Biggie’s documentary I Got A Story to Tell was released on Netflix in 2021.

Source: NewsFinale

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