How Classic Is The Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready To Die? | Reviews

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CLASSIC RATING: 5 OUT OF 6

Released: September 13, 1994

'Ready To Die' is one of the best east coast hip-hop records of the 1990s and an all-time hip-hop classic that sounds just as relevant and dope in 2017 as it did when it was released back in '94 on the legendary Bad Boy Records company run by Sean 'Puffy' Combs now known as P. Diddy, Diddy or more recently 'Love a.k.a. Brother Love'. The record was in direct competition with recent releases by Death Row from Dr. Dre and more specifically Snoop Doggy Dogg's (as he was known then) 'Doggystyle' record. Snoop was hot back then but so was Biggie Smalls a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G. from Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York. 

Ready To Die is a concept album and chronicles Biggie's life from birth to death. The intro starts in 1972 with Christopher Wallace being born in the labor room to Curtis Mayfield's 'Superfly'. Then it transitions to 1979 and you can hear Christopher's (Biggie's) father arguing and shouting with his wife (played by Lil' Kim) saying "You can't control that boy?!" and Kim responds that he's a "dumb muthafucka!" Next, we have a scene were Biggie coaxes a friend into robbing a train set to the sound of Audio Two's "Top Billin" from 1988. They then proceed to rob the train as they shout "Get on the floor muthafucka!" while they shoot off shots from a shotgun. In the next scene, Biggie is getting released from prison to Snoop Dogg's track "Tha Shiznit" in 1993 (after serving 5 years for the robbery) and the prison guard asks Biggie "So how does it feel leaving us?" and Biggie replies "Huh! What kind of fucking question is that? I'm trying to get the fuck up out this joint dawg!" to which the guard replies "Yeah, you'll be back! You niggas always are!" Biggie answers "You won't see me up in this muthafucka no more! I got big plans nigga! Big plans! Hahahaha!"

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After the intro, we dive right into the albums first cut, "Things Done Changed" which sample Dr. Dre's "Lil' Ghetto Boy" on the chorus, the track is an intense affair and is very uncommercial.  Next up Biggie does some role-playing on "Gimme The Loot" where he tells a story and does a two-voiced rap explaining the art of armed robbery in detail. Next, we have two less interesting songs, "Machine Gun Funk" is a New Jack Swing style beat with some okay rapping, while "Warning" is slightly better with a chill beat and some more multi-voiced rapping. 

Track six is the title track and one of the best tracks so far with a hardcore and morose beat with Biggie delivering some morbid lyrics with a vicious twist of battle lyrics. Next up Biggie goes full sex mode on "One More Chance", the track has a low key beat and features an r&b hook from Debarge. After the song ends Biggie fucks Lil' Kim on the "Fuck Me (Interlude)" with Lil' Kim delivering some hilarious sex talk.

Track 9 is "The What" featuring Wu-Tang's Method Man (who was really hot in '94) and is a standout track and the first light-hearted song on the album:

Fuck the world, don't ask me for shit
Everything you get you gotta work hard for it
Honeys shake your hips, you don't stop
And niggas pack the clips, keep on, bitch

Track 10, "Juicy", is one of hip-hop's all-time classics and a great feel-good track featuring biographical lyrics from Big and a sweet chorus delivered by girl group Total. The track offers a variety of themes such as: childhood dreams, accomplishments, success and family values, and these themes make 'Juicy' the classic track it is and a bright light on this album which is frequently quite dark. Next, we have the mediocre "Everyday Struggle" with depressing, albeit creative lyrics, describing more street hustler scenarios. Track 12 is titled "Me & My Bitch" and chronicles an intense ghetto romance filled with crime and passion. Track 13 introduces the playa "Big Poppa" who is a smooth, suave, and sophisticated ladies man. The beat is extremely laid-back and has some melodic elements which are very similar to Dr. Dre's G-Funk sounds.

Rounding out the album we have "Respect" which features a hard-hitting beat which is pretty catchy and features another west coast Dr. Dre element, namely female Rastafarian vocals talking about the gun-toting lifestyle mixed with a party/dancehall vibe. Next Biggie coaxes a girl into giving him a blowjob in a skit full of slurping dick sucking sounds before launching into the average "Friend of Mine". 

Now comes one of the highlights of the album produced by the legendary DJ Premier of Gang Starr, who delivers a classic beat on "Unbelievable" which is both memorable, catchy and original, with Biggie delivering some of his best lyrics on the album. The last track on the album is the gloomiest of them all and is aptly titled "Suicidal Thoughts" and begins with these lyrics:

When I die, fuck it, I wanna go to hell
'Cause I'm a piece of shit, it ain't hard to fuckin' tell

After a few minutes of self-hating and remorsefulness, Biggie kills himself at the end of the song as you hear him shoot himself over the phone while Puffy screams "Yo Big!! YO BIG!!!" A sad and tragic ending to a great concept album that doesn't glorify the crime life but rather describes all the anguish of living a lifestyle which is entrenched in violence and crime on a daily basis. Big would continue with the concept album format on his next album three years later in 1997, which he logically titled "Life After Death", which sadly also was the same year that he was murdered.

 Back cover tracklist from The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Ready To Die" (1994 CD)

Back cover tracklist from The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Ready To Die" (1994 CD)

How Classic Is Ready To Die?

CLASSIC: Juicy, Big Poppa, Unbelievable | GREAT: Things Done Changed, Gimme The Loot, Ready To Die, One More Chance, The What | SOLID: Machine Gun Funk, Warning, Me & My Bitch, Respect, Suicidal Thoughts | OKAY: Everyday Struggle, Friend of Mine
reviewAlexander Ramalho