Friday, January 18, 2013

133 Ready to Die. I hope he was.

Album: Ready to Die
Artist: Biggie Smalls
Genre: Hip Hop
Year: 1994


1. Intro
2. Things Done Changed
3. Gimme the Loot
4. Machine Gun Funk
5. Warning
6. Ready to Die
7. One More Chance
8. Fuck Me (interlude)
9. The What
10. Juicy
11. Everyday Struggle
12. Me & My Bitch
13. Big Poppa
14. Respect
15. Friend of Mine
16. Unbelievable
17. Suicidal Thoughts

I have to address the elephant in the room (and I'm not talking about the fact that Biggie Smalls was an extremely large man), this album is called Ready to Die and it was recorded by a guy who died not long afterwards. A lot of people make a lot of this fact and the inherent irony which is fine but anyone making a big deal of this information should probably acknowledge that pretty much every rapper who ever lived has released a track or album with implications of death in the title and many of them are now coping with life as the parents of teenagers.

Ready to Die is a concept album and also a rap album which means I should probably hate it twice because that's two of my least favourite things right there. In fact I only hate this album once and that's due to it's rapness, and even then it's only a mild dislike, certainly much milder than my irritation at a lot of rap I've had to review so far. The concept part actually works remarkably well, probably due to the fact that it's such a simple concept. Ready to Die is the story of The Notorious BIG's life from birth, through his troubled childhood to his present situation and then beyond to suicide and death. It's not a highfalutin concept involving aliens, kings, telepathy or the impending destruction of earth by a race of pixies who eventually learn to love, such as you might find on prog-rock concepts albums. It's a down to earth examination of one man's life through his music. It's his personal journey from poverty to success and then an image of what lies in his future.

The personal nature of his journey makes Biggie's rapping more accessible than a lot of his colleagues. You have to overlook the fact that some of his poverty and hardship is embellished for personal effect (his mother is apparently annoyed at his insistence that he grew up in a one-room shack) but it still makes for compelling listening.

Smalls has received a lot of accolades for reviving east coast hip hop which I have to say I don't care about in the least, it doesn't matter to me which coast music I don't want to listen to comes from. But he's also been praised for putting out rap which raised the bar for clever wordplay and sophisticated rhyming in hip hop, which does make it easier to enjoy if you find yourself coldly distant from rap production as I always do.

Ready to Die is another rap album I don't need to hear again but if you held me at gunpoint and demanded I listen to ten rap albums from this list again it would probably be one I'd choose.

Highlight: The concept
Lowlight: (interlude)

Influenced by: Rap from a coast
Influenced: Rap from another coast

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Biggie sucks,he only made 2 albums."

-Surely the fault lies with his murderer more than the guy himself?

So are you ready to listen or would you rather die? Let me know below

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