Published on May 21st, 2012 | by Snow0
Happy Birthday Biggie! Ready to Die through the eyes of Snow!
Happy Birthday Biggie… You would’ve been 40 years young today. Hopefully you and Pac are celebrating the Gemini season together. I still pump your records. I still quote you. In fact, this entire post was inspired by me schooling some young kid about how to make an album, not that I would know firsthand, but I know what would make me buy one (or listen to some one rap, period). I can’t imagine what it would be like today, if you were still alive. I know one thing for sure; you would not be rapping (maybe a few features and compilations). My song of the day is a remix off your single, but the rest of this post is about your album. One love Big!
Ready to Die, it’s almost eighteen years later and I still rock out to this entire Notorious B.I.G. album, front to back! For me, this is one album that when I hear it, I see it. This brings up memories of the time period when I heard the DJ Mister Cee, DJ Craig G, DJ Chill Will and DJ Clue mixtapes that had underground rappers before they were stars. The Notorious B.I.G. was one of many artists that I discovered by way of my older cousin Jah’s cassette tape player (might have been the Sony Walkman or JVC). Even on cassette tapes, that Bad Boy sound was AMAZING!
With today being Biggies birthday, I had to fire it up just because. I actively play a Biggie song every day, not just because it’s his B-Day or annual D-Day. Today for his birthday, I recognize his birth as an emcee. One of the best I’ve ever heard. I don’t care to place a TOP (insert number) ever list because what you like may not work for me. Opinions are respected and here are mines if you read further.
(LONG ASS POST ALERT!)
I am going to go song for song and try to recollect my thoughts/opinions/interpretations on it from the first time I heard it back in 1994 when I was in the 6th grade. This album was a soundtrack to my senior year in elementary school and the summer too! Shout out to the O.J. Simpson event, Martin Lawrence show and Knicks vs Rockets and above all… My SENIOR 6th GRADE TRIP!!!
One of my favorite rap intros ever. The cover is explained through the music & time that Biggie was born. If you grew up in the hood, then you know the musical timeline that this is putting in your head. Listen to that heartbeat!If you didn’t know when Biggie was born, but you know your music history, then you would know just by hearing this intro. His birth is clearly a 70s song, I believe it is the song “Superfly.”His discovery of Rap as a form of music through early Hip-Hop by the late 70s early 80s (maybe) which puts him around 7-9yrs old, listening to “Rappers Delight.”Then you have “Top Billin’” which Biggie clearly dates at 1987 and may put him around the 14-15-16 year old block where shit gets serious for most people in the hood.
Followed by Snoop Dogg’s track “Tha Shiznit” which is 92’ – 93’ placing Biggie around 20 at this point. Obviously, this is the end of the intro because this Ready to Die album came out in 1994!
Now, tell me… HOW SICK IS THIS INTRO? CUE BAD BOY SOUND EFFECTS TO HELP THE STORY!
- Things Done Changed
The first bit of words set the stage for this entire song “Remember back in the days, when…” Yeah, you start to agree and you start thinking things like “Word! Yo! I remember that!” Skelly? Yeah, kids born after 1995 don’t know anything about that!Then Biggie brings you up to reality real quick by “turn your pages to 1993 [brothers’] is getting smoked G, believe me!” Word Up! In 1994 when I was 10-11yrs old, it was crazy in NYC, so I am just buried in this story being told by my Bed-Stuy / Gemini Brother! It’s like he’s telling the story I live in presently to the world! The blunts, the dice games, no fist fights but many guns and etc. It was all too real in this song!To not go too crazy with this song, I just want to leave you with a note that these are generalized facts in this song! Listen to the song if you haven’t before or haven’t heard it at all.Even towards the end he questions “Damn, Whatever happened to the summer time cookouts!”
- Gimme the Loot
This song, for years, and I will admit this, I thought there were two people on this track, LOL at myself! When I was young, I bought the music but would NEVER read the tracklistings or credits. I played the album front to back! When I did look at the tracks, I just wanted the number and the song name.So you might be saying, “Son, who did you think was on the track with Biggie? LOL.” Well… who else but the Lord Chief Rocka Number 1 “Mr. Funke Man!” Listen to both tracks and keep in mind that Lords of the Underground was popping in 93’ – 94’. Plus the next song was MACHINE GUN FUNK! Would’ve been a sick collabo if it was, but I appreciated the song YEARS later when I finally found out it was Biggie the entire time! Of course, when I listen to it now I do say “How did I make that mistake!?” lol.Okay, this song basically narrated a night of a man on a mission in the streets that needs to make a score. How do you tell a story of a robbery spree? He illustrated the hunger in his homie coming home from doing a bid and needs money, bad! Considering the content of the song, I am not condoning anything; let’s stick to the lyrical content of telling a story and STICKING with it. That is something that is missing in a lot of Today’s “hip hop” and “rap” music.
The verse about “taking her door knockers…” I thought that was THE BEST part when I first heard it, I remember intensely listening to it “blocka blocka!” I repeated during the hook! I’m looking at the cassette thinking that the next song is about to start because how do you top that first for the song… and then THE LAST VERSE escalated the story of this song! Masterpiece if I’ve ever heard it… Remember… I’m talking about the art of storytelling and staying on topic! CUE BAD BOY SOUND EFFECTS TO HELP THE STORY!
- Machine Gun Funk
Many quotable lines in here! “If you fuck with Big and Heavy I get up in that ass like a wedgie!” (Note, if this rhyme came from someone rapping these days, they would say “Pause” *BLANK FACE*) Smh, what a line! Rest in Peace to the late Heavy D too! Smh. Legend.The sample for the hook was amazing and captures that NYC Hardcore Rap/Hip-Hop music essence. It was riding that snare HARD! The song is aggressive and he just goes on a straight flow by addressing “The Funk” of that time for him. It even outlines him getting off the crime and moving on to new shit!“Bed Stuy! The Place where my head rest!” Sorry, I had to quote that.. I’ll jump to the next song.
I cannot hear this song without seeing the video in my mind! At this point of the album, I am seeing Biggie turning into the successful side. He already outlined his intro to the rapper. He already noticed how the game has changed. He was 50/50 with his homie from out of jail and went on a looting spree against his will but he’s down for his homie so its “whatever.” Then in Machine Gun Funk he outlined that he put the crime down and times has changed…In this Warning song, you are basically witnessing him rising up in the ranks and now people want to try him… “It’s the one that smokes blunts with ya, see ya picture, now they wanna grab they guns and come and get ya!” I call this early signs of the “More Money More Problems” Biggie quote.Another well told story! The video and the album version… Once Again… CUE BAD BOY SOUND EFFECTS TO HELP THE STORY!
- Ready to Die
The album so far at this point, its set! 5 tracks in, with this being the 6thand you can’t help but nod your head and absorb the artist. That’s how I felt! “I got techniques dripping out my butt-cheeks!” aka I AM THE SHIT!Then in my head I heard a vinyl rip when he said “Fuck the world, Fuck my Moms and My Girl! My life is played out like a jheri curl, I’m ready to die!” Okay… see… the “Fuck the world” part, I agree! But when he said “Fuck My Moms and My Girl” I said Whaaaaaaaaaaat! With my Jaw stayed open in disbelief… Yeah, never mind the girl… but your mom son? On record? Oh yea, he better be ready to die! LOL. He has a black mom… I don’t need to finish that line. Yes, he definitely is ready to die! In case you didn’t believe the title of the song nor album. STAMPED!Like he said, “shit is real” and that is how he felt. This song stuck to its title. By the end, you really felt that hardcore vibe mixed with that Bad Boy production. You felt BIGGIE at this point all the way. You could listen to TEN more songs like the first six you’ve already heard… And then… Track seven intro comes on and you are like… Whoa! CUE BAD BOY SOUND EFFECTS TO HELP THE STORY!
- One More Chance
On this track, he basically gave a thug-love song. Kept it inside the boom bap high hat flow but the content was reachable to the thugs, g’s and etc that he acquired as his audience so far. The content on this song is dope for the G’s out there. Dudes can bang this, quote this and seduce them ruff neck shawties that may be lurking! Think Left-eye, MC Lyte, Boss, Da Brat and even Queen Latifah… All them fine ladies had that thing about them :)
- #! *@ Me (Interlude)
This skit is HILARIOUS! Shout out to the song in the background! Again… That BAD BOY SOUND and PRODUCTION strikes again! This was so well done, I always wonder if it was real… I never looked into it because I don’t want to take the pill! LOL Leave me to my matrix!
CUE BAD BOY SOUND EFFECTS TO HELP THE STORY!
- The What
Here we go again! Another banger! I am fully engaged at this point. I remember that clear as day. I’m at my stereo just bopping and quoting lines right after he say them, trying to absorb it and all of a sudden I hear “M-E-T-H-O-D Man!” and I damn near lost my shit! The homie Method Man from the Wu-Tang Clan was on Biggies album! What? (I got in trouble for the Wu-Tang 36 Chambers Album, HUGE fan of the Wu as a group and solo projects).Again, I don’t examine the information on the album so I had NO CLUE!The Method Man flow with the Notorious B.I.G. flow… that was too much rawness on one track and it was PERFECT! I listen to this track and I am like THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE COLLABORATIONS between two of my favorite artists. I refuse to go line for line on this, it will be a longer path. I just wish they had the opportunity to do another song or even a part two to this song (maybe for Method Man’s album?). Incredible song.
Side note, when rappers did what “The Green Eye Bandit” Erick Sermon said (see interview video via VladTV), there were a few collabo’s out there that just wasn’t touching this song! Recently, I saw something about Method Man being told that Biggie said something like [Yo, I think he got me man, I think he got me on my own shit!] Referring to Method Man’s flow on the song. I never thought about it, even till this day. In other songs, you can always point out one over the other, but I think this song was too ill with two ill ass mother fucking spitters on it! I had to use the “er” and “ing” on that one!
Now when this song plays, Biggie sets you off on two directions. One, you are being smacked with a classic sample which gives you a softer side of the album. Second, yes, the mellow and hook is smooth as the sample but the words are still raw! MIND FUCKED!It’s like the track seven “One More Chance” lyrics on a smoother track… hint, hint.I doubt if I have to go in depth with this one but basically, the story told in the song shows a turning point in this album and his life. Ten songs deep and now you got a song that can play on the air and get video play to be accepted by the female audience. The story told in the video as well as the lyrics is impeccable too!
- Everyday Struggle
The opening music for the beat starts off smooth and interesting… I remember thinking to myself “Okay this sounds like its going to be hot, I wonder where this track is going to take me…”Whenever a song starts out with “I don’t wanna live no more, sometimes I hear death knocking at my front door, I’m living every day like a hustle, another drug to juggle, I know how it feels to wake up fucked up, pocket broke as hell, another rock to sell” Booooom! Blew my mind.The JUICY song took me out of this gangsta zone (in a good way). The beat had me thinking I was going to get another Juicy like song but I got a deep in thought song with a story and flow that you cannot ignore. When he finishes, he re-confirms the struggle, lol. Dope!
- Me & My Bitch
Biggie did it again! When you live a gangsta life, you want a “gangsta bitch” every step of the way. No matter the type, everyone is looking for that love companion. Consider this a hardcore love song if you will. Even the dialogue in between the hooks and verses help illustrate the theme of the song. Bonnie and Clyde type shit! “I swear to god I hope we fucking die together!” is the line to take away from this… Shout out to Tical!!!!This may have sparked the “Down Ass Bitch” song and many others. Planning out the robberies and such? Oh yeah! She’s a rider!But like all the songs on this album, it is a story going along with the title… when you live in this game, certain things can and will happen… They killed his woman… Deep! STORY!Another takeaway: “So Where You From?” “Brooklyn.” Shout out to Jay-Z for using that!
- Big Poppa
“Lyrical douches in ya bushes!” I was done right there! This was a smooth lyrical song that you can play in any party and it will get the hips of the ladies swaying. The flow in this song was so spot on and now had the gangsta style sitting in mack-daddy mode. Dropping scene after scene lyrically, outlining the life of a player in a party atmosphere… Picking up honeys and all… When I saw this video… I wanted to be in that party so bad, lol.But don’t think he got soft! “How you living Biggie Smalls! In mansions and benz’s, giving ends to my friends and it feels stupendous, tremendous cream…”Then he let you know real quick aint shit change though by “Fuck a dollar and a dream, still tote gats strapped with infrared beams.” Yeah, you had to respect that! In a song to the ladies, he still addressed the gangster crowd… And never compromised the theme of the song by saying “However, living better now Gucci sweater now, Drop top BM’s I’m the man girlfriend!” Talent!Do I even need to say any more?
Okay, so in the 1990s, dancehall + hip-hop influence on each other was HUGE! Biggie added that flavor into this track. With Patra, Lady Saw and a few others voices being heard on mainstream, I remember thinking back then if it was one of them featured on the track. Either way, it worked out good.Story set.. TEN MONTHS… UMBILICAL COORDS… MAD JOY… HE’S GONNA BE A BAD BOY… NOW AT THIRTTEEN… Those words are the ones that help paint the picture of the song… Outlining the story for obtaining respect in the streets after being born. He even calls out the 94’ year and that his mother is smiling now…Another album theme in itself “Negative to Positive” shit.The song rocked out beyond the album, I remember this getting play in parties to bridge the Hip-Hop into the dancehall tunes.
SIDE NOTE: Biggie was had a lot of people fooled with his Jamaican accents in the middle of various lyrics… I see you sir! LOL. You had me fooled too! I think that’s what I heard in a documentary, lol. Growing up in NYC it was easier for an African to pose as Jamaican! I need to confirm this on Big though, lol.
As the outro of this song plays… CUE BAD BOY SOUND EFFECTS TO HELP THE STORY! Oh Em Gee!
- Friend of Mine
Another hardcore song on the topic of women and how Big Poppa is a playa. “Thug [Brother] to the end Bitch!” Shout out to Jay-Z.Basically, this entire song is about Money over Bitches! I also love how he kept it real by incorporating the Wu-Tang line in this song. When I was young, if I heard stuff like that, I thought it was love is love and it was if it got that way. To think there was some static between certain Wu members and Big.At least that was the word in the street on wax. Okay, I’ll move on. Beat was sick too!
By far, one of my favorite Biggie songs. I love the flow on it. As soon as it came on I knew it was going to be “butter.” That drop of boom boom bap (with the organ or whatever sound that was) followed by the hook-sample “Biggie Smalls is the Illest!” is the type of hook you hear for traditional hip-hop records followed by a battle rap. And that had me HYPED! SOLD! Already.Then he opened up the verse with “Live from BEDFORD–STUYVESANT, the livest one, Representing BK to the FULLEST!” All I could do was lift my head in the air and shake my head, instant connection to the song! As you can probably tell by now… I am from Brooklyn and obviously, Bed-Stuy (Do or Die!). Then the sharp word play right after about the chicken heads in the bathroom clucking, lol. Some females heard those lines immediately after the hood heard that song.Bigger note…
For a lot of young kids my age (at the time) were still wearing tighty whiteys… Yea that changed when he dropped the line “wear boxers so my dick could breathe.” You better believe my drawer was 10:90 before that line and months later 90:10 in favor of Boxers for the WIN! LOL. I’m sorry tomorrow!
With this being a Hip-Hop format of a song, battle raps guided, he addressed one lingering thought that, in many ways, Wu-Tang and Onyx (along with several others) had already killed… “Your LIFE is played out like Kwame and them fucking polka dots, who rocks the spot BIGGIE! You know how the flow goes unbelievable!” Oh No! This is a one verse VIOLATION to several things.
First off, by the end of the verse, you should realize that the subject of “Unbelievable” means that Biggie’s flow is Unbelievable. Second, Kwame and the polka dots may have had bit’ the curb and put out of his misery as a message to the “Happy Go Lucky Rap” of him, ATCQ (*sad face*), De La Soul, Kid n’ Play and several others that brought me such great music and positive vibes.
Though the other hardcore rap songs that I was listening to at the time (that I can remember) WAS NOT saying [Fuck Hip Hop, with that whack ass freestyle, you bound to get dropped!] It was the end of a double-lane period of HARDCORE RAP vs Hip-Hop running side by side prominently in the early-to-mid 90s.
There are so many ONE LINERS to pull out of this track… I don’t have to talk about anything else on this track… Go pull it up! LOL. This song is a LYRICAL ATTACK! Like he said on another album “Lyrically, I’m untouchable!” It’s hard to argue that!
- Suicidal Thoughts
“When I die, fuck it I want to go to hell!” WHAT! Shocked!In the black community… we don’t dabble with suicide much… Of course, no human is above the thought of anything, but some won’t do it. From the media stand point, it seemed like other cultures did this on the regular and we wouldn’t dream it. When you hear of someone doing that in my days, you better believe he acquired some disease or is facing LIFE because of something he just did.
It’s crazy, if you paid attention to the news/media back then, someone from the outside in must not have asked the question “Wow, if they go through all of that, how come the suicidal rate isn’t higher?” but then again, maybe they did since we were killing each other over sneakers and chains and things that hold no weight so they waived that question.
CUE BAD BOY SOUND EFFECTS TO HELP THE STORY! SMH. This track is dope and NO it did not increase the rate of suicides in the hood! LOL. It actually invites you into the life of young men living that situation and is very relatable to some… Sad right? But it’s the truth. “I swear to god I feel like death is fucking calling me, Naw, you wouldn’t understand!”
What is so ill about this track, beyond the dark theme… is the fading heartbeat… Think back to the intro… Boom! Mind Fucked! Open and Close!
Now, during these times, there were a few Biggie songs up in the air that was not on the album, some remixes and few b-sides I guess, think “Biggie, gimmie one more chance, biggie biggie gimme one more chance!” This is when BUYING SINGLES GOT YOU EXTRAS like the “One More Chance” remix that had a video! I remember feeling a little duped that this wasn’t on my album-cassette! But, it was cool.
Two more songs, which are now on the re-mastered version of the album as bonus tracks is “Who Shot Ya” and “Just Playing.” I won’t cover those but you get the point already.
I made a comment earlier about Onyx and Wu-Tang. Well Redman belongs in there too (and so many others) but for the youth, ONYX dropped early 93 and I had that album, rhyming front to back with attitude… still listening to my Happy raps (I mean this in a good way) but then more hardcore stuff came out and when A Tribe Called Quest Midnight Marauders album came out the same day as Wu-Tang Clan’s 36 Chambers album… I only had money for one… With my young logic, I went for the Wu-Tang because it was their first album and I was loving everything about them up until that release date, which was the same method applied when I bought ATCQ’s second album, The Low End Theory, after being given the first one by a family friend. Also, now that I think back, the marketing behind the WU somehow landed me early. Promo videos and all!
Eventually, once gained more money and got someone to take me to the record store, I got ATCQ third album about three weeks later and equally bumped them but that WU, That WU had a hold on me by then. 1993 was the year the boom bap got real ugly and gritty and I LIKED IT!
Those are my thoughts on the album! Share yours with me!
Happy Birthday Biggie! Exo as I called him. Miss you around the way homie! R.I.P.! Spread love it’s the BROOKYN WAY!