Review Summary: The Notorious B.I.G's ground-breaking debut remains a true Hip Hop classic.
In all the insanity and drama that surrounded the East-West hip hop feud of the mid 90's and the deaths of Tupac and Biggie, it is easy to forget why everyone cared so much. Listening to 'Ready to Die' is one way to jog your memory.
We will never know whether Biggie would have stood the test of time or fallen victim to midlife mediocrity, the plight of many an artist in any musical genre. If one were to place bets in 1993, however, Biggie would have been a bookies favorite to stand out. B.I.G possessed a unique ability to create potent visual imagery and stories through his rhymes while simultaneously delivering them with a panache for vocal dexterity.
'Ready to Die' showcases Biggie at his very best. Basking in the success of early singles and cameos (Mary J. Blige's 'Real Love' and his single 'Party and Bull***') but still hungry and full of ideas, 'Ready to Die' was a perfect Hip Hop storm. The album showcased B.I.G's versatility as a rapper. Capable of rapid fire rhymes ('Unbelievable'), a more melodic sing songy style ('Machine Gun Funk', 'Juicy') and a truly raw and emotive style ( 'Gimme the Loot' and 'Me and My Bitch'), he also displayed his comfort with a wide range of lyrical content ranging from brash braggadicio ('Big Poppa') to more personal, complex, and introverted subject matter ( 'Suicidal Thoughts', 'Me and My Bitch').
While Sean 'Puffy' Combs and Easy Mo Bee expertly handled the production of the album, utilizing samples intelligently and creating a sound that complemented Biggie's personality and Brooklyn roots, it is clear that the highlight is B.I.G and his ability to turn a phrase, creating multiple rhymes through sheer vocal contortion where most rappers would have trouble etching out a simple couplet
To let niggaz know... that if you *** with Big-and-Heavy
I get up in that ass like a wedgie
Says who? Says me, the lyrical
Niggaz sayin, "Biggie off the street, it's a miracle"
-Machine Gun Funk
A true classic that has stood the test of time.