Review Summary: Wallace makes it clear that while he’s projecting himself to the stars he’s mentally somewhere between a glock and a hard place.
The entire thing is played out like a movie, a film even. Everything we can take from this mother***er, the reason when we say the words ‘East Coast Hip-Hop’ a certain crowned figure pops into all of our heads, is because of Ready To Die
The Sky Is The Limit
Ready to Die
as a whole is the hip-hop equivalent of your Gambit in the 60s, The OG Godfather in the early 70s, The Untouchables out of the 80s and even Goodfellas in the early 90s. Every element of production is crafted with purpose and careful direction that contrasts with B.I.G’s vicious, raw, liquid flow. Interestingly the easiest way to dismiss the pure quality of this record is to root your opinion on the basis of only subjecting yourself to it’s (at this point in time), played out hits that damper 8 of the rawest confessional diary entries from who would go on to be hip-hop’s, (and even moreso, Brooklyn’s new) John Gotti. This wickedly intelligent, obese, young Clinton Hill native went on to be the king of his world. Looking back it doesn’t seem like he ever had a doubt, and even if anyone expressed doubt, another 2 decades from now the name Christopher Wallace will continue to be synonymous with the word Notorious.
If the new trend in making records is to throw a jarring, complex song to kick off an album to try and coerce the listener to adventure deeper to get the reward of a catchy hook, or a rhyme creamy as cool whip, then Wallace and Bad Boy crew had the total opposite approach. Ready to Die draws the listener in slowly with a cinematic introduction, a sprawling collage of early life for Christopher Wallace communicated through a series of soundtrack-esque samples from what the listener can only gather are this young man’s influences; Curtis Mayfield, Audio Two, Snoop, Schoolly D and Sugarhill Gang all in attendance, the introduction then closes with a quote from a man ready to make it, anxious and excited with what he could obtain from this new life.
" I got big plans, Nigga. B.I.G. plans "
B.I.G was different about how he went about this release, quality was what he was striving for, it’s apparent in every other line, he’d been creating this story in his head for a while.
"If I wasn’t in the rap game, I’d probably be a key knee deep in the crack game"
Wallace wants you to know that, as much as the middle of this piece is for the hunnies, the opening is a five track assault on the rapidly rolling and growing societal tumbleweed that was the beginnings of gangsta rap. B.I.G. was making it clear as *** that playtime was over, he asserted himself on the movement; simultaneously mowing down any doubt and cementing himself as the self professed King of New York.
Things Done Changed
places the listener back before the violence had began to dictate their society through hip-hop, when
‘mother***ers was all friendly, lounging at the barbeques drinkin’ brews with the neighborhood crews’
Then we fast forward to ’93 a time when gangsta rap began to popularize flaunting your earnings and feeding your ego through opening up letters letting you know how many stations had added your joint to their rotation. The over infatuation with all this power, recognition and fame that these young black men from the poorest neighborhoods of America began to experience soon escalated to real life violence. All of a sudden the acts fictionalized on these rap masterpieces started being executed on the streets, things were different, this wasn’t sandbox fun anymore, blood was warm and red and painted on the streets.
It’s important to realize that a lot of what makes Wallace such a phenomenal artist and prominent figure even now is in large part due to a word which is now being thrown around to describe what used to just be called an ego, however braggadocio is the perfect term to realize what makes Ready To Die
so shielded to criticism. Through braggadocio and pure story telling ability, drawing comparisons to greats like Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane and KRS-One, Wallace is right there with them, he's letting his audience know that he's here, he's real and that a touchdown is imminent. Gimme The Loot
is a fictional tale of robbery and murder starring Biggie Smalls and his man Inf. Wallace embodies both characters with finesse and skill, defining both with their own style and flow. This is one of the few first tracks recorded on Ready to Die
at The Hit Factory in Manhattan, stylistically it’s the most unique track on the record, Easy Mo Bee provided both a production and rhymes that were unpolished, ferocious and anxious.
"From the Beretta, putting all the holes in ya sweater
The money-getter, mother***as don't know better
Rolex watches and colorful Swatches
I'm digging in pockets, mother***as can't stop it"
[IReady to Die[/i] continues to hit you repeatedly over and over and over with:
Machine Gun Funk
; the lyrical threat to every player in the game, letting everyone know that
"Just cause I joke and smoke a lot
Don't mean I don't tote the Glock"
; Wallace’s public statement that his entity would not be touched and that anyone looking to try and take what he’d earned had better approach with caution because he’s
"got the Rottweilers by the door
And I feed em gunpowder, so they can devour
The criminals trying to drop my decimals"
And finally ending with the infamous title track Ready to Die
; a message that commanded the title of invincibility, he’d taken the ball and buried it six feet under his side of the court.
"I don't wanna see no crying at my funeral"
It’s become popular opinion that the midsection of B.I.G's opus,unlike the artist, is spread thin with two of the records biggest hits in One More Chance
, and an Interlude
that reinforces claims laid down in the track before it. However One More Chance
sees Wallace at his finest in terms of technical precision in flow and lyricism. The reason that B.I.G. was able to rise to the level of stardom that he surmounted was because as much he gave to his thug side he gave just as much up for the ladies. A large part of the audience that this reaction will reach I know is male dominated but when he states
"Really, though, I got the cleanest, meanest penis
You never seen this stroke of genius"
that’s a lyric not intended for any of y’all.
and Everyday Struggle
are three odes to growing up in the ghetto, coming from nothing and taking everything. Owning your own world, throwing a leash on the mother***er and taking it for routine walks around the block. Wallace makes it clear that while he’s projecting himself to the stars he’s mentally somewhere between a glock and a hard place.
The final third summarises the entire body of work with an example of everything that made The Notorious B.I.G. arguably the most iconic figure in hip-hop history as he bullet points every last one of his points made throughout the record.
Wallace concludes with a confessional as crushingly honest as it is ominous. Suicidal Thoughts
is the artist bringing himself back to earth, it's almost a defense mechanism used to protect his self-esteem in case nothing came of his potential impending fame. By offering himself up to death, B.I.G. no longer possesses the fear of every other player in the game.
Ready to Die
eventually went on to succeed at encompassing everything that would define the next 10 years in hip-hop and can still be seen channeled in the genre’s current scene. B.I.G.’s masterpiece will not be forgotten any time soon and will forever be a reference to where one should begin when immersing themselves in the history of the genre. The waves created in the wake of Ready to Die
awarded Wallace with exactly what his soul craved; Notoriety.