Album of the Week (28th Sept) - Ready to Die
by Rapjoint Lagos
Ready to Die is the debut album by the late Great Rapper Known as The Notorious B.I.G., but fondly known by his cult followers as Biggie Smalls. He was born Christopher George Latore Wallace on 21st May, 1972 and assassinated 9th March, 1997.
The album was released on 13th September, 1994, by Bad Boy Records and Arista Records. Largely produced by Sean “Puffy” Combs, Easy Mo Bee, Chucks Thompson and DJ Premier. The partly autobiographical album tells the story of the rapper’s experience as a young criminal, and was the only studio album released during his lifetime, he was murdered sixteen days before the release of his second album, Life After Death, in 1997.
“Ready to Die” was reported to have peaked at number 15 on the Billboard 200. Three singles were released from the Album: “Juicy”, “Big Poppa” and “One More Chance”.
In April 2018, Ready to Die was certified 6x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It has been ranked by many critics as one of the greatest hiphop albums as well as one of the greatest albums of all time. Rolling Stone ranked it number 134 on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and Time included it on its list of the All-TIME 100 Albums.
I bumped into the Album through its 1st single “Juicy” in a music video either on MTV Yo Rap or BET (Can’t really remember which one) in 1994. My fondest recollection was that of Puffy in a Lakers Basketball top dancing like a moron as if his life depended on it. Indeed, the album meant the world to Biggie, Puffy and the East Coast. Biggie was trying leave the crime life, had a baby to feed and his mum was ill, according to him. Puffy had just been fired from Uptown Records and decided to test the waters on his own. Whilst, the West Coast was dominating the rap scene with back to back commercial success from Chronic to Doggystyle. Ready to Die brought the East Coast back from a commercial success standpoint. It was rated ahead of Nas’ “Illmatic” as the Rap Album of 1994 by “The Rap Year Book” and, “ a master class in “paranoia, depression, death contemplation, the unfamiliarity of legitimate success and the intersection of all four of these things” by the said Book.
With a total of 19 tracks without any filler track, I struggled to pick the best 7 tracks. Sadly, I had to leave out well know tracks that I love like “One More Chance”, “Unbelievable” , “Who Shot Ya”, “Suicidal Thoughts” and many others. Such is the top quality nature of the whole album.
Some of the tracks were autobiographical in nature particularly his life on the streets: “Things Done Change”, “Gimme the Loot”, “Machine Gun Funk”, “Everyday Struggle” and “Warning”. “Things Done Change” was about life getting more violent and less laid back. “Gimme the Loot” was about the life of an experienced armed robber and his rookie underling. Biggie was rapping for both of them using different voices. The story telling was exceptionally vivid and brilliant. “Warning” is about treachery. I struggled with identifying who was better between him and Method Man on “The What”. No question, the track was dope. He went into the love crooner mood in “Big Poppa”, “One More Chance” , “Friend of Mine”, “Me and my B**” and others.
I have been listening to the album for about 26 years and I am not bored. It’s definitely one of Rap’s greatest albums. It’s an incredible album. Enjoy.