Notorious BIG / Life After Death

Fan Post by Jereme Hines

 

The first song I ever remembered listening to was Biggie Smalls’ ‘Hypnotize’ when I was five years old. My parents were devout listeners of 90s rap. I grew up learning everything there was to know about hip hop during its golden age. My mom was a big fan of Tupac and collected all of his albums. I really do respect and love ‘Pac for what he did for rap. I’m a really big fan of The Notorious B.I.G., Christopher Wallace. When everyone was obsessed with the West Coast and the coalition that was Death Row Records, Biggie singlehandedly carried the East Coast on his back. Let’s face it, Puff Daddy and Junior M.A.F.I.A. wouldn’t have been as prolific as they were without the swagger and clever lyricism of Biggie. Though there were so many other important New Yorkers repping the East (The Tribe, Wu-Tang, etc.), none did it with the finesse that Biggie perfected in Life After Death.

The nominations for Best Rap Album and Best Rap Solo Performance during the ’98 Grammys don’t do this album any justice. Life After Death had everything a gangsta-rap album needed. Criminally-smooth swagger to rival 20s crime bosses; a feud to rival that of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr; and most of all tight, dense lyrics that fit for almost any mood. Want to have a party? Put on Mo Money, Mo’ Problems or ‘Hypnotize’. Want a bleak picture at the nature of gang life in New York? ‘Somebody Gotta Die’ should do it for you. Songs like ‘Ten Crack Commandments’ show just how clever Biggie was with his lyrics, making a version of the Ten Commandments you wouldn’t ever catch a preacher reciting.

What really makes this album a classic is the legacy that Notorious B.I.G. left after his death as a result of his feud with Tupac Shakur. Foremost among Smalls’ talents were his disses. Throughout the album, Wallace made it his mission to diss as many artists as possible. On Kick in the Door, he even dissed DJ Premier, the producer, on his own track. Not to mention the harsh bars he had for rappers such as Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, and even Nas on his second studio album. He had chutzpah, and the skill to back it up.

Often, I wonder what might have happened if Tupac and Biggie had been able to set aside their differences before they died. Like rock n’ roll icon Buddy Holly, the gangsta rap icons didn’t even have the chance to reach 30 years old by the time they were murdered in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, respectively. The innovations in hip hop that Biggie brought to the rap world in the course of three years are nothing short of legendary. It’s a sin that Christopher Wallace was taken too soon to be able to give us more studio albums. Life After Death was released quickly after his tragic demise and
is more than just The Notorious B.I.G.’s magnum opus. It’s an eerie premonition of a death borne of the dangers of violent feuds that, in the end, always go too far.

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