Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Notorious B.I.G.

In just a few short years, the Notorious B.I.G. went from a Brooklyn street hustler to the savior of East Coast hip-hop to a tragic victim of the culture of violence he depicted so realistically on his records. His all-too-brief odyssey almost immediately took on mythic proportions, especially since his murder followed the shooting of rival Tupac Shakur by only six months. In death, the man also known as Biggie Smalls became a symbol of the senseless violence that plagued inner-city America in the waning years of the 20th century. Whether or not his death was really the result of a much-publicized feud between the East and West Coast hip-hop scenes, it did mark the point where both sides stepped back from a rivalry that had gone too far.
Hip-hop's self-image would never be quite the same, and neither would public perception. The aura of martyrdom that surrounds the Notorious B.I.G. sometimes threatens to overshadow his musical legacy, which was actually quite significant. Helped by Sean "Puffy" Combs' radio-friendly sensibility, Biggie re-established East Coast rap's viability by leading it into the post-Dr. Dre gangsta age. Where fellow East Coasters the Wu-Tang Clan slowly built an underground following, Biggie crashed onto the charts and became a star right out of the box. In the process, he helped Combs' Bad Boy label supplant Death Row as the biggest hip-hop imprint in America, and also paved the way to popular success for other East Coast talents like Jay-Z and Nas. Biggie was a gifted storyteller with a sense of humor and an eye for detail, and his narratives about the often violent life of the streets were rarely romanticized; instead, they were told with a gritty, objective realism that won him enormous respect and credibility. The general consensus in the rap community was that when his life was cut short, sadly, Biggie was just getting started.Read More

The Notorious B.I.G. - Ready to Die (Sep 13, 1994: Bad Boy)
The album that reinvented East Coast rap for the gangsta age, Ready to Die made the Notorious B.I.G. a star, and vaulted Sean "Puffy" Combs' Bad Boy label into the spotlight as well. Today it's recognized as one of the greatest hardcore rap albums ever recorded, and that's mostly due to Biggie's skill as a storyteller. His raps are easy to understand, but his skills are hardly lacking — he has a loose, easy flow and a talent for piling multiple rhymes on top of one another in quick succession. He's blessed with a flair for the dramatic, and slips in and out of different contradictory characters with ease. Yet, no matter how much he heightens things for effect, it's always easy to see elements of Biggie in his narrators and of his own experience in the details; everything is firmly rooted in reality, but plays like scenes from a movie. A sense of doom pervades his most involved stories: fierce bandits ("Gimme the Loot"), a hustler's beloved girlfriend ("Me & My Bitch"), and robbers out for Biggie's newfound riches ("Warning") all die in hails of gunfire. The album is also sprinkled with reflections on the soul-draining bleakness of the streets — "Things Done Changed," "Ready to Die," and "Everyday Struggle" are powerfully affecting in their confusion and despair. Not everything is so dark, though; Combs' production collaborations result in some upbeat, commercial moments, and typically cop from recognizable hits: the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" on the graphic sex rap "One More Chance," Mtume's "Juicy Fruit" on the rags-to-riches chronicle "Juicy," and the Isley Brothers' "Between the Sheets" on the overweight-lover anthem "Big Poppa." Producer Easy Mo Bee's deliberate beats do get a little samey, but it hardly matters: this is Biggie's show, and by the time "Suicidal Thoughts" closes the album on a heartbreaking note, it's clear why he was so revered even prior to his death.

Click To Download

The Notorious B.I.G. - Life After Death (Mar 25, 1997: Bad Boy)
It may have taken the Notorious B.I.G. a few years to follow up his milestone debut, Ready to Die (1994), with another album, but when he did return with Life After Death in 1997, he did so in a huge way. The ambitious album, intended as somewhat of a sequel to Ready to Die, picking up where its predecessor left off, sprawled across the span of two discs, each filled with music, 24 songs in all. You'd expect any album this sprawling to include some lackluster filler. That's not really the case with Life After Death, however. Like 2Pac's All Eyez on Me from a year before, an obvious influence, Biggie's album made extensive use of various producers — DJ Premier, Easy Mo Bee, Clark Kent, RZA, and more of New York's finest — resulting in a diverse, eclectic array of songs. Plus, Biggie similarly brought in various guest rappers — Jay-Z, Lil' Kim, Bone Thugs, 132295Too $horf>, L.O.X., Mase — a few vocalists — R. Kelly, Angela Winbush, 112 — and, of course, Puff Daddy, who is much more omnipresent here than on Ready to Die, where he mostly remained on the sidelines. It's perhaps Puffy himself to thank for this album's biggest hits: "Mo Money Mo Problems," "Hypnotize," "Sky's the Limit," three songs that definitely owe much to his pop touch. There's still plenty of the gangsta tales on Life After Death that won Biggie so much admiration on the streets, but it's the pop-laced songs that stand out as highlights. In hindsight, Biggie couldn't have ended his career with a more fitting album than Life After Death. Over the course of only two albums, he achieved every success imaginable, perhaps none greater than this unabashedly over-reaching success. Ready to Die is a milestone album, for sure, but it's nowhere near as extravagant or epic as Life After Death.

Click To Download: CD-1, CD-2

The Notorious B.I.G. - Born Again (Dec 7, 1999: Bad Boy)
Considering it was released almost three years after his death, it'd be easy to dismiss the Notorious B.I.G.'s third album as a cash-in or merely a tribute album, similar to Puff Daddy's No Way Out. Fact is, Born Again includes a lot of previously unheard material from Biggie, and guest spots from Busta Rhymes, Redman and Method Man, Missy Elliott, Ice Cube, and Snoop Dogg work better than could be expected. It's difficult to say where all this material came from, but it's probable that the productions were simply arranged around old rhymes from Biggie himself. On most tracks, he takes a spotlight and then the guest rapper comes in. Thanks to executive producer Puff Daddy, it'd be easy to fool those not into hip-hop that Notorious B.I.G. was still alive. The outro, a spoken-word reminiscence by Voletta Wallace (his mother) is a bit touching but also a bit ghoulish. For B.I.G. fans, this is another must-have, but for anyone who thinks the rap industry routinely goes too far in pursuit of the almighty dollar, Born Again is yet further proof.

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The Notorious B.I.G. - Duets: The Final Chapter
The weight of Notorious B.I.G.'s legacy is so profound that most major rap MCs and R&B singers alive — and some who are dead — are willing to be attached to it in whatever form possible. It could also be argued that anyone with the means is more than willing to profit from it in a monetary way. Here's Duets: The Final Chapter, released just before Christmas Day 2005, following 1999's Born Again, which was released just before Christmas Day 1999. Like Born Again, Duets takes bits of unused material from the late legend, and that can entail full-blown verses, looped declarations, or punctuative interjections. On some tracks, Biggie's presence is no more prominent than a handclap or a snare hit. Check the lead track "It Has Been Said," where he's limited to "what," "ungh," "yeah," "ha-ha," "uh-huh." If you can get past the fact that a lot of tracks barely feature the headliner, or listen without imagining the original contexts of the patched-together scraps, Duets can be sporadically riveting. The list of guests is overwhelming, with Jay-Z, Nas, Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans, R. Kelly, T.I., Slim Thug, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Missy Elliott, the Clipse, Snoop Dogg, and Freeway representing roughly half of the involved. Only a few tracks contain significant Biggie contributions, and it's not as if they provide any further insight or add to his long-established legend. Many of his vocals are not pulled from professional studio-quality recordings, which only makes them sound more displaced. Perhaps Korn's Jonathan Davis put it best when he told Billboard about the project: "It's f*ckin' weird to be doing a song with someone who is deceased!" His description applies to what it's like to listen to the disc.

Click To Download

The Notorious B.I.G. vs. Frank Sinatra - Blue Eyes Meets Bed Stuy

Leave your comment to support.Enjoy!
And remember you must support artists go and buy this albums.

11 comments:

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