Perhaps the most eerie thing about Life After Death is the title. The album, released just sixteen days after Notorious B.I.G.’s unexpected and tragic passing, is the successor to his previous critically-acclaimed debut project, Ready To Die. Harboring a star-studded list of guest appearances sprinkled throughout the twenty-four long tracklist, the album clocks in at just over 1 hour and 49 minutes. However, more does not always mean better, and that is most certainly the case here.
The album starts off promising as the self-titled intro picks up where Ready To Die left off. As Biggie is hooked to a heart monitor following his self-inflicted gunshot wound, P. Diddy closes the track before transitioning into Somebody’s Got To Die. From here, the upgrade in production is immediately clear. From minute details such as dialogue lightly layered amongst Biggie’s main vocals to the sounds of raindrops splashing against the ground, these additions help keep the audience engaged as Biggie yet again showcases his impeccable story-telling abilities. Up next is perhaps Biggie’s most popular song to date, Hypnotize, in which Biggie rhymes braggadociously over a hypnotizing beat.
I wish I could say the next tracks are just as refreshing, but unfortunately they are not. They are not bad, they just offer nothing new, aside from the corny F*** You Tonight (feat. R. Kelly). Biggie showcases his rapping abilities, improving in areas he suffered in his debut, such as choruses, along with experimenting with different rhyme schemes.
Just when it seems the album is beginning to sound repetitive, B.I.G. (interlude) begins an impressive six song streak offering the best songs not only in the album, but perhaps of Biggie’s entire career. Sadly it is interrupted by the awful Another (feat. Lil’ Kim). From here on out it is hit-or-miss, with some songs being great additions, and others that, if eliminated, would not provide any difference.
Perhaps the most apparent flaws are the inconsistency, length, and lack of structure found on the album. The opening track sets it off to be a continuation of its predecessor, but this topic is never again touched upon throughout the album aside from brief moments of dialogue at the beginning of tracks. Aside from the moment of gold found between tracks 9-14, quite a few tracks feel as if they could have been cut.
I realize, however, that many of the flaws I have with the album may not have been considered flaws when it was first released. Music is constantly changing, and musicians must adapt if they want to stick around. This is why artists such as J. Cole still have fan bases while other artists, such as Lil Pump, resort to calling out OG’s just to keep their name passed around. The impact Biggie has left on current rappers is also much clearer this time around, with rappers such as A$AP Ferg and J. Cole taking heavy influence from B.I.G. and company, from sound to rhyme scheme to flow.
With that being said, I can see how revolutionary the album must have been at it’s time. With Biggie achieving mainstream success with radio friendly hits like Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems (feat. Puff Daddy & Mace) and classic hip-hop anthems such as Hypnotize and Notorious Thugs (feat. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony), Biggie proved just how versatile he truly is. He improved a lot from his debut, such as having more structured choruses, an increased budget, and more engaging story-telling as a result of this budget increase. He experimented often, and although it was hit or miss, there were more hits than misses. Although it is not better than Ready To Die, it is still one hell of an album.
Best Tracks: Somebody’s Gotta Die, Hypnotize, Last Day (feat. The Lox, Jadakiss, Styles P), Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems (feat. Puff Daddy & Mace), I Got A Story To Tell, Miss U (feat. 112), Ten Crack Commandments, Sky’s The Limit (feat. 112)
Worst Tracks: F*** You Tonight (feat. R. Kelly), Another (feat. Lil’ Kim), Going Back To Cali, The World Is Filled… (feat. Too Short & Puff Daddy), Nasty Boy.