Ready To Die is perhaps one of the most influential albums of all time. Upon release, the album was met with commercial success and critical acclaim, peaking at number 15 on the Billboard 200. By 2018, it was certified 6x platinum. Often being praised as one of the greatest debut albums ever, it is no surprise that Biggie was able to leave a legacy in such a short amount of time.
The album opens up with a montage of Biggie’s life, from his birth and upbringing to his inevitable life of crime and, eventually, his release from jail. Narrated by famous musical pieces of each era, it ends with a conversation between him and a correctional officer. The officer says he will see him soon, but Biggie has other plans in mind, vowing to never return to prison again. This is the inciting incident of Biggie’s journey, and perfectly encapsulates why he put so much effort into perfecting his craft.
Throughout the album, Biggie offers us an in-depth view of his upbringing and the environment he grew up in, with no sugarcoating. On tracks like Everyday Struggle and Things Done Changed, he reflects on his childhood and adolescence, focusing on the hardships he had to face as a result of growing up in an impoverished neighborhood. He makes it clear that from here on out, there is no going back.
Aside from introspective tracks, Biggie really shines in his story-telling abilities. In Gimmie The Loot, he goes back-and-forth with a younger version of himself as they scheme to commit various crimes. Warning features the revelation of a robbery-assasination attempt stemming from jealousy, which does not end well for his opposition. Me and My ***** offers a somboring look into the dangers a gangster lifestyle presents not only on yourself, but also on the ones you care most about.
However, it seems as if the previous songs that embraced the gangster lifestyle were red herrings. Leading up to the final song, Suicidal Thoughts, Biggie has portrayed himself as a nymphomaniac with no morals. He is a cold-blooded, ruthless character who has no problem taking another person’s life. But, can you blame him? We are all products of our own environments, even when all you grow up around is violence, sex, drugs, and poverty. As a result, he turned to these things to escape his reality because it was too overbearing. Sadly, the escapes he seeked only led to short-term satisfaction. At the end of the day he realizes he can no longer bear the life he lives, and in a moment of desperation, he kills himself.
Growing up listening to the poets of today who are hailed as the modern day Biggie’s and 2Pac’s, it is interesting to hear the similarities between them stemming from the wide influence Biggie has. With his complex rhyme schemes and syllable stretching to emphasize certain rhymes, it is hard to believe that someone who had only been rapping for three years prior was able to influence a whole generation of MC’s.
In conclusion, Biggie’s debut project is a rock-solid debut. A variety of classics are offered on here, from story-telling tracks like Warning to introspective pieces such as Juicy, to even smooth laid back songs like Big Poppa. The only apparent flaw throughout is the lack of original choruses. This leads me to believe that either choruses were Biggie’s weak point, or it was just natural around that time to have samples instead. Either way, it must have been quite expensive.
Best Tracks: Things Done Changed, Warning, Juicy, Everyday Struggle, Big Poppa, Respect, Suicidal Thoughts.
Worst Tracks: Friend Of Mine, Unbelievable.