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The Mass Media

Life After Death: A Biggie review in memoriam

In the Hip-Hop world the month of March will forever represent both a time of mourning and a time of celebration over one of the greatest emcees of all-time – The Notorious B.I.G. On March 9th 1997, six months after the death of Tupac Shakur, B.I.G. was murdered in Los Angeles, and fifteen days later his first posthumous album, Life After Death, was released to the masses. The album debuted at the top of the Billboard charts and in 2000 it was the first Hip-Hop album to be certified Diamond, just a mere three years after its initial release. Since its debut, Life After has been considered a classic effort in most Hip-Hop circles, but there has always been talk among Hip-Hop heads that the album is considerably overrated due to Biggie’s early demise. Additionally, there’s a continued debate on whether or not Life After actually surpasses his solo debut, Ready to Die, and for all these reasons and more, Life After is considered by many to be one of the most controversial Hip-Hop albums to ever be released. In celebration of the life of one of Hip-Hop’s largest cultural icons, I’ll re-review Life After Death to see how the album holds up after twelve years. I’m assuming that the majority of the audience reading this article has atleast partially listened to this album, and if not, I suggest you finish reading this article then proceed to you’re local CD store and purchase this album, now.

Let’s cut to the chase, over a decade after the release of Life After Death the album still proves to be one of Hip-Hop’s greatest albums, and easily surpasses any other double album Hip-Hop effort to date. The album begins where Ready to Die left off, namely after Biggie’s “Suicidal Thoughts” and actions led to a flat line in the Intro to Life After. The album’s title and Intro track refers to the death of Big’s past life as a street hustler that was notably portrayed in Ready to Die, therefore, Life After Death was meant to usher in a new style that wouldn’t ultimately focus on his past street life. B.I.G. accomplishes this by assuming the Mafioso persona that began sweeping the rap world after 1995’s classic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx

Disc one of this two-disc endeavor is flawless. Big’s spectacular story telling abilities shine brighter than snow on a sunny day. “Somebody’s Gotta Die”, “Niggas Bleed”, and “I Got a Story to Tell”, each stand as prime examples of why Biggie is considered one of the best emcees of all time. As he narrates each story with vivid imagery the listener is brought into a world where one doesn’t really know what’s going to happen next. On Ready to Die Big was able to mix his gangster flow with pop beats flawlessly, and Life After is no different. Disc one also includes some of his most successful singles, “Mo Money Mo Problems” and “Hypnotize”, along with one of his most aggressive attacks against his haters, “Kick in the Door”. Oh, and don’t forget about the standard track for the ladies: “Fuck You Tonight”.

While Disc one was flawless, Life After’s flaws are found on the second disc of this double CD oasis. Much like Tupac’s All Eyez on Me, Nas’ Streets Disciple, and Jay-Z’s Blueprint 2, double albums always seem to have some filler throwaway tracks, and Life After is no exception. “Nasty Boy” should have been left on the cutting room floor, and tracks such as “Miss You”, “Another”, and “Playa Hater” are tracks that are going to be hit or miss in most crowds. One must also acknowledge that these tracks feature Biggie stepping out of his confront zone and trying new things, so you have to appreciate the fact that he would take such chances on his second studio album. Within Disc two you’ll also find the classic cuts, “Ten Crack Commandments”, “Goin Back to Cali”, “Long Kiss Goodbye”, and “Notorious Thugs”. It’s actually pretty amazing how Big was able to create a double disc album that was over twice as long as his classic debut, and almost recreate the same magic.

In conclusion, Ready to Die and Life After Death are two separate albums that speak on different subject matters; therefore it’s difficult to claim that one album is superior to the other. In any case, I would give the nod to Ready to Die because without it, there would be no Life After Death. With that said, it’s a pretty difficult to claim that Life After is overrated, because even if it were, it would still be far superior to the majority of Hip-Hop albums. Furthermore, you can credit Life After with creating the blueprint that the majority of Hip-Hops employ today; some tracks for the streets, one or two tracks for the clubs, and several hustler themes. So for all you 50 Cent, Jay-Z, and Lil’ Wayne fans, give credit to the King of NY, after all, “[they] took home Ready to Die, listened, studied shit, Now they on some money shit, [and] successful out the blue” (Kick in the Door).