DAR Roundtable: The Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready To Die vs Life After Death

The Notorious B.I.G. is one of the greatest rappers ever. Before his tragix death, he released two classic albums. Today, we take a look at them both and determine which is better. So will it be Ready To Die? Or Life After Death?

Ready To Die

1. Intro
2. Things Done Changed
3. Gimme The Loot
4. Machine Gun Funk
5. Warning
6. Ready To Die
7. One More Chance 
8. Fuck Me(Interlude)
9. The What
10. Juicy
11. Everyday Struggle
12. Me And My Bitch
13. Big Poppa
14. Respect
15. Friend Of Mine
16. Unbelievable
17. Suicidal Thoughts


Life After Death

Disc 1
1. Life After Death Intro
2. Somebody's Gotta Die
3. Hypnotize
4. Kick In The Door
5. Fuck You Tonight
6. Last Day 
7. I Love The Dough
8. What's Beef
9. B.I.G. Interlude
10. Mo Money, Mo Problems
11. Niggas Bleed
12. I Got A Story To Tell

Disc 2
1. Notorious Thugs
2. Miss U
3. Another
4. Going Back To Cali
5. Ten Crack Commandments
6. Playa Hater
7. Nasty Boy
8. Sky's The Limit
9. The World Is Filled....
10. My Downfall 
11. Long Kiss Goodnight
12. You're Nobody(Til Somebody Kills You)

I grew up in Texas, but my mom used to send my sister and I to visit family in New Jersey for the summers. By the grace of Black Jesus, I was in Jersey the summer that "Juicy" and "Big Poppa" were in heavy rotation. That and Wu-Tang’s 36 Chambers was all you heard at that time. I knew nothing of Notorious BIG, but spending that summer in a New Jersey housing project and hearing this asthmatic God spit his rags to riches story had me hooked. I was a fan of Biggie ever since that moment.

I didn’t buy the “Ready to Die” CD until I went back home to Texas. That album still gets played over 20 years later. “The What” featuring Method Man is on my workout mix as we speak. I can rattle off all of the classics like “One More Chance,” “Machine Gun Funk,” “Warning,” “Me & My Bitch,” etc.

My brother used to sleep with the radio on. He woke me up and said he heard on the radio that Biggie Smalls was killed in L.A. He might have been dreaming, but he was pretty sure. I was like, yea right, but I couldn’t go back to sleep until I knew for sure. 10-20 minutes later, the DJ on the radio confirmed it. It felt like a family member had died. I was pretty torn up over that one.

Life After Death was released a short time later. As soon as I got off work at my high school job I went to Best Buy and copped it the day it dropped. It was a double CD in that bulky ass CD case (WTF was up with that shit, Puff?). Great album. Classic. Not a skippable joint on there and “Going Back To Cali” banged despite the irony.

Biggie was so versatile. He had raw shit. He had player shit. He had party shit. He outshined other rappers on their own shit. He stood out on posse cuts.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I don’t do rap debates. I like who I like. Biggie Smalls will always be the GOAT to me and no amount of arguing is going to change that. As far as “Ready to Die” and “Life After Death,” I was told to pick which album is better, but it was too tough so I refuse. They’re both classics. Peace.

First of all, thank you all at DAR for keeping things awesome and ineresting with all these roundtables on a variety of topics. I'm glad True reached out to me for this one, as BIG is one of my favorite artists across many genres. I'll have to pick Ready To Die over Life after Death, though I love both albums, there are a few things about Ready To Die that really stuck with me till this day.

I feel like Ready To Die was the album that took Biggie forever to make, almost like it represented his life up until that point, and Life After Death was giving us a hint of what could have been, had we not lost him so early. Though I did jam to a few songs on Life After Death, Puffy's influence was way too present in that project for me and it was way too commercial. We kind of saw Hip Hop transform during the time that album was released.

We saw that same influence in Ready To Die with songs like Juicy getting picked as the first single against B.I.G.'s wishes to have Machine Gun Funk be the lead single. So, to close this out, I pick Ready To Die because I just feel it was the closest we could get to BIGGIE being BIGGIE before Puffy took that all over with his shiny suits and flashing lights.

Notorious B.I.G, arguably the greatest rapper to ever live, gave us these two albums of lyrical excellence, brilliant flow, flawless beats and fused each and every track with his life experience. Even with this caliber of talent, as fans of hip hop, we at times have to compare albums of these legends, and here it is, Life After Death or Ready To Die...

Biggie is my favorite rapper of all time and this was a no brainer for me, as Ready To Die takes it. Seeing as though it was his first album, I'm not surprised it's my favorite. I think Life After Death is a fantastic album, but I also believe it was much more mainstream and commercial. It had several tracks that seemed to be used primarily as fillers rather than solid songs (ex. Playa Hater). Tracks like "Hypnotize", "Mo Money, Mo Problems", and "Going Back to Cali" had fun beats that got a lot of airplay, where the tracklist on Ready To Die was more raw and really captured the struggles that BIG was experiencing. This is one album that you can listen to without skipping a single song.

When I hear "Suicidal thoughts" I feel like it's a glimpse inside his inner thoughts and frustrations about himself and his life up until that point. "Warning" felt like his perspective on his worries and experiences within his circle, and of course, "Juicy" was the song that told the quick synopsis of BIG's life, where he was and what he had achieved. I just think Ready To Die was very raw and a perfect arrangement of songs as a debut album. We got to know a very real side to BIG. It's like this...if Notorious' entire life and discography was a movie, Ready To Die was like the "movie trailer". From the very first track until the end, it grabbed you, hooked you, and had you hungry for more.

Ready To Die. An album that dropped 14 days before I was born. It is my favorite album of all time. No, I won't compare it to Life After because I already know it's far better than Life After. No album that I've ever listened to has sounded so epic and poetic like this album. The creativity with certain songs like "Gimme the Loot" where he puts on 2 different voices to funny skits like the Fuck Me interlude. Tracks that showed his skills like "The What" and "Unbelievable", and storytelling at its finest with tracks like "Warning" or "Me and My Bitch". He had funny songs about women like "One More Chance" and "Friend of Mine". You could get a sense that Biggie was really letting his thoughts, as well as his personality flow through. When you think of Biggie, you instantly think of Ready to Die, or at least some songs off the album like "Juicy". The story I got from the album was a black man tired of his daily routine and and ready for a change by any means, but then he can't deal with the demons and stress of being successful. From having people ready to kill him, to living the good life, to having unbelievable amounts of sex, to losing his bottom bitch, to attempting suicide. Ready to Die tells a raw and gripping story with some comedy relief to keep you replaying the album for years to forever.

I'll go with Ready to Die. Mainly because Life After Death would have been a better single album minus all the filler. Ready to Die has all the classics on it. "Warning" is my favorite Biggie track and will always have a place in my heart. "Machine Gun Funk" is classic, boombap, my 2nd favorite track. "Machine Gun Funk" and "Unbelievable" are both classic hip hop jams. "Suicidal Thoughts" is an eerie tale from Big. Like a suicide note and it's crazy because the thing that drew me to him and Pac is their paranoia. But all in all, Ready to Die is his best.

The reality for me is that for some years, I preferred Life After Death. I would play "Last Day", "I Love The Dough", "Kick In The Door", "Somebody's Gotta Die" consistently and a few other tracks as well. Back then, I just played that album so much, along with Reasonable Doubt. It was around 2004, when I began to lean more towards Ready To Die. As an album, it was much more cohesive and solid. In my younger years, I didnt focus on those things, but as I got older, the sequencing, cohesiveness, and more really became very important. That's why I have to edge it to Ready To Die.

They are both classics, but Ready To Die was much stronger as an overall album and featured Big at his hungriest easily. What do you guys think? Join in the conversation below.



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