DAR Classic Hip Hop: Notorious B.I.G's 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)

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-In 1997, the world lost one of the best MCs in Notorious B.I.G. and it rocked the hip hop world to its core. Soon after his death, his double album released to the world and ended up as one of the very few diamond selling albums in hip hop. From the mafioso-rap theme of it to the monumental accomplishment that came with it, Life After Death is a true hip hop classic. Today, we look back at this double album.

Life After Death dropped when Big's death was still fresh so listening to it had a certain eerie sentiment. For me, it made songs like "Sky's The Limit" hard to listen to. It's like he reached that level and the next minute he was gone. There were a few joints I didnt rock with like "I Love The Dough", "Another", and "Goin Back To Cali", but those didnt kill the album for me. I loved the vivid raps and storytelling on joints like "Somebody Gotta Die", "Niggas Bleed" and "You're Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You)". "Kick In The Door" became even better to me years after finding out it was mainly about Nas, Rae and Ghost. I was surprised by all the shots that were seemingly aimed at Pac too like on "Long Kiss Goodnight". Although I always wondered had Big not died, would we have ever heard those disses, due to Pac's recent passing.

Other standout tracks for me were "Last Day", which was my introduction to The Lox and I instantly became a huge fan of them. Bone Thugs were my 2nd favorite group after Wu at the time, so "Notorious Thugs" was instantly my favorite song on the whole album. That collab was so unexpected and Big held his own with the fast flow. All in all, this album was great. Definitely a classic, despite a few small missteps.

The album in which Biggie goes after everyone, again. Now, we know Biggie. He was never the one the back down from beef. However, this album pulls out the tommy gun and sprays at anyone and anything moving that's not Bad Boy. And that's what makes it great. It's Biggie completely unhinged in some ways. Whereas in Ready to Die, we knew who Biggie was talking about, but he still felt oddly restrained in his attacks, his jabs at artists trying to do his style "better."

That's also where the "weird" aspects of this album come into play.

It's not really a "beef" album in the sense of, like, 50 Cent dropping whole mixtapes against his foes. Yes, "Notorious Thugs" spits at Pac and a lot of double-time flow rappers. And yes, there are some direct, crucial jabs here and there, but overall? The project is more focused on the growth and evolution of Biggie, specifically his sound. Sure, we can say that the album helped usher in the "Shiny Suit Era" of gangsta rap. Is that really that bad of a thing, though? Before, gangsta rap was still limited to grimy situations. Here, Biggie and company, they're living it up like the Corleones after the dust cleared. It's "fun" gangsta rap at times, but it still has the edges needed to cut through the mucky waters of the "mainstream."

On top of that, if you say you haven't been influenced by Life After Death in any way, you're just straight-up lying. No one will believe you, even with more people. There are few albums which I consider "classic" even after a ton of listens. Even with a few hiccups, mainly the "poppy," sing-a-long sound on a couple tracks, this is a classic throughout. "B-I-G P-O-PP-A. No info for the D-E-A. Federal agents mad 'cause I'm flagrant..." You know the rest, don't even kid yourselves.

Life After Death. One of the most argued about, talked about, loved and hated double albums of all time. Personally for me, I love it. Not because I think it’s this perfect, flawless, godly album; but because it’s the last little bit of BIG we got just 2 weeks after his death. I’ve heard every possible opinion on this album, from it’s pure perfection with not even one second of filler to it’s garbage and packed with nothing but lame lyrics. Thank God music is subjective and we each can hold on to our own opinions and appreciate what we want from it, so let me sum it up in one sentence:

Life After Death is not perfect, but it is a timeless album that was critical and influential for hip hop.

I think that’s pretty accurate, but since this isn’t an album review and because I love all the tracks (and can't just pick a few) I’ll talk about every track in a different way...in categories: “Most Influential”, “Bonafide Bangers”, “Flawless Beats/Production” and “What Would Hip Hop Do Without”. Lets get right into the album that started right where “Ready To Die” ended.

*Most Influential/Impactful
-It's safe to say BIG had a huge influence on hip hop from the jump, and this album was no different. "Kick In The Door", this was the true birth of "subliminal disses" in some way, as BIG seemed to have in some way addressed everyone: Nas, Jeru, Rae, Ghost and even the track's producer Premier. He came at this with guns blazing, In fact this song was so rich lyrically, Jay-Z and Ice Cube both take lines from it. Needless to say, this track definitely fueled some "beefs" and squashed others.

If there was ever an unofficial sequel to a BIG song, it would be "What's Beef?" In my opinion, it's the extension of "Kick In The Door" again, considering tensions were incredibly high at the time and the term "rap beef" was used by every person and media outlet, so when this hit, it had everyone's attention. No one needs to be reminded that BIG is a delivery/flow god, but it's proven yet again on this track. In addition, this is BIG coming out of the feel good, "smoke some weed and chill" bangers and telling it how it is (the chorus is a prime example). Although it was never blatantly stated, this track had listeners thinking it was intended for 'Pac and with the whirlwind of events that had just transpired, this song was at the center of most rap discussions.

"Ten Crack Commandments" is another one. What people claimed to have already known, B.I.G. put on wax and it took the entire hip hop nation by storm. As he goes through the 10 rules of street hustling and drug slangin', this became everyones "street bible" and it's STILL referred and looked to as the recipe for creating and maintaining.... well.... you know.

"Sky's The Limit" (you might see this show up in a couple categories ) comes from the same person who dissed legendary MC's and taught us how to be profitable drug dealers.... and he has now infused us with positivity, hope and a tactful delivery of life's harsh realities. As BIG takes us through his struggles and learnings with 112 as accompaniment, he also manages to teach perseverance. Amongst the era of gangster rap that he helped create, BIG reminds us that a positive and hopeful mindset should be at the forefront!

*Bonafide Bangers
-With BIG's flow being nothing short of perfection and his crowd pleasing buttery-smooth lyrics, it should come as no surprise that he equipped this album with some phenomenal, classic and truly perfect banger tracks that would truly transcend time..

"Hypnotize", from the second you hear the beat drop, the catchiness of the hook, the "uh huh's" and "ha's" take you for a incredible head bopping hypnotic ride of lyrical genius.

My car go/
One sixty/
Swiftly, wreck it buy a new one/ your crew run run run, your crew run run/"

How can someone complaining/venting about their increasing amount of problems be something we rap/sing along to and dance to? You throw Mase, Puffy, a hip hop God and a Diana Ross sample together and call it "Mo' Money Mo' Problems", and this was and still is a crowd pleaser. It's high energy, filled with variation and every beat, line and verse worked together to compliment the overall result. This truly is perfect.

"Going Back To Cali"...An ode to the state where BIG would ultimately take his last breath. As much as I wish he never went back there, the song is a masterpiece. At the height of the tensions between the East and West, it was surprising to hear BIG praise the west coast as much as he did, and he made it a fun song that got a ton of radio play from both coasts. Once again, the catchiness of the beat and the hook made this a favorite and an undeniable classic.

*Flawless Beats and Production
-As I mentioned I do love all the tracks and it's tough to choose, but looking only at beats and production on this album, here are my top 3 producers:

The number 3 spot goes to Puffy, D Dot and Ron Lawrence for "Hypnotize"! This is THE ONLY time I'm gonna praise Puff for his contributions to music, but it's undeniable, he had a hand in producing over 50% of this album, so of course some of the GREATEST beats, samples and loops would come from him.
Why I believe this to be the best is ultimately catchiness, recognizability, how well it compliments BIG and how it accentuates the theme and concept of the song. It couldn't have been better. It needs no additions and no removals. Each and every part of this is utterly flawless.

2nd, I have to say the RZA for "Long Kiss Goodnight" - it's the simplicity of the beat. With only an Al Green sample, the RZA creates the perfect platform for such weighty lyrics. He controls the focus and keeps BIG at the forefront of the entire track while perfectly carrying his flow with the instrumental (something Mo Money lacks... as it's way too "busy")

And the number one spot (and kind of obviously) goes to Premo for "Kick In The Door" for a few reasons. Premier is incredible at mimicking with beats what the artist wants to convey. He starts this off with his scratching but the entrance of the actual looped beat becomes reminiscent of someone angrily walking up and (perhaps) getting ready to "kick". Also, his ability to utilize cadences is noteworthy and with subject matter like this, you would want nothing less. DJ Premier is truly one of the greatest and delivered perfection.

*What Would Hip Hop Do Without.....
-Each and every one of these tracks are necessary, "fillers" included!! I do think every single song on this album has a special place in the culture, but the one song that has made hip hop better is "Sky's The Limit". I think there's something to be said for the lyrics and the insight that is shared on this track. It's profound. With lines like:

"So we roll with em/
Stole with em/
I mean loyalty, niggas bought me milks at lunch"

"It's on/
Even when I was wrong/ 
I got my point across/
They depicted me the boss/ of course"

"If the game shakes me/
Or breaks me/ 
I hope it makes me/ 
A better man/
Take a better stand/
Put money in my moms hand/"

And of course the chorus. From beginning to end this is one of the best songs of all time and easily the best song on this album to me!

So once again, is this a perfect album? No, it's not. But it is a classic and a much needed contribution to hip hop. BIG had a unique approach to how he created music. He was calculated and cryptic, while maintaining his laid back demeanor. He was an unshakeable force, a confident MC and with such a short run in the industry, he managed to captivate audiences, connect people and create a legacy that will forever be a foundation for artists.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal
-I've kept my opinion on this album slightly quiet. I love it, but feel it's slightly overrated in a way. There's a lot of filler and while I could do with "Nasty Boy", "Another", and a few other songs on the 2nd disc, I loved everything about the first disc. My personal favorite song oddly enough is "I Love The Dough", as I think it's the best Big and Jay collab (yes, better than Brooklyn's Finest). Jay gets the better of Big on this song, but they both flow and rhyme so flawlessly. I also love the greatness of "Niggas Bleed", "Last Day", "Kick In The Door", and "Somebody's Gotta Die", as I feel those are some of Biggie's best songs in his career. This album was a classic, despite a few missteps, but it stands as the biggest accomplishment in his career and the last testament in his legacy to greatness. Rest easy Big. We still remember your legend.



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