These days, the word “classic” is thrown around as loosely as a Nerf ball at a picnic. However, we at TRU consider classics to be something which stand the test of time and have a resounding influence on their respective fields. But how do albums considered classics sound to the ears of TRU’s young blood? Aaron J. McKrell was born in 1990 and we’ve convinced him to turn his scope on a classic from the rich history of hip-hop to view it through a contemporary lens in a weekly series we call…
This is it; the last album in the series. We at TRU decided Life After Death would be the perfect bookend to Classics Revisited, as it was in many ways the end of an era in hip-hop.
The crossover potential displayed on Ready to Die is advanced on Life After Death to the point where Biggie is able to please multiple audiences at once without sounding stretched. While it is true that some of the songs, like “Another” and “F**k You Tonight,” are a bit watered down, B.I.G.’s charisma is maintained throughout. Chris Wallace also shows he hasn’t forgotten the streets, painting epic crime portraits on “Somebody’s Gotta Die” and “You’re Nobody (Til’ Somebody Kills You).” His crossover approach works because he sounds just as comfortable on “Hypnotize” as he does on “What’s Beef.”
Life After Death is not as captivating as Ready to Die, but in some ways Biggie is better on his sophomore album. His lyrics, often yelled out on songs like “Gimme the Loot” and “Ready to Die,” are now brought out in a laid-back or deliberate manner much of the time. It’s also remarkable that, as large as he was, he is able to spit so fluidly and with such breath control on the Bone Thugs N Harmony-assisted “Notorious Thugs.”
Most of the content on this album expands on themes from Big’s debut, but there are a few cuts that could only come from a famous artist. Fortunately, “Mo Money Mo Problems” and “I Love the Dough” are smooth and refreshing rather than cliche. Puffy and his Hitmen-among others- make the beats cinematic and melodramatic, but this works because it takes larger-than-life beats to stand up to Biggie’s dramatic tales. There is range in the music, also; “Hypnotize” is a party song that appropriately live and “Ten Crack Commandments” sounds just fittingly dooming.
This album is not perfect. It contains flaws of many double albums; some of the songs don’t have as much of an impact as they possibly could have due to the album’s length, and there are some guests on this album that should have been left of the finished project altogether. Still, Biggie is great throughout, and his stone-cold stories and the strong backing production make this a remarkable album. Today, this album is relevant if for no other reason than it is one of the few testaments to The Notorious B.I.G.’s amazing presence and talent.
[Editor's note: Thanks to everybody that stuck around for this series, whether you were silently enjoying these, vocally supporting them or actively discussing in the comments section. Most of all, of course, thanks to Aaron. We old heads tip our hats towards you and thank you for letting us put you through the wringer every week and having the stones to give your honest opinion on these classics without sparing our (possibly somewhat nostalgic) feelings!
Stay tuned next when Aaron takes a look back at the entire series and lets us know how it feels to move through 20 years of rap history in half a year.]
Classics Revisited: DJ Shadow – Endtroducing…..
Classics Revisited: Outkast – ATLiens
Classics Revisited: Fugees – The Score
Classics Revisited: 2Pac – All Eyez On Me
Classics Revisited: Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt
Classics Revisited: Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…
Classics Revisited: 2Pac – Me Against The World
Classics Revisited: Genius/Gza – Liquid Swords
Classics Revisited: Nas – Illmatic
Classics Revisited: The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready To Die
Classics Revisited: Common – Resurrection
Classics Revisited: Outkast – Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
Classics Revisited: Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (’36 Chambers’)
Classics Revisited: A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders
Classics Revisited: Gang Starr – Daily Operation
Classics Revisited: Main Source – Breaking Atoms
Classics Revisited: A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory
Classics Revisited: Geto Boys – We Can’t Be Stopped
Classics Revisited: Lord Finesse & DJ Mike Smooth – Funky Technician
Classics Revisited: Ice Cube – Amerikkka’s Most Wanted
Classics Revisited: De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising
Classics Revisited: Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique
Classics Revisited: Slick Rick – The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick
Classics Revisited: Big Daddy Kane – Long Live The Kane
Classics Revisited: Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Classics Revisited: NWA – Straight Outta Compton
Classics Revisited: Eric B & Rakim – Paid In Full