Ready to Die
Life After Death
Biggie's impact on the culture is in many ways to me under-appreciated. Sometimes I feel like because his life ended from beef and his storytelling was so vivid that people really feel like B.I.G. was Chris Wallace. But to me they are not the same, obviously they influenced each other. I'm sure once Chris started rapping and gettin love his swagger probably changed a bit but nonetheless the artist was a fiction. Something dope about rapping that has always been important to me is that when you create that rapper persona, you create an alternative space to speak from. Every thing about that perspective borrows from so many places and constructs itself almost in a vacuum that allows it speak to, from, and in so many different experiences and places. It's kind of a dangerous responsibility. Regardless Big was in some way aware of this responsibility and used it to tell you stories. He told them better than 99% of the people on this Earth. We are close to 20 years removed from his first album dropping and I still can't get over how good his music was. And for all the spins that Juicy and Hypnotize get its the darker tracks that make Big stand out. As Bun B always says, if you don't talk about the struggle then we know you're fake. Big's discussion and confrontation of all things struggle was nothing short of brilliant. From Suicidal Thoughts to Somebody's Gotta Die, there is never a wasted breathe or image. I think that it is Big's flirtation with death as a character that always lived in his raps that is both mistaken and under valued. Because of his historical and personal proximity to Tupac, I always felt that there was some kind of conflation with self-fulfilling prophecies of an early exit. And maybe because his album titles had some variation of death in the name, it's easy to make that claim. And I'm sure at some level Big did think about it but probably no more than any one who had lived a similar life in Bed-stuy pushing weight on the block. But as he said on Things done Changed, "Back in the days, our parents used to take care of us. Look at them now, they even fucking scared of us." Damn shit did change, so Ready to Die wasn't a prophecy but a reality, part of that mundane shit that in middle class white america looks like married at 25 with 2.5 and a mortgage.
This why I feel so strongly about this alternative space a rapper creates...Big knew that and created this character that was Ready to Die and did at the end of the first album. What was Big killing? I'm not really interested in figuring that out but I find comfort in his ability to open a story and close it. The album opened with a birth and ended with a death. I don't even ask why cause honestly I'm preoccupied with the beauty in his rhymes
"When I die
I want to go to hell, cause I'm a piece of shit it ain't hard to fuckin tell
It don't make sense going to heaven with the goody-goodies,
Dressed in white?
I like black Timbs and black hoodies
God will probably have me on some real strict shit..."
Beyond that it just sounds dope, Big had a point, it really don't make sense going to heaven with the goody-goodies. He was making his own heaven situated in his own experience. To me this just feels like Big reminding me that the American Dream just don't make sense. I don't want 2.5 and a mortgage. I want a low-rider, good drinks, and loud beats. I'm not trying to live according to the white-supremacist ideal and for some reason when Big killed that character in Ready to Die, to me he was so much more free on Life After Death. I understand the level of corny in that last sentence but creatively Big seemed more free if not a different character. He just felt more in charge of the art. And if you took one thing from this convo at Microphone Check, it's that Big's brilliance in music was beyond rap or music, it was as an artist.