Tuesday, May 13, 2008

No. 483: Life After Death

Band: Notorious B.I.G.
Album: Life After Death
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Released a few days after B.I.G.'s death, "Life After Death" has an oddly prophetic feel. The album art features him next to a funeral hearse and the songs about death dot the album. Armed with tight street flow and better production than "Ready to Die," the album's a fine two discs.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: It's a double, so there is filler. Sometimes the guests do more of the heavy lifting than B.I.G. does, as "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" shows.
Best song: "Notorious Thugs" is great.
Worst song: "What's Beef" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: Yes.

The Source rarely gives five mics to a record and "Life After Death" is one of those albums. It puts the record within

The sad fact about this album is that it's biggest hit -- "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" -- was problematic for two reasons. First, it's hardly the best song on the record. More importantly, the song introduced the pop music world to Puffy rapping. Puffy is annoying and his verse on "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" just serves as an example of this.


"Life After Death" is certified Diamond, but that's kind of a misnomer, as each disc gets counted and it's a double. So, it's really only sold, like, 5 million copies. Sadly, B.I.G. didn't get to see the album's release, as that nonsense East/West Coast stuff culminated in his death two week's before the album dropped.

B.I.G.'s wit is the draw of the album, with him dipping into self-deprecation, over-the-top threats and ridiculous sex romps. "Fuck You Tonight" is an R. Kelly-style smooth jam, featuring the voice of, well, R. Kelly. "Sky's the Limit" features a 112 hook, but works a sweet backbeat and B.I.G.'s sad inspirational message. "Going Back to Cali" features a Zapp sample (!) and has one of B.I.G.'s better flows in his career.

Of course, the opening track from the second disc is the highlight of the album. "Notorious Thugs" was part of a soundtrack to my freshman year of college, largely because my roommate (and longest-running friend) loves the song and played it a lot (along with, oddly, the first Boston record). Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's Krayzie Bone's verse is easily the best thing he ever did and B.I.G.'s normally smooth flow gets broken up by his aping of the Bone Thugs style. It's amazing.


As is the way, a double album is just too much. There are far too many skits and far too many filler songs, but that's mostly the nature of the double album beast, isn't it? Considering B.I.G. is one of the three best rappers ever, it's forgiven. This album is a must-have.

1 comment:

padraig said...

no one will ever convince me that Life After Death is a better, or in fact anywhere near the level of Ready to Die as a rap album. As a pop album, maybe - and I know rap is pop music but I mean "pop" in the sense of what gets played on TRL/radio (at the time LAD was released - nowadays the blogs as well of course). most people I know who rate LAD better don't listen to a ton of rap. of course neither of us is wrong - we just have different criteria.

for example I think the production on RTD is far better. it's funkier, grittier, more raw. I also prefer street Biggie to polished Puffy slowjams but that's me (actually "Big Poppa" is Biggie's best slowjam), hell even "Juicy" is x100 more powerful than any of the flossy Big Willie tracks on LAD. but that's me. I would agree the ability to crossover w/such great success was a huge part of what made Big so great. and "Notorious Thugs" IS a classic - as has been said, dude murders the Bone Thugs w/their own flow (that they jacked wholesale from the Freestyle Fellowship &/or 3 6 Mafia, but whatever).

the biopic about him will almost certainly be terrible of course.