March 25, 2015

The Notorious B.I.G. "Life After Death" (Rap Pages, 5/97)

"After the onslaught of insults, rumors and malicious attacks aimed at Biggie by Tupac, one would assume that some type of retaliatory song would be in order. Yes, even if the antagonist is deceased. But on Biggie's sophomore offering, Life After Death, there are no 2Pac disses, no pissing on the slain rapper's grave or any shots in the dark aimed at Death Row. As far as his album is concerned, Biggie and Puffy didn't have time to stop and smell the roses. It's just a continuation of Bad Boy hit-making as usual: sample-laden-gangstafied-smooth-player tracks for all occasions. Tricks and treats abound this time around on his 23-track double album venture. Into this climate, the Notorious B.I.G., the East Coast's SoundScan messiah, invites the musical question and then answers his own query on the song "What's Beef" - "Beef is when you need two gats to go to sleep / When your moms ain't save up in the streets" ... One of the album's more interesting songs features Biggie rapping alongside Bone Thugs-N-Harmony on "Notorious Thugs." He completely co-opts their rapid fire flow and style with surprising success. This is a winner. Another notable team-up features Jay- on "I Love The Dough," the paper-chasing sequel to "Brooklyn's Finest." Cont'd...

"...After all the drama in Biggie's life since Ready To Die debuted three years ago (including the episodes with Tupac, his estranged wife Faith Evans and former love interest Lil' Kim, plus the local authorities in various states), one kind of yearns for personal revelations concerning these matters. That alone might produce an illustrious set for his next album, but here Biggie sticks to the basics: his patented stylistic hybrid of lyrical hip-hop legends Kool G Rap and Slick Rick. Tracks like the DJ Premier-produced "Ten Crack Commandments" and "Kick In The Door," or the RZA-blessed "Long Kiss Goodnight" all showcase Biggie's lyrical capability and cleverness at melding urban criminology with an uncanny storytelling ability. Life After Death does have its moments when the music isn't striking. The sampling of Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out" brings the banality of Puffy's loop-a-hit technique to a serious low point... Overall, Life After Death is crammed with hit material, from the lead single "Hypnotize," to the Hitchcock-esque drama "N!ggaz Bleed." Thought formulaic at times, the sheer quality of Biggie's lyricism and Puffy's marketing strategy will cater to every segment of the Hip-Hop community: the Hip-Hop head, casual listener, non-listener, dance/party crowd, gangsta beat lover, and Bone and Too Short fans. The Bad Boys have come to play." - Rap Pages (May, 1997).