Monday, 15 June 2015

Notorious B.I.G "Life After Death" (1997)

I can't recall how or why, but from an early age it got stuck in my mind that Biggie was a rapper I didn't like. About nine years ago a colleague turned me onto "Ready To Die" and I wouldn't denied that I really enjoyed it, despite still being a little skeptical of the New York rapper. Over time my preconceptions subsided and I grew a lot of respect for one of Hip Hops finest rappers. "Life After Death" is the first posthumous from Biggie who's fatality came two weeks before this record release. Upon recently discovering this I had to give it a listen, I had been under the impression all these years that this one was like "Born Again", a collection of outtakes thrown together without his input, but the album was completed before his death. Its almost eerie to see the cover now, the hearse, the title predicting his mortality and behind it all an absolute gem I've missed out on all these years.

Life After Death quickly makes its mark, your eight tracks deep and realizing every track is a classic. The bold formidable attitude of Biggie's raps gravitates with sleek, crisp gangster beats creating fleshed out immersible themes that dive into Mafioso Rap thanks to excellent production from Puff and a wide array of collaborators who brew a consistent, flowing record thats flexes between mob threats, to Biggie rapping over oldskool classics (Schooly D) and jumping into disco party numbers and back again with a natural flow within the diversity. Theres 110 minutes of fine Hip Hop full of beefs, drama and digs, classic verses and anthemic beats that take a leading step into the money and success bling era of Hip Hop. 

Across the record Biggie brings in a fantastic selection of features that bring their own style to his, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony bring their tuneful gangster melodics to "Notorious Thugs", Jay-Z with his champaign sipping "I Love the Dough" produced by Easy Mo Be sounding like a "Reasonable Doubt" outtake. R Kelly crafts a seductive, alpha male, 90s RnB track "Fuck You Tonight" that works despite being the most polarizing track on the record. The Lox join Biggie on "Last Day" for an East Coast gangster track reminiscent of Mobb Deep. It was a refreshing approach to collaborations and really stood out as a strength for this record, keeping the flow varied and oozing with variety as Biggie lends the spotlight to his guests to make some classic collaborations.

The production on this record is the finest Ive heard in a while, you can hear its relavence to bringing the bling era to the mainstream with sleek stylish sampling and drum programming taking a step away from the rawer, bombastic early 90s sound. Its forward thinking in the record their are some dazzling moments. "I Got A Story To Tell" rattles a sleek groove between snare claps over a guitar sample for the entire song, and its repetition is perfect for Biggie to flow a fantastic story over. "Last Day" features a slick emphasis as a rolling bass drum kick grooves under the tracks best lines. Easy Mo Bee also grabbed my attention with some fantastically crafted numbers, including "I'm Going Back To Cali" which plays of the aesthetics of  Dr.Dre's "California Love", including the memorable vocoder effects.

Biggie's raps speak for them-selfs, smooth flow, engaging and his flustered tone is easy on the ears, but trying to analyze a little deeper has always been a little difficult, hes got a charm thats hard to put your finger on, but this record has me believing its the lyrical creativity, obviously, but how its delivered through flows where Biggie drops rhymes to his own grooves thats not strictly in line with the beat. The splitting of words to match his groove is also a finesse touch, and I love his singing voice on "Playa Hater", a crude cover of "The Delfonics". Its unapologetic, humorous and enjoyable. Life After Death is a classic I can't help but love, and will be one I turn to often. My only qualms with this record is Puff throwing himself into the background of a lot of tracks, laughing and being unnecessary, its an annoyance. The second disc also has a couple of track not quite at the level of the first, but they are still great songs. Terrific record, very glad i found my way to it.

Rating: 9/10