In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “A record that totally justifies its reputation and ever growing legacy.”
The fact that I will hear certain albums or see certain movies is just inevitable. It may have taken me until I was in my 20s, but I finally heard The Beatles (AKA The White Album) and knew that I had ticked something off a list of life’s must does. The same thing happened around the same time when I saw Casablanca. Writing Bored and Dangerous has been a great boot in the ass to make me get to more of these must does more often. Like today, with Notorious B.I.G and Ready to Die.
With an intro going from 60s soul, to hip hops earliest days, to the sounds of a couple having a drop down, drag out fight, to gangsta rap, to two dudes cocking guns before a robbery, to Biggie Smalls leaving the big house, the montage that is Intro gives us a snapshot of everything, good and bad, music and real life, that has made Notorious B.I.G the man he is, and lead to the record that is about to play out. I generally hate sketches on hip hop records, but there’s something too genuine and raw about Intro for me to dismiss it. It actually accomplishes setting a tone, where most sketches are a complete waste of time.
But before he can look all the way forward, it’s time to go “back in the day” with Things Done Changed. How it was then and how it is in the now of 1994 are compared and contrasted with a driving drone and Biggie’s driving growl. Things get a bit more bounce on Gimme the Loot and the opening of Ready to Die has me pretty excited about its hour exceeding running time.
A slow jammed drum and bass backing, complete with a guitar wahed out to 70s porn levels is pushed to its limit when Biggie gets a hold of the title track. His vocals on Ready to Die are so much harder than the production and samples had me expecting. But it’s a juxtaposition that works.
With One More Chance, I’m not even gonna attempt to describe why you need to hear this song. I’ll just give you the opening lyrics and leave the rest up to you. “When it comes to sex, I’m similar to the Thrilla in Manila. Honeys call me Bigga the Condom Filler. Whether it’s stiff tongue or stiff dick, Biggie squeeze it to make shit fit.”
At over 20 years old, it would be impossible for Ready to Die to not sound at least a little dated in some way. But to my novice ears for hip hop, I have to listen pretty bloody hard to hear it. You could tell me that Everyday Struggle was released today and I’d believe it. And I think that all comes down to Biggie’s delivery. My biggest problem with Dr Dre’s Compton was his constant bragging. It just came across as so insecure and over compensatory. But there’s something about the sincerity of Notorious B.I.G, that even at his most bombastic and self braggadocios, it just sounds so immediate and of the now.
While I would never call Ready to Die padded out with inessential filler, by the time I got to Friend of Mine and it’s total lack of ingenuity, I was beginning to wonder if this record could sustain its extended running time. Then comes late highlight Unbelievable, and I’m back on board. It’s wall to wall great lines and old school record scratch samples given new life. And in the end it represents everything else that has come before on Ready to Die. A record that totally justifies its reputation and ever growing legacy.