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Ready to Die

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Ready to Die is the Grammy Nominated and Billboard Award Winning debut studio album by East Coast rapper The Notorious B.I.G., released on the Bad Boy Records label on September 13, 1994.

The partly autobiographical hardcore hip hop album gained strong reviews on release and became a commercial success, reaching quadruple platinum sales. It is significant for revitalizing East Coast hip hop at a time when the genre was mostly dominated by West Coast artists.[1] In 2006, Time magazine named it one of the 100 greatest albums of all time. [2] It Was nominated for Best Rap Solo Performance for "Big Poppa" at the 1996 Grammy Awards.

Conception

Recording sessions

The album was recorded in New York City (mainly in The Hit Factory recording studio) in two stages between 1993 and 1994. Biggie was signed to the Uptown Records label by A&R Sean "Puffy" Combs in 1992. The following year Biggie started recording his debut album in New York, after having made numerous guest appearances on label mates' singles the previous year. The first tracks recorded include the album's darker, less radio-friendly content (including “Ready To Die,” “Gimme The Loot” and “Things Done Changed”). In these sessions, XXL magazine describe an "inexperienced, higher-pitched" Biggie sounding "hungry and paranoid".[3]

When Executive Producer, Sean "Puffy" Combs, was fired from Uptown having only partially completed the album, Biggie's career hung in limbo. After a brief period dealing drugs in North Carolina, Biggie returned to the studio the following year on Combs' new Bad Boy Records label possessing "a smoother, more confident vocal tone" and completed the album. In this stage, the more commercial-sounding tracks of the album were recorded, including the album's singles. Between the two stages, XXL writes that Biggie moved from writing his lyrics in notebooks to freestyling them from memory.[3]

Lyrical content

The lyrics on Ready to Die tend to deal with violence, drug dealing, women, alcohol consumption and other elements of Notorious B.I.G.'s environment. Biggie described his debut as "a big pie, with each slice indicating a different point in my life involving bitches and niggaz... from the beginning to the end".[4] Biggie rapped about these topics in "clear, sparse terms, allowing the lyrics to hit the first time you hear them".[5] The album contains a loose concept starting out with an intro that details the birth of Biggie, his early childhood, his adolescence and his life at the point of the album's release.[6] Songs on the album range from homicide narratives ("Warning") to braggadocios battle raps ("The What," "Unbelievable"). The album ends with "Suicidal Thoughts," a song where The Notorious B.I.G. contemplates suicide and finally commits it.

Production

While Combs is commonly associated with the production of this album (and acts as the album's Executive Producer), most of it was provided by Combs's Hitmen Productions squad and producers including DJ Premier, Pete Rock (according to an interview, "Juicy" was stolen from him) and Lord Finesse; Combs produced the interludes on the album and co-produced three songs, including the first two singles. Rolling Stone described the beats as "heavy bottomed and slick," enhancing the lyrics but not standing in their own right.[5] The production is mainly sample-based with the samples varying from the percussion of funk tracks to the vocals of hip hop songs (including his own taken from the same album on the DJ Premier-produced "Unbelievable").

Reception

Initial

Upon its release, Ready to Die received strong reviews,[7] and unlike other acclaimed East Coast hip hop albums released at the time (including the Wu-Tang Clan's Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and Nas' Illmatic), such critical success was matched commercially, with sales driven by strong radio and MTV airplay for the singles "Juicy" and "Big Poppa". Rolling Stone praised Biggie's ability in "painting a sonic picture so vibrant that you're transported right to the scene". Q magazine wrote "...the natural rapping, clever use of sound effects and acted dialogue, and concept element... set this well apart from the average gangsta bragging".[7] The album peaked at #3 and #13 on Billboard's (North America) Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums and the Billboard 200 album charts and was eventually certified quadruple platinum.[8]

Retrospective

In retrospect, the album has been highly acclaimed. In 1998, the album was selected as one of The Source magazine's 100 Best Rap Albums[9]. The magazine, which had initially scored the album 4.5 mics (out of five) in its 1994 review raised its rating to five. Template:RS500 It is the third highest ranked hip hop album on the list (with Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and Run-D.M.C.'s Raising Hell ranking above). The album was ranked #30 in Spin's "100 Greatest Albums, 1985-2005".[10] Comedian Artie Lange performs the track Gimme Tha Loot in his stand-up act and on The Howard Stern Show.

Accolades

The information is taken from AcclaimedMusic.net[10] and other website links below.

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Blender Magazine U.S. 500 CDs You Must Own Before You Die 2003 *
Dance de Lux Spain The 25 Best Hip-Hop Records 2001 #21
Ego Trip U.S. Hip Hop's 25 Greatest Albums by Year 1980-98 1999 #2
Famoso Magazine U.S. 10 Must Have Albums 2007 *
Mojo UK Mojo 1000, the Ultimate CD Buyers Guide 2001 *
Mojo UK The Mojo Collection, Third Edition 2003 *
Pitchfork Media U.S. Top 100 Favorite Records of the 1990s 2003 #32
Q UK The Ultimate Music Collection 2005 *
Robert Dimery U.S. 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die 2005 *
Rolling Stone U.S. List of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 2003 #133
Rolling Stone U.S. The Essential Recordings of the 90s 1999 *
Spin Magazine U.S. Top 90 Albums of the 90's 1999 #27
Spin Magazine U.S. Top 100 (+5) Albums of the Last 20 Years 2005 #30
The New Nation UK Top 100 Albums by Black Artists #8
The Source U.S. 100 Best Rap Albums of All Time 1998 *
Vibe Magazine U.S. 100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century 1999 *
VPRO Netherlands 299 Nominations of the Best Album of All Time 2006 *

( * ) designates lists which are unordered.

Singles

Three singles were released from the album, accompanied by four music videos (for "Juicy", "Big Poppa", "Warning" and "One More Chance (Remix)"). The singles were "catchy, radio-friendly" songs in stark contrast to "the grim depiction of urban hopelessness" that appeared on the album. XXL believe this more commercial sound was as a result of encouragement by Combs during the later recording sessions in which they were recorded.[3] The singles were each a commercial success, with the lead single, "Juicy", going gold and the latter two reaching platinum status. The album's final single, "One More Chance (Remix)", which featured his spouse, Faith Evans, singing on the chorus (with backing vocals by Mary J. Blige), was a loosely related remix of an album track and never appeared on its original release. The song was the album's best selling single and reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Because of these singles success Biggie was able to win 2 Billboard Awards in 95 and "Big Poppa" was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1996 for Best Rap Solo Performance.

Reissues

Ready to Die was remastered and reissued in 2004 with two additional bonus tracks and a DVD containing the album's four accompianing music videos and a live performance of "Unbelievable". On March 19, 2006, a judge ordered that sales of Ready to Die be halted because the title track sampled the Ohio Players' "Singing in the Morning", without permission.[11] It would not be sold again until November of that year, when Bad Boy released it in an additional remastered edition with the sample in question and a further Parliament sample removed.[12]

Track listing

All songs were performed by The Notorious B.I.G. The list of samples for each track is only partial.

# Title Time Songwriter(s) Producer(s) Performer(s) Sample(s)[13]
1 "Intro" 3:24 Christopher Wallace Sean "Puffy" Combs for The Hitmen *Interlude*
2 "Things Done Changed" 3:57 Christopher Wallace Dominic Owens and Kevin Scott The Notorious B.I.G.
3 "Gimme the Loot" 5:04 Christopher Wallace Easy Mo Bee The Notorious B.I.G.
4 "Machine Gun Funk" 4:16 Christopher Wallace Easy Mo Bee The Notorious B.I.G.
5 "Warning" 3:40 Christopher Wallace Easy Mo Bee The Notorious B.I.G.
6 "Ready to Die" 4:24 Christopher Wallace Easy Mo Bee The Notorious B.I.G.
7 "One More Chance" 4:43 Christopher Wallace Sean "Puffy" Combs & Chucky Thompson for The Hitmen
The Bluez Brothers
The Notorious B.I.G.
Total (additional vocals)
Chucky Thompson (instruments)
8 "Fuck Me (Interlude)" 1:31 Christopher Wallace Sean "Puffy" Combs for The Hitmen The Notorious B.I.G.
(Lil' Kim)

9 "The What" 3:57 Christopher Wallace
Clifford Smith
Easy Mo Bee The Notorious B.I.G.
Method Man

10 "Juicy" 5:03 Christopher Wallace Sean "Puffy" Combs for The Hitmen
Poke
The Notorious B.I.G.
Total (additional vocals)
11 "Everyday Struggle" 5:19 Christopher Wallace The Bluez Brothers The Notorious B.I.G.
12 "Me & My Bitch" 4:00 Christopher Wallace Sean "Puffy" Combs & Chucky Thompson for The Hitmen
The Bluez Brothers
The Notorious B.I.G.
Sybil Pennix (voice)
Chucky Thompson (instruments)
  • "Computer Love" by Zapp
13 "Big Poppa" 4:13 Christopher Wallace Sean "Puffy" Combs & Chucky Thompson for The Hitmen The Notorious B.I.G.
14 "Respect" 5:22 Christopher Wallace Sean "Puffy" Combs for The Hitmen
Poke
The Notorious B.I.G.
Diana King (additional vocals)
15 "Friend of Mine" 3:28 Christopher Wallace Easy Mo Bee The Notorious B.I.G.
16 "Unbelievable" 3:43 Christopher Wallace DJ Premier The Notorious B.I.G.
17 "Suicidal Thoughts" 2:54 Christopher Wallace Lord Finesse The Notorious B.I.G.
Puff Daddy (backing vocals)
18 "Who Shot Ya?"* 5:19 Christopher Wallace Sean "Puffy" Combs & Nashiem Myrick for The Hitmen The Notorious B.I.G.
Puff Daddy (backing vocals)
19 "Just Playing (Dreams)"* 2:43 Christopher Wallace Rashad Smith The Notorious B.I.G.

* denotes Extended Version Bonus Tracks

Singles

Single information
"Juicy"
"Big Poppa"
"One More Chance"
  • Released: June 9, 1995
  • B-side: "The What"
  • RIAA certification: Platinum

Unused tracks

Template:Cite-section

  • "House of Pain" (featuring 2pac and Stretch) (Track was later remixed twice, once on Duets: The final Chapter album by Just Blaze and featured Nas and Mary J. Blige and left off Stretch. The other was a Bad Boy remix featuring Joe Hooker that was supposed to make it on the "Born Again" album. The original version of this track is still unreleased).
  • "Macs & Dons" was made at the end of the recording process for "Ready To Die". Puff felt the album was really hardcore so he wanted more upbeat and commercial singles. "Macs & Dons" was recorded along with "Big Poppa" and "Juicy". Puff decided to keep the last two tracks and this song went into the vault. Biggie shouts out "Ready To Die, 94" in the song. [14]
  • "Come On" (Featuring Sadat X) (This track was later remixed by Clark Kent for the Born Again album. The original version of this track was produced by Lord Finesse is still unreleased).
  • "Dead Wrong" (This track was later remixed for Born Again by Chucky Thompson and featured Eminem. The original version can be heard on Mister Cee's Best of Biggie 10th Anniversary Mixtape and was produced by Easy Mo Bee).
  • "What You Want" (This track was later remixed for Duets: The Final Chapter and featured Jay-Z. The original version of this track is still unreleased).
  • "Niggaz" (This track was remixed for Born Again and also another version was remixed featuring 50 Cent and was on the Bad Boys II soundtrack with a changed title of "Realest Niggaz". The original version of the song can be heard on Mister Cee's "Best of Biggie 10th Annivesary Mixtape")
  • "Dreams (Jus' Playin)"(This track was added on the 10th Anniversary Edition of the album released in 2004).
  • "Machine Gun Funk" (DJ Premier Remix) - This was supposed to be a B-side to the "One More Chance" Single to give the single a more street edge, which was something Biggie did with all his mainstream singles but was replaced with the album cut "The What". This DJ Premier Remix has still never been officially released.

The majority of all these unused recordings were made while Biggie was on Uptown Records and during the early stages of his career.

Chart positions

Album

Chart (1994) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard 200 13
U.S. Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums 3

Singles

Song Chart (1994) Peak
position
"Juicy" / "Unbelievable" U.S. Billboard Hot 100 27
"Juicy" / "Unbelievable" U.S. Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 14
"Juicy" / "Unbelievable" U.S. Hot Rap Tracks 3
Song Chart (1995) Peak
position
"One More Chance / Stay with Me" U.S. Billboard Hot 100 2
"One More Chance / Stay with Me" U.S. Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 1
"One More Chance / Stay with Me" U.S. Hot Rap Tracks 1
"Big Poppa" / "Warning" U.S. Billboard Hot 100 6
"Big Poppa" / "Warning" U.S. Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 4
"Big Poppa" / "Warning" U.S. Hot Rap Tracks 1

Label

Bad Boy Records/Arista Records

Chronology

Ready To Die
(1994)

Life After Death
(1997)


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