Netflix recently dropped a documentary on the life and times of Notorious B.I.G. the late father and rap legend passed away in 1997 and his story still lives on. Mainly because his murder has never been solved and so many rumors still surround his murder. This documentary is from his youth until his death, but I do not want to review this. What I would like to do, is talk about his rapping and the age-old debate. Is he top five? Or is he not even on the list.
Now, this is subjective, but I always feel like it can be a fun conversation if you keep things in perspective. The reason BIG’s story is so unique is that he only dropped one album while he was living. His second album came right after his passing. But without question, his first two albums are classics with every disturbing and uncomfortable feel to them. which is clearly by design.
Can One Album Get You Top Five Status?
“Ready to Die” has a movie feel to it. The album is about paranoia, suicide, and protecting what is yours. BIG, talks about his come up and how it effects his state of mind to that moment. Knowing some of his past choices could come back to haunt him. But he is clearly prepared to protect his, on songs like ‘Warning.” This is made clear; his first album is a lyrical assault on the game with the intention of bringing back New York City hip hop.
This catapulted him to the top of the list in hip hop. But here is where the debate starts. Should someone that only dropped two real albums be top five? To me even though it is only two albums. The impact of those two albums was huge, in an ever-changing landscape. BIG gave two lyrical masterpieces, it is hard enough to do it one time. But to drop the first album and then kill the proverbial sophomore slump is amazing. Out of both albums, he won several awards and nominations.
Ready to Die
With many labeling him “The King of New York”, we all know awards can mean very minimal in a genre like hip hop. Its about what your peers think of you and BIG’s peers all agreed when he was around, he was the best. Some of the arguments for him deserving to be in the top five is how he came out of the gate with his first album. His lyrics, delivery, and subject matter. Even though “Ready to die” was dark it still had tracks like “Big poppa” which was an Isley brothers classic club track.
But his storytelling ability was up there with some of the best. Like Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, and others. So, tracks like “Beef”, “Warning”, and “Mo Money Mo Problems”. Just point out the darker side of the streets and the music industry. When he raps lines like “BIG POPPA, no info for the DEA. His verse perfectly depicts the problems that come with more money you have only increases pressure. But not just from enemies, from friends and family as well.
Very few rappers can have the storytelling, flow, or charisma in one. But when you talk top five its like the hall of fame, how I see it. If your name is said I should be able to say yes or no. not borderline, not maybe if he or she does not go into same class with these people. Without a doubt he is a hall of famer and his impact on not just the genre, but music can never be debated nor should it be.
But one album while living is the question that I always come back to. For me, it must be a no, but he would for sure be in my top 50 if I ever were crazy enough to make a list that big. But others for me have surpassed him just because the world has continued to turn since his untimely death. Hip hop is competitive by nature and others while respecting the past have come to take over and make the game theirs. Royce da 5’9 for example went from being a punchline rapper to a lyrical monster.
Life After Death
So, for me it is hard to leave someone like that out of the top ten conversation when you see the growth and importance to the culture. But like anything there is no one without the other. Every person that comes now can come because of what came before them. without Jay-Z and others protesting the Grammys, they would still never showcase the best hip-hop award. They still get it wrong but that is a topic that we touched on in another article.
Like I said at the top of the article these are fun to talk about but never a right or wrong answer. This is opinion-based, and in this narrator’s opinion unfortunately Biggies story will forever be incomplete but he still has a top spot in the history of music and that is nothing to moan or groan at.