|Notorious B.I.G. - Life After Death|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Jason Karsh|
|Tuesday, 25 March 1997|
Performance Disc 1 = 7.5 Disc 2 = 5.5 Sound = 7
Being that this release came so close to the death of it's artist, it is impossible to separate the man an his music. In that respect this album is sad, because it is apparent that Biggie Small's talent had so much more room to grow. One of rap music's current problems seems to be the pull between becoming a successful, respected rapper on one hand and selling records and getting rich on the other. Or as it's stated on the track 'Going Back to Cali,' ". . . What's your plan? Is it to rock the tri-state, almost gold, five G.'s a show date, or do you want to see about seven digits . . ." It is unfortunate that artists sometimes get caught between such a pull, but music is a business, as most producers know all too well.
Executive producer, Sean 'Puffy' Combs--whose own album is on the way--uses a machine gun approach in producing this album; if one cut doesn't get you, another one will. Enlisting producer after producer (Kay-Gee, DJ Premier, Easy Mo Bee, Clark Kent, Havoc of Mobb Deep, The RZA) and artist after artist (Jay-Z, Lil' Kim, R. Kelly, Too $hort) it's no wonder why there are two discs and almost twenty-five songs here. Unfortunately what this approach gains in density it loses in quality, resulting in a sadly confused work with some moments of blinding brilliance and others of laughable inefficacy. Listening to the rhymes on songs such as 'Somebody's Gotta Die,' 'Kick in the Door,' and 'What's Beef?' among others it would seem as if all Biggie needs and wants is a good beat, a good mic, and all other fools to stay out of his way. It is on these tracks where the skills of Notorious one are almost unparalleled. Unfortunately there are other tracks on the album, the ones they made to make money. Ones on which Biggie's teamed up with either poor concepts or over-done production. The epitome of this dichotomy is 'Notorious Thugs.' A duet with Bone Thugs N-Harmony, this is an absolutely awful song in which two styles clash and flounder from your speakers like a dying halibut. Ironically, based both upon Bone's recent radio success (how much of which is based upon their late producer Eazy E.'s death we'll never know) and Biggie's tragic demise, this single is blazing toward platinum status. Now you know why other people produce hit singles, and I simply write about them.
In the end, in my opinion, the story is simple. Until you've reached the same monetary status as Prince or Madonna or Michael Jackson, you and your producers do whatever you can to sell as many albums as possible with the promise that you can do your own thing later, when you can afford it. That is what I find to be the real tragedy here. Because while Biggie was a talented and versatile artist, I believe that the public will never truly know exactly what he could have ultimately accomplished because at the time of his death, half of the music he made; he made simply to sell an album.