(AllHipHop Special Review)1994 was a great year for Hip-Hop. From the hard-hitting debuts of OutKast and Nas to Common’s smooth sophomore effort, Resurrection, there was no shortage of dope music. But somehow, I’ve committed the cardinal sin of overlooking what many would call the best album of ‘94: Ready to Die.
It’s not that I don’t like Biggie, but I’m a 22-year-old white kid from Oregon. I grew up in a rural town with 3,000 people who didn’t like Hip-Hop unless it was on MTV or from California in the ‘90s. And I try to catch up on everything I miss, but there’s been a lot of dope Hip-Hop in the past two decades. I like the B.I.G. I’ve heard, I just haven’t found time to listen through his albums from start to finish — until now.
From the moment I started the album, two things stuck out to me: Biggie’s smooth flow and the amazing production. “Things Done Changed” paints a perfect picture of the changes New York (and many large cities) underwent during the crack epidemic. This theme is explored more throughout the album as B.I.G. gives us a glimpse into his life and mind.
Even though I’m just familiarizing myself with this album, it’s one of the most timeless formative albums to me. There are a lot of awesome rappers from the ‘90s, but I’ll be the first to admit that hip-hop often ages poorly. A Tribe Called Quest and N.W.A. both sound unmistakably ‘90s. When I listen to the variety in production and cadence on Ready to Die vs. Illmatic, though, it’s hard to believe both albums came out in ‘94.
From the lyrical showcases of “Unbelievable” and “The What” to the more personal storytelling found in “Respect” and “Everyday Struggle,” B.I.G. cemented himself as one of the best lyricists of all time on Ready to Die. Overall, I would say this is the best album of 1994.
It amazed me to hear the massive influence B.I.G. has had on every rapper that’s come after him. From mimicked cadences to slightly altered bars, I found myself more familiar with a lot of the songs than I expected to be.
One area where I feel this album fell short is the overall composition. I loved the semi-autobiographical theme that remains constant throughout the album, but it’s a little bit long for my taste. In my opinion, short albums usually have better replay value and are more cohesive. In hindsight, we were lucky to get two lengthy albums from B.I.G. while he was alive.
I wasn’t sure if this album was going to stick with me coming in, but it felt surprisingly fresh and different. In a genre where hype is so often misplaced, I’m glad to hear an album that deserves every bit of credit it’s been given.”