The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die: #573 of best 1,000 albums ever!

The Notorious B.I.G. - Ready to Die

So why is The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

In thinking about Christopher Wallace a.k.a. Biggie Smalls a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G., I realized that I have to be in a very particular mood to listen to his stuff. Whereas with other popular 1990s “gangsta” or hardcore rap that I enjoy – Dr. Dre or Wu-Tang Clan, for example – I can happily listen all day, but Biggie is an experience that I feel I need to be emotionally prepared for.

There’s a visceral power to Biggie that shines (pounds?) through on Ready to Die, a narrative and vocal and musical force that demands my attention.

This ain’t no casual kind of listen is maybe what I’m trying to say.

“Gimme the Loot” is an incredible expression of what raw, aggressive, underground-in-feel rap can deliver. Biggie uses every second of the track’s nearly five minutes to deliver word bombs, words as ammunition, words as accusations, words as power.

It’s that, and then the way in which he leans into certain words extends their power.

Where the CASH at?

Have his mother singing, “It’s so HARD.”

And while all that is happening, Biggie shows a nimble ability to play characters in quick succession, even dropping in sound effects, such as the sound of a gun firing. All in cadence with the intense beat.


With 19 tracks and over an hour and a quarter of running time, Ready to Die offers a surprising amount of range as well. “Big Poppa,” arguably Biggie’s most famous song short of “Hypnotize,” is a much mellower affair musically while still exhibiting Biggie’s lyrical and hip hop mastery.  

I specifically used the word musically in the above sentence as there’s an anxiety – about the fear of or expectation of violence – that laces through even Biggie’s “party tracks” and throughout Ready to Die.

You got a gun up in your waist, please don’t shoot up the place (why?)
‘Cause I see some ladies tonight that should be havin’ my baby, baby (uh)

There are some incredible deep cuts to explore as well. “Machine Gun Funk,” for example, leverages an amazing lazy-meets-trippy funk sample with a harsh hip hop drum track, making for the perfect backdrop for Biggie to do his thing.

Pop culture stuff that has something to do with The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die

Many years ago, I caught an Artie Lange stand up comedy show in Hollywood, California. Lange is probably best known for his years on The Howard Stern Show, and he’s an immensely talented (and rough-around-the-edges) New Jersey comedian. He’s also had infamous struggles with addiction, and as a longtime Lange and Stern fan, I wish him well.

The reason I bring this is up is that during the standup show, Lange busted out an a cappella version of “Gimme the Loot” that was funny only because of Lange’s fierce commitment to emulate Biggie Smalls as honestly and well as he could.

Some stats & info about The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die

The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

It was all a dream, I used to read Word Up! magazine, Salt-n-Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.