Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Best Of Biggie

Lamont's Lists
January 2009

The Top 10 Songs By The Notorious B.I.G.

In recognition of the January 16, 2009 Release of “Notorious” I bring to you my “Top 10 Songs By the Notorious B.I.G.”. Truth be told, I should have done this a long time ago. As a massive Biggie fan, it’s something I’ve been meaning to do but never got around to. The hard part was narrowing his catalog down to my 10 favorites. I’ll let you decide if I’ve done it justice.


1. Hypnotize – The epitome of a timeless hip hop classic. That opening riff, backed by Biggie’s: “Aum, Aum… Hah, Sicker than your average…” first verse, never disappoints; electrifying parties and thrilling music lovers from Brooklyn to Bangladesh year after year. Choice punch lines and super-premium boasts flow like the Mississippi from end to end. My favorite: “Poppa been smooth since days of Underoos”. As good as it gets.

2. One More Chance (Remix) – Liquid smooth and deceptively intricate. Biggie gives a clinic on how to dispense effortless braggadocio with flare and showmanship. The lyrics are posh but the delivery is even more magnificent. Never has the life of a hustla-turned-playboy sounded so sweet. Is there a fan out there who can resist an eyes-closed, head-nodding, word-for-word sing-a-long whenever they hear this one? I didn’t think so.

3. Somebody’s Gotta Die – Biggie gives Alfred Hitchcock a run for his money as a master storyteller. You don’t so much listen to “Somebody’s Gotta Die” as you experience it. All the cinematic elements are there. Vivid descriptions, packed with juicy details and thoughtful asides are aided by a sinister piano loop and eerie sound effects. The tale even ends with a surprising twist. A masterpiece by any standard.

4. Warning – Thematically brilliant, and off the charts in terms of degree of difficulty. Warning is a treasure chest of humorous, whip-smart and insightful lyricism. And I have to admit, Biggie’s clever trick of portraying two different characters, feeding off of himself within the same song, sure had me fooled the 1st time few times I heard it. A generation from now this song will still be considered ahead of its time.

5. Who Shot Ya? – Post “Ready To Die”, pre “Life After Death”, this one came at the height of Biggie mania (only Lil Wayne has proven to be a more prolific collaborator) and it was another instant classic. The crew at Bad Boy said the track was not aimed at Tupac (who had recently been shot outside of Hot 97 in NYC) but it certainly seemed like too much of a coincidence. At any rate, with lines like “one false move, get Swiss cheesed up”, Biggie again made it clear that he could turn down the playa act and turn up the menace with the greatest of ease.

6. Juicy – I can remember playing Juicy over and over again during the summer and deep into the fall of ’94, growing ever more impressed with each rewind. His combination of voice, delivery and soon-to-be trademark wit were thoroughly mesmerizing as he immaculately brought to life his rags to riches story. This was the 1st time most of us had ever heard a Biggie song and I can speak for an army of then twenty-something’s when I say, it was love at first listen.

7. Unbelievable – “Throw down some ice for the nicest MC”. Amongst the most dazzling of all of Biggie’s many standout performances. A true showcase for his uncommon gift for stringing together a seemingly endless collection of inventive couplets. Oh, and that “Your life is played out like Kwame and those F#$!*n polka dots” line is perhaps his most unforgettable.

8. Party And Bullsh*#t – Uncharacteristically rapid-fire venom from Biggie that still sounds like a raw, unfiltered peak into the mind of a genius before he was asked to scale it back and dumb it down for the masses. “I was a terror since the public era / bathroom passes, cutting classes, squeezin’ asses / Smokin’ blunts was a daily routine / since 13, a chubby n!$#@ on the scene”. Yeah, I think this kid’s got potential.

9. Big Poppa – This simple Isley Brothers sampling tune is arguably Biggie’s most influential and beloved single. It was the one that made Biggie a superstar while also reviving East Coast hip hop (by finally adding a distinctively NYC flavor to dominant G-Funk sound that ruled the day). It’s another one of those songs that compels otherwise square grown ups to imagine they’ve morphed into club crawling, Versace wearing, VIP’s every time it comes on. Go ahead guys: “throw your hands in the ai-ya if you’s a true playa”.

10. Mo Money Mo Problems – Biggie saves an otherwise throw-away hip pop collaboration (featuring some seriously lightweight contributions from Mase and Diddy) on the strength an epic anchoring verse that cuts through the lame hook and practically leaps out of the speakers. The highlight? He opens by rhyming “B.I.G. P.O.Pee.Pee.A.” with “No info for the D.E.A.” Are you kiddin’ me?

Five More That I just Had To Mention
1. N*!#*@’s Bleed – Another one that unfolds like a screenplay with the kick-ass soundtrack already identified.
2. Live At The Garden – I love hearing the crowd’s reaction after he drops that “MC Hammer and those 357 B*!#ches” line.
3. Me And My B*!#ch – Get past the title. This is a love song, heartfelt and deeply poetic.
4. Dreams – Deliciously naughty, sublimely clever, anything but subtle.
5. Gimme The Loot – Spectacular, dual-character word-play again on display.

And Five Scene Stealing Cameos
1. Can’t You See (Total) – Tongue twisting, gravity defying verbal hi-jinx.
2. The Benjamins (Diddy) – A lot of great rhymes on this one but none better than Biggie batting clean-up.
3. Player’s Anthem (Junior Mafia) – The bit about his willingness to “rob the preacher for the offering” is just sick.
4. Flava In Ya Ear (Remix) (Craig Mac) – “Not from Houston, but I Rap-A-Lot”. I’ve run out of ways to tell you that the guy was nice with his.
5. Real Love (Remix) (Mary J Blige) – “My time is up / Peace out to Brooklyn”. Enough said.