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Sunday, September 14, 2014

[Comp] NOTORIOUS B.I.G. - "The Anniversary"

Not too long ago I had a period where I went back and played both of The Notorious BIG's two albums religiously, and this month now marks the 20 year anniversary of that first classic LP. At this time I also collected most of his rarer demos, freestyles and guest apperances. Unlike 2Pac, his one time ally and contemporary, Wallace left us with only a small scattering of finished recordings to pick up when he tragically left us in '97. Instead of paying respect to the man's legacy by compiling and releasing the original music he recorded in his lifetime, the vultures at Bad Boy instead have opted to remix and completely alter his unreleased music. As it stands now BIG's musical legacy consists of two excellent solo albums ("Ready to Die" and "Life After Death"), the executive producing and career launching of Junior M.A.F.I.A. with "Conspiracy" and Lil' Kim with "Hardcore". Add to that something like an additional 40 loose tracks, studio freestyles and guest apperances left for us fans to compile and share. Despite the small output very few Hip Hop artists can be considered more influential and inspirational to both his own generation and todays up and comers - and that in itself is a damn impressive feat. BIG will always be remembered as one of the true greats, a musical giant who twenty years ago made waves with the release of his debut album. It's safe to say that "Ready to Die" has stood the test of time and should have a given place in the top albums list of any true hip-hop conniseour. 

The internet is of course swarming with various tributes and articles in honor of the ocassion. For my own contribution I have put together a compilation of non-album tracks that I feel reaches a very high level of quality. As always I've tried making this compilation form a coherrent listen that focuses on a specific time or style. The goal here was to create something like a companion piece to "Ready to Die". That means that I'm limiting the inclusion of songs to material recorded between 1993 and 1995 (the time in which between "R.T.D." was recorded and final single with B-side released). Additionally, I wanted to focus on BIG's lyrical skills and writing genius, given as much space as possible to solo tracks. In the end I maybe used a little too many posse cuts and such as I originally intended to only use 10 songs, but one thing's for sure - there's no half-assed material on here. Below you'll find the tracklist, download link and a little info on each song, it's producer, origin and relevance for the compilation... TURN IT UP!!!

01. "The Wickedest: Freestyle Intro"
This exclusive freestyle makes for a perfect intro and the epitome of Biggie's style post-"Ready to Die". Recorded by DJ Mister Cee (who of course was an integral part of Big's career) as an exclusive for his "The Best Of The Notorious B.I.G.", released in 1995.

02. "Party & Bullshit"
It felt natural to kick things off with "Party & Bullshit", seeing how this hardcore party starter was both BIG's first single ever and was left off his debut album. This also marks the first time Biggie worked with Easy Mo Bee, who would become one of the most important players in crafting the Notorious sound. The song were also featured on the original soundtrack to the 1993 flick "Who's The Man?".

03. "Dead Wrong"
Another early collaboration with Easy Mo Bee who's hard hitting boom bap shit in com"bination with the dusted flow of BIG stands as a superb representation of everything great about the early '90s East Coast bap. An Eminem remix of course turned up on '99:s posthumous "Born Again", but the version for the real heads is this one, recorded during the early Uptown sessions for "R.T.D." in '93. This clear rip from a DJ Craig G tape was borrowed from NahRight's excellent BIG article.

04. "Come On Motherfuckers" (Ft. Sadat X)
"Come On" is another cut that was cleaned up and modernized by The Hitmen for "Born Again" but the original, superior version sees BIG rocking hard as hell over a dusty Lord Finesse break, complete with intense horn stabs. Sadat X and Biggie Smalls definitely makes for a very interesting combination, and this '93 joint (another recording from the Uptown sessions) is about as tough as they come yet was left to the mixtape circuit until just a few years ago. 

05. "Dreams (Just Playing)"
"Dreams" is nothing short of classic BIG as he invites listeners into his nasty dreams of all the R&B singers he'd like to fuck. And it's done with more wit and charisma than most emcees at their best moments too. Built around a crazy addictive guitar loop, "Dreams" was produced by the underrated Rashad Smith of Tumblin' Dice, this was included as a bonus track on the 2004 remaster of "Ready to Die". It's first apperance dates as far back as 1993 when DJ Doo Wop put it on his "Spring One" tape, which indicates that it might have been recorded for BIG's Uptown debut.

06. "One More Chance/Stay With Me" [Hip Hop Mix]

The smooth video version of "One More Chance" (see above) is definitely one of Biggie's most famous songs, though it bears little resemblance to the version that appeared on the album. The 12" single included two remixes of the song - the famous Faith Evans version which was about as R&B as BIG would ever get and this one labeled The Hip Hop Mix. Using the same verses as the video mix but adding a differet hook by Total, Biggie's sexual themed flows sounds perfect over the pounding drums, guitar stabs and scratches - once again produced by Rashad Smith / Tumblin' Dice. An interesting fact is that this version of the song replaces the original Bluez Brothas version on the clean version of "R.T.D.".

07. "Runnin' From The Police" (Ft. 2Pac, Stretch, EDI, Khadafi & Buju Banton)
"Runnin' From The Police" have always been one considered as of the strongest songs in both BIG's and 'Pac's respective catalouges if you ask me. There's so many quotables in here that it's not even funny, and hearing 'Pac, BIG and Stretch all on one track is truly powerful, and Easy Mo Bee did a masterful job in creating the backing track. This classic was originally recorded around 1994 in a 2Pac session for inclusion on his "Thug Life Volume 1" album, even appearing on a rare promo cassette of the project. The song was ultimately replaced by "Stay True" and it would take another year before fans got the chance to hear "Runnin'" on the compilation album "One Million Strong".

08. "Real Niggaz"
"Real Niggaz" is another huge record with a West Coast connecction, as it's common knowledge that Biggie had a lot of love for LA and the music the city produced in the early to mid-'90s. It's unbelivable this was never given more exposure because not only does Biggie sound phenomenal over these Death Row tracks like "Deep Cover", his verses here displays the same type of top notch storytelling that he would perfect on future masterpieces like "Somebody's Gotta Die". This was originally heard as a two part piece on a DJ Clue tape back in '95 before Mister Cee collected all verses for his incredible "The Best Of Notorious B.I.G." tape.

09. "Jam Session" (Ft. Heavy D & Troo Kula)
One of a couple of collaborations between Biggie and Heavy D, produced by Jesse West who really brings the funk on here with an affective heavy bass melody and slick guitar. Heavy D and BIG made a few songs together (all featured on this compilation), and there's no denying that there's a lot of chemistry to be found here. Something that not everybody knows is that the duo even had plans on developing a clothing line for men with a larger build called BIG & Heavy. "Jam Session" also features Troo Kula (at the time a member of Jesse West's group 3rd Eye) and is lifted from the otherwise forgettable compilation album "NBA Jam Session".

10. "Let's Get It On" (Ft. 2Pac, Grand Puba & Heavy D)
This somewhat forgotten posse cut features some of the greatest emcees of the '90s (Grand Puba, 2Pac, BIG, Heavy D) getting it on over a relatively smooth headnodder that packs influences from the New Jack swing era. Taken from the album of the same name by DJ Eddie F. and The Untouchables, a crew of DJ:s and producers from the Mt. Vernon area which originally mentored and included Pete Rock (who didn't have anything to do with this joint however).

11. "Watchu Want?"
"Watchu Want" was a late deletion from "Ready to Die" and is another one of the Easy Mo Bee/BIG recordings from the earlier recording sessions of the LP before Puffy was dropped from Uptown and took Wallace with him. This is a very powerful cut, with Biggie at his most hardcore and I still have a hard time deciding whether or not I would have prefered it to have been left on the LP. I have a (possibly false?) memory of reading somewhere that Biggie really wanted to keep this one but Puff insisted that the quota for rugged hardcore jams had been filled.

12. "Who's The Man?" (Ft. King Just & Todd1)
The 45 King has produced some of my all time favorite records and hearing him produce for BIG is pure bliss. Unfortunately Wallace only kicks one verse here but that's a verse that makes the tracks inclusion on this compilation an absolute definite and leaves little question to who the man in this case is (King Just comes correct though). I guess the reason this isn't remembered for the great battle record it is, is because it came out on a very forgotten album called "Back Up Off Me!", the only LP released under the names of Doctor Dre and Ed Lover.

13. "A Buncha Niggas" (Ft. Heavy D, Guru, Busta Rhymes, 3rd Eye & Rob-O)
The Heavy D & The Boys albums from the early '90s always had a ton of underground gems on them and "Blue Funk" might just be the illest. As far as posse cut goes this one has one of the more jaw dropping line-ups - Heavy D, Guru, Busta Rhymes, Rob-O from InI, 3rd Eye (Jesse West also produced this banger) and of course The Notorious B.I.G.

14. "Who Shot Ya"
"Who Shot Ya" marks the first time BIG worked with Nashiem Myrick who would come to be a major contributor to the sound of "Life After Death", making this something of a transitional record. An interesting fact is that the song originally was incepted as an interlude for Mary J. Blige's excellent '95 LP "My Life". Word is that the content was a little too violent for an R&B album and in the end the interlude verse were recorded by Keith Murray. Being label mates and old friends, Puff and BIG secured the beat and put it on as the B-side of the "Big Poppa" single, causing all kinds of controversy. You can check out the original demo version with both Murray and BIG, liberated by DJ S&S and uploaded by NahRight.