Run That Back: 20 Years Later, Biggie Smalls’ ‘Life After Death’ Is Still The Illest

Hip-Hop’s greatest double LP turns 20

Welcome to our new series, Run That Back. This month, we’re publishing one throwback album review per day for releases ranging from one month to a decade old. Each author is writing from their experience based off a fresh listen — whether they missed the record in the first place or haven’t touched the record in a while. Whatever the reason, quality music is still quality music and it’s always worth checking out — even if it means veering from your usual tastes. Read more about the series right here.

A friend of friend once told me he truly believed B.I.G. had ghostwriters on his ‘97 double disc. Once he revived me, he told me he felt this way because Biggie was so much better here than Ready To Die. He was right about one thing.

Biggie was eons ahead of Ready To Die on Life After Death. Everything is effortless and nothing feels forced. Three years prior, Puff would’ve had to twist his arm to do “F*** You Tonight” and we would’ve been able to tell. But here it feels like not only his idea, but also his sly middle finger to radio, daring them to play it because he knew they would. That confidence seeps through every pause, every stretched syllable, and every flow. He could slow it down on the aforementioned track with R. Kelly, speed it up with “Notorious Thugs,” and still get raw on “Kick in the Door” and “What’s Beef?”

The only downfall of the album is it was his last and we were robbed of a guy who wasn’t even at his peak. As Life After Death turns 20, it’s time to not only celebrate the man who gave it to us, but stop beating around the bush and can the euphemisms. No more bullspit.

Life After Death is the greatest double disc hip-hop has ever seen and probably ever will see.

If the goal is to end your career on a high note, Life After Death is a soprano high enough to break champagne glasses and chandeliers.

Songs To Rewind: “Long Kiss Goodnight,” “Sky’s the Limit,” “Kick In The Door.”

Songs To Skip: *crickets*

Marcus Benjamin is a danger to the public, an alum of American University, St. John’s University, a screenwriter, and has an intense relationship with words. Witness his tomfoolery on Twitter,@AbstractPo3tic.

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