Love to Easy Mo Bee
as producer on Biggie’s album
Ready to Die is the debut album of American rapper The Notorious B.I.G., released September 13, 1994 on Sean “Puffy” Combs’ Bad Boy Records. It serves as the first release on the record label. Recording sessions for the album took place from 1993 to 1994 at The Hit Factory and D&D Studios in New York City. The partly autobiographical album tells the story of The Notorious B.I.G.’s experiences as a young criminal, referring to himself as “the black Frank White”. Ready to Die is his only studio album released during his lifetime; B.I.G. was murdered days prior to the release of his second album Life After Death (1997).
Ready to Die gained strong reviews on release and became a commercial success, reaching quadruple platinum sales. It was significant for revitalizing the East Coast hip hop scene, amid West Coast hip hop’s commercial dominance. The album’s second single, “Big Poppa”, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 1996 Grammy Awards. Ready to Die has been regarded by several music critics as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. In 2003, the album was ranked number 133 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, making it the third highest hip hop album on the list. In 2006, Time included it on its list of the 100 greatest albums of all time.
The production on the album was mainly handled by Easy Mo Bee and The Hitmen, and it was generally well-received by critics. Rolling Stone described the beats as “heavy bottomed and slick,” enhancing the lyrics but not standing in their own right. The production is mainly sample-based with the samples varying from the percussion of funk tracks to the vocals of hip hop songs. Steve Huey presented some criticism over the beats, stating that the “deliberate beats do get a little samey, but it hardly matters: this is Biggie’s show” Cheo H. Coker depicted the beats as “heavy bottomed and slick, but B.I.G.’s rhymes are the showstoppers. The tracks only enhance them, whether it’s the live bass driving a menacing undercurrent or [the] use of bluesy guitar and wah-wah feedback” and that the production is used to “push the rapper to new heights.”