Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I've harbored a deep love and respect for hip-hop and rap for a long time. It's only been recently, though, that I realized that I couldn't think of a single hip-hop or rap record that moved me emotionally. Don't get me wrong, some of my favorite albums of all time are hip-hop and rap records (2001, Nigga Please, Six Feet Deep, Tical, License to Ill, etc), and I've been moved to tears by a single song or verse before, but no album in its entirety has become an emotional monument to me (though a few have admittedly close). At the end of a record like Dear You, I See a Darkness, or Songs for a Blue Guitar, I feel truly moved, as if I've been ran through a gambit of all the emotions of a single day. They become nostalgiac milestones to very particular times of my life, and grow with me as time goes on. I began to wonder if I didn't perceive rap or hip-hop in the same way as I did music in an "Anglo" context, such as rock or country. I thought perhaps I didn't have as profound an understanding of the genre as I thought I had.
That all changed recently when I realized, shortly after listening to Ready to Die, by Notorious B.I.G., that this record had in fact touched me. Biggie's narratives are so realistic, emotional, and human that even though the subject matter often pertains to things that I shall never know about, such as slangin' crack or shooting people, it affects me in the way that only truly great records do.
It's at turns lewd, violent, and chauvinistic, as most quality gangsta rap tends to be, but that doesn't for a moment take away from the album's genius. Recorded when Biggie was twenty-two and twenty-three, it honestly lays out his fears and concerns about life and, more often, death. The question of whether he was killed as a result of the persona he created around himself as the violent gangsta pimp, or was eerily predicting his own death three short years later, is an interesting, and unanswered, one.
Not mention, there are some serious ass-shakers on this record. It's good with hazy rooms, low lighting, and malt liquor.
Free download (I didn't upload this, I just found the link): http://www.megaupload.com/?d=VAFJGB15