This month will finally bring a biopic that die-hard Hip Hop fans have been waiting for since the dreadful date of March 9, 1997. But for those who have been finding various jewels of fresh music on the Internet for the last few months to satisfy their cravings, the full body of music inspired by the motion picture Notorious is a ruminating listen for sore ears.
The Notorious Soundtrack is an epigrammatic musical collage of several songs that defined Biggie‘s career; including some never before heard demos and appearances from several recognizable guests. The three demo songs featured on the soundtrack, “Microphone Murderer,” “Guaranteed Raw” and “Love No Ho,” take us on a journey to the studio of legendary New York deejay, 50 Grand. This is where we hear B.I.G.‘s humbling beginnings as a talented wordsmith, putting together his first collection of real-life stories. It’s amazing to witness his signature style evolve on our eardrums; as he goes from channeling Rakim [click to read], Big Daddy Kane [click to read] and Ice Cube [click to read] on those early tracks to becoming a rhythmical dynamo on the perilous classic, “Warning”-a signature cut from the classic album, Ready to Die. “Party and Bullshit” remains a refreshing flashback that serves as one of the first songs that Biggie recorded after signing his deal with Bad Boy Records. This song would also be the catalyst for numerous collaborations between the emcee and producing czar Easy Mo Bee [click to read]. The crisp, pop-fueled sound of Pete Rock‘s [click to read] Mtume sample, mixed with Biggie’s clarified street narratives, solidifies the zenith status of “Juicy”; while the Life After Death track “Notorious Thugs,” featuring Bone Thugs-N-Harmony [click to read], truly shows how endless the expressive capacity was of the Brooklyn emcee.
With all of Biggie‘s celebrated gems in tow, the soundtrack features new music from New York hip-hop alums Jadakiss [click to read] and Jay-Z [click to read]. On “Letter to B.I.G.” [click to listen], featuring Faith Evans, ‘Kiss relates to the late elegiac giant on how much things have changed since his untimely murder. With the music business in shambles, inferior emcee’s rising to power, and his two protégé’s-Lil’ Cease and Lil’ Kim-not even speaking, Jadakiss decides to somberly wax poetically. Maybe most potently, the emcee notes that the shooting that took away Biggie‘s life is the same calling card rappers are using today to get record deals: “And everybody’s the king now/you ain’t got to be nice, getting shot is the thing now.” On “One More Chance/The Legacy,” we hear young C.J. Wallace emulate his father’s charisma and flow when the two booming voices combine for an endearing tribute that’s reminiscent of the classic song “Unforgettable” performed by Natalie and Nat King Cole. “Brooklyn (We Go Hard)” [click to listen] features Jay-Z taking a break from spitting Frank Lucas-inspired sonnets over silky 70’s samples, as he seems to be inspired by his fellow Brooklynite to take his technique back to their original stomping grounds. Jigga‘s wordplay is at its peak on the Kanye West production that features Santogold, with the entrepreneur/emcee signaling that his relocating the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn progresses his status as hip-hop’s Jackie Robinson and the black Branch Rickey-all rolled in one.
The soundtrack treads ambitious terrain with “The Notorious Theme.” Helmed by Academy Award-nominated composer Danny Elfman-known for composing the Tim Burton Batman films and the theme song to The Simpsons– the theme is an opulent concoction that mixes lush theatrical melodies with classic Hip Hop sensibility. As innovative as Elfman‘s score is, the soundtrack would have been more abundant if the movie’s producers would have gone with the original idea of having one of the maestro’s who helped create Biggie‘s signature sound-the aforementioned Easy Mo Bee-compose the music for this much anticipated film.
The Notorious Soundtrack only reinforces Biggie‘s raw creativity and unbound genius; two things that have been sorely missed since his untimely departure. Whether you buy this soundtrack or stick to listening to your own collection, just turn on the music and become amazed at how his words can still hypnotize you.