Notorious B.I.G.: Born Again

Notorious B.I.G.: Born Again

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Album: Born Again
Label: Bad Boy/Arista

Unlike his former friend and rival Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G. didn't release piles of wildly uneven material before and after his still-unsolved murder. Instead, he recorded two mostly spectacular albums and made a handful of guest appearances before his death in 1997. A patchwork exercise in hip-hop revisionism, Born Again matches previously recorded performances to new vocals by some of hip hop's biggest names, as well as new tracks from Bad Boy producers and Mannie Fresh, DJ Premier, and Clark Kent. Perhaps inevitably, Born Again is decidedly unsettling: It's hard not to feel weird listening to Biggie's voice patched into posthumous duets with artists still unknown during his lifetime. Beginning with a prescient Biggie discussing his future and ending with his mother railing—very pleasantly—against "Player Haters," Born Again is fine in its own right, though it understandably lacks the cohesion and scope of Ready To Die and Life After Death. Incongruous moments abound, from B.I.G. taking a posthumous and unwitting trip to the New Orleans projects with the Hot Boys and Big Tymer on "Hope You Niggas Sleep," to producer Daven "Prestige" Vanderpool sampling an entire verse of a Luke song featuring Biggie on "Big Booty Hoes." Collaborations with Snoop Dogg, Sadat X, Missy Elliott, Method Man & Redman, and a surprisingly non-whiny Eminem are all highlights, but a smoothed-out remix of "Everyday Struggle"—needlessly retitled "I Really Want To Show You"—captures little of the original's bittersweet melancholy. Biggie's performances are strong throughout, displaying much of the dark humor, zest for life, and witty lyricism that set him apart during his lifetime, but the pall that hovers over Born Again nevertheless gives the album a morbid, uneasy feel.

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