Notorious B.I.G.’s resume, like that of many hard-core rappers, reads more like a rap sheet than a music bio.
But the experiences of Biggie’s years of hustling, dealing and of course, prison time, make “Ready to Die,” his platinum-selling debut for Bad Boy/Arista, an involving record.
Alleging to now prefer the straight and narrow, the portly New Yorker threw down a brief barrage of cuts from his record that surprisingly was vibrant and sharp — especially considering the less-than-pretty pictures the rapper’s tales paint. The R&B-flavored “Unbelievable” was a smooth jam that showed B.I.G.’s versatility.
While B.I.G. took a brief break vocalist Mary J. Blige made a surprise appearance, singing her recent hit “Be Happy.” Following was an encore from B.I.G., now dressed in his best hustler suit, which featured his current smash, “Big Poppa.”
Opening act Craig Mack (previously announced Da Brat was a no-show) also comes with a background full of desperation and hardship, giving his 20-minute turn a definite air of realism, though his vocal flow was for the most part a jumbled and distorted mess.
Sloppy yet catchy, tracks from his gold “Project: Funk da World” (Bad Boy/Arista) album –“Mainline,””Flava in ya Ear” and hit “Get Down”– earned Mack props from the large (though after a nearly three-hour wait for the show, very impatient) crowd.