Following its excellent Beastie Boys “Still Ill” mini-documentary, Amazon Music has released The Birth of Biggie: 25 Years of Ready to Die in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Notorious B.I.G.’s blockbuster 1994 debut album, “Ready To Die.”
While this mini-doc obviously doesn’t have the same level of access that its predecessor did — its subject died 22 years ago — it has a similar tight focus on a specific era and an emphasis on people who were actually with Big at the beginning of his professional career. In it, we hear from “Ready to Die” producers Easy Mo Bee and DJ Mister Cee, former Bad Boy/Arista Records promotion SVP Rob Stone (now co-CEO of Cornerstone Agency) and biographer Cheo Hodari Coker, as well as rare archival audio interviews with the late rapper himself. (While usual suspects like Diddy, Big’s mom and others are not featured in the doc, they’ve spoken their piece in several other documentaries and probably would not have had much new to say.)
Similar to the way the Beastie Boys doc focused on the group’s five-year creative peak, this one zooms in on the period between when Big was transitioning from underground buzz to being discovered by Diddy (a.k.a. Puff Daddy), which led to his record deal with Bad Boy, and the recording of the classic album that made his reputation as one of the greatest rappers of all time.
“When Puff heard me, he got me to the office,” Big says in the doc. “He was like, ‘Yo Money, this is a serious thing. You need to come up here. I’m really ready to sign you for some big money.’ Came down, let’s sign me, let’s put me to work.”
(Also in celebration of the album’s 25th anniversary, Rhino and GetOnDown.com are releasing a limited-edition boxed set that features every album track – plus two bonus tracks, “Who Shot Ya”?” and “Just Playing (Dreams)” – on nine 7” colored-vinyl singles.)
The producers and Coker also talk about the album’s deft balance of hard, hard street tracks and sweeter songs like “Juicy” and “Big Poppa,” as well as the true meaning behind its ominous title, “Ready to Die.”
There is also a companion long-form audio documentary of the same name, available only on Amazon Music and available to Prime members, which is a deeper dive with longer interviews. What are you waiting for? Check that out here and watch the video below.