The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready To Die vs. Slick Rick’s The Great Adventures Of…Which Is Better?
One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?
“Finding The GOAT Album” has considered more than 120 albums from the 80s, 90s and 2000s (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. Now that you and your vote have decided the final 32 albums (including Wild Cards), the final rounds begin.
Two of Hip-Hop’s greatest storytellers, wits, and cadences are The Notorious B.I.G. and Slick Rick. While both artists made greatness beyond their first albums, they share a common zenith in their solo debuts. 1988’s The Great Adventures Of Slick and 1994’s Ready To Die are master narratives of days in New York City lives, following two Hip-Hop obsessed men, coming to terms with fame. Along the way, both of these albums featured advanced styles of rhymes, perspectives, and clever wordplay. Both Rick The Ruler and Big Poppa were pillars of lyricism, bravado, and iconic cool. These two platinum albums influenced massive classes of MCs that followed—with hits heard at weddings, on radio, and copied by others. This bout should be one of the biggest in the bracket, so make sure your say counts – only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click (Click one then click “vote”).
Ready To Die by The Notorious B.I.G.
- Second Round Winner (against Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, 65% to 35%)
- First Round Winner (against MF DOOM’s Operation Doomsday, 53% to 47%)
When Ready To Die released in 1994, Biggie Smalls (officially known as The Notorious B.I.G.) was not a star. As he would rhyme on “One More Chance,” “Heartthrob, never / Black, and ugly as ever” is how the obese Brooklyn, New York MC described himself. However, the deeply anticipated Bad Boy Records debut had those in the know clamoring to hear a full work from the rapper who had dazzled in a handful of preemptive appearances. Christopher Wallace’s wordplay, impeccable timing, humor, booming voice, and self-deprecation stood out from the pack to the fullest. Upon releasing Ready To Die, he proved immediately that he had a story to tell. The Notorious B.I.G. never self aggrandized his album as a “concept,” it was simply his reality. Give or take a few facts bent a bit, and Biggie Smalls’ breakthrough effort reminded the world that Hip-Hop was for the people, by the people—so why not crown somebody who all seemingly related to?
Ready To Die dealt with it all. The album presents Biggie from his days as a teased youth finding solace in Hip-Hop, to a deranged stick-up kid and corner hustler, eventually becoming a man who adored his mother and his daughter. “Juicy” would become Hip-Hop’s rags-to-riches anthem, a meritocratic hope story for everybody with a dream. “Unbelievable” fused Biggie’s wit and syncopated delivery with DJ Premier’s pinnacle sound. The rhythms of each were completely in step, making hardcore Hip-Hop a true work of music mastery. “Ready To Die” and “Suicidal Thoughts” opened Biggie’s mind and vulnerability to a level that guarded MCs wouldn’t dare go. However, as Biggie transported the listener away to hustling trips down south, he could also open up the newfound glamor. Songs like “Big Poppa” could lean towards pop culture, and somehow hit their mark after the album released. This LP had both range and direction, and not only cemented Biggie’s royal Rap status as a rookie, it set the genre’s standard for the notion that a debut album should take your whole life to write. Ready To Die appeases Rap purists, story seekers, and those simply looking for a compelling listen. B.I.G. entered 1994 as a quick-witted freestyle specialist with a boisterously percussive delivery. He would leave the year as a Rap poet laureate, unafraid to put a coast, a street-rooted narrative, or an entire craft on his sturdy back. In many, many ways, Ready To Die showed Rap albums how to live in the years ahead.
Album Number: 1
Released: September 13, 1994
Label: Bad Boy/Arista Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #15 (certified gold, November 1994; certified platinum, March 1995; certified 4x platinum, October 1999)
Song Guests: Method Man, Puff Daddy, Lil’ Kim, Total (Kima Raynor, Keisha Spivey, & Pamela Long), Chucky Thompson, Sybil Pennix, Diana King
Song Producers: Easy Mo Bee, Puff Daddy, DJ Premier, Lord Finesse, Poke, Chucky Thompson, Darnall Scott, Rashad Smith, The Bluez Brothers (Norman & Lord Digga)
The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick by Slick Rick
- Round 2 Winner (against Biz Markie’s Goin’ Off, 84% to 16%)
- Round 1 Winner (against Life Is…Too Short by Too Short, 80% to 20%)
Even as an accessory to Doug E. Fresh’s show, Slick Rick knew how to make Rap verses linear. The Bronx, New York-based MC quickly enhanced Rap’s storytelling abilities by adding some of the same qualities that novelists use. 1988’s The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick debut employed suspense (“Children’s Story”), memorable dialog (“Mona Lisa”), and the grotesque (“Lick The Balls”) in the MC’s narratives. With his bubbly cadence, clever wit, and knack for detail, Ricky Waters’ Def Jam introduction was a page-turner in audio. Not a gangsta rapper per se, Ricky D delved in tales of crime, sex, and spliff-smokin’ that made his raps arguably more comparable to peers such as The Fresh Prince and Dana Dane. Moreover, the eye-patched MC had a conversational flow where none of his rhymes seemed forced. Songs like “The Moment I Feared” and “Treat Her Like A Prostitute” maintained a meter that seemed more in common with Shakespeare than Sugarhill.
Like so many 1980s Rap figures, Slick Rick stepped forth as a fully formed character. He looked the part of royalty, to match his supreme diction, and worldly wisdom. Yet, at the same time, the lyricist was a man of the people—unashamed to encourage illicit behaviors; the album’s opener combated a wounded heart with brute misogyny. Great Adventures… succeeded, as Rick epitomized cool. A skillful producer, Rick was the sonic architect behind his biggest hits—built around pounding percussion. Meanwhile, the Bomb Squad cultivated work very different from their Public Enemy catalog, as Jam Master Jay provided some whimsicality. DJ Vance Wright was the perfect partner in crime, with crisp scratches to enhance the accounts. The album is the perfect dichotomy of Rap’s innocence and its looming adult-minded themes. Part of this album’s charms lie in the fact that it is arguably Rick’s sole unadulterated LP until the late 1990s. Few albums are as technically advanced lyrically, and as carefree and happy as Great Adventures.
Album Number: 1
Released: November 1, 1988
Label: Def Jam/Columbia Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #31 (certified gold, April 1989; certified platinum, October 1989)
Song Guests: DJ Vance Wright
Song Producers: (self), The Bomb Squad (Eric “Vietnam” Sadler & Hank Shocklee), Jam Master Jay
So which album is better? Make sure you vote above.