The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready To Die vs. MF DOOM’s Operation Doomsday. Which Is Better?

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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” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.

The Notorious B.I.G. and MF DOOM are two unlikely star MCs. While their career pinnacles may be weighted differently, each artist drove a new path in Hip-Hop, making way for lots of others to follow. Biggie Smalls’ Ready To Die contends to be the best debut album of all time. It’s thrilling, honest, and stuffed with skills that come certified by the hardest to please of Hip-Hop Heads. MF DOOM had a 10-year career established when he released Operation Doomsday. The therapeutic album re-presented the MC under a new alias, a guarded person, and an approach to rhyming that excited the medium. DOOM’s creativity and vulnerability turned a devastating loss into a career that otherwise may have been marginalized. Two master works of 1990s Rap square off, with Big Poppa and Metal Face sizing up one another (click on one then click “vote”).

notorious-big-ready-to-die

Ready To Die by The Notorious B.I.G.

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)

MF DOOM Operation Doomsday

Operation Doomsday by MF DOOM

More than five years removed from twin brother DJ Subroc’s shocking death on Long Island’s Nassau Expressway, Zev Love X reemerged as “MF DOOM.” The onetime major label artist, and front man for KMD reappeared, but not at all as Heads remembered. The English-born, New York-raised Daniel Dumile was now dressed with a mask, covering his identical resemblance to Dingilizwe. Not merely a prop, DOOM had a very different slant in his lyrics than his days of gleefully guzzling premium wine, chasing “skins,” and questioning racial identity in the ’90s. A series of low-key Fondle ‘Em Records singles would eventually mount to Operation Doomsday. The limited edition release by Bobbito Garcia’s label launched a second chapter in DOOM’s career. Fifteen years later, he is active because of this material, this transition, and this reinvention. A self-proclaimed villain, this is a work of dusty samples, compound rhymes, and dynamic stream of consciousness that had everybody rooting for the bad guy.

Reportedly with a few crates of records, while battling reported bouts of homelessness, DOOM made an album that explained his absence and his return. On the Kurious Jorge-assisted “?,” DOOM grieves Subroc, in passing, as he discusses cracking beers, puffing clouds, and “everything going according to plan.” On quirky, ’70s-infused self-produced beats, DOOM cultivated his own rhythmic flows. The MC spat at conventions, and just spit rhymes. He breathlessly devoured couplets that, sounded good from a distance, and up close, often bestowed brilliance. The existence of a deeply-depressed, self-medicating twenty-something were captured in between these self-sufficient rhymes and beats. A pre-9/11 New York City was the perfect comic-book backdrop, as DOOM sought out the seediness. But just as DOOM’s onetime close associates Busta Rhymes and Prince Paul’s status had climbed, DOOM made an album that still embraced butter leather jackets, Acura sedans, and bejeweled women. Not unlike later collaborator Kool Keith, MF DOOM brought his past with him into a new dimension. Operation Doomsday, presumably made on a scuffed Timberland shoestring budget, would set the table for not only Underground Hip-Hop, but the culture in the digital age. With so little, MF DOOM let his pain, soul, and skills do the talking—and rewrote his legacy.

Album Number: 1 (solo)
Released: April 20, 1999
Label: Fondle ‘Em Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): N/A
Song Guests: MF Grimm, Kurious, Bobbito, Tommy Gunn, X-Ray, Rodan, Megalon, K.D., King Geedorah, Kong, E. Mason
Song Producers: (self), DJ Subroc

So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.

Related: Ambrosia For Heads’ Finding The GOAT: The Albums