The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready To Die vs. Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill. 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” 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.
Two major, multi-platinum solo debuts line up next. The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready To Die and Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill are likely albums Heads have heard championed as the “GOAT.” From two hardcore 1990s East Coast MCs, these works transcended Hip-Hop into universal Pop music that never tucked in their essence. Both artists are known for quality more than quantity, due to Biggie Small’s brief career before his 1997 murder, and L-Boogie’s storied album recluse. Notably, despite their heavy jackets of accolades, both releases had less than 10% winning margins against decidedly Underground Hip-Hop albums in the last round. As B.I.G.’s baby was almost literally “doomed,” Ms. Hill clawed to best a past collaborator in Diamond D with his own first LP. Facing off against each other is no easy feat, and your single vote may be the decider (Click on one then click “vote”).
Ready To Die by The Notorious B.I.G.
– 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 Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill
– First Round Winner (against Diamond D’s Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop, 59% to 41%)
Following The Score, The Fugees would famously disband at the highest of commercial and critical plateaus to focus on solo work. For Lauryn Hill, that would prove to be pivotal. One of Hip-Hop’s most gifted MCs and music’s truly captivating singers, Ms. Hill went to work on an album trying to balance those gifts, in a very compartmentalized era of music. Without Wyclef or Pras anywhere in sight, L-Boogie crafted a deeply-personal, especially ambitious work in The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill. Seemingly impossible, the Newark, New Jersey veteran eclipsed her group work with an album that not only proved to be more than a decade ahead of its time, but a bar-raiser in late ’90s Pop music. Miseducation may have had all the trimmings of a #1 album, but Lauryn carried her Blunted On Reality roots, unafraid to stir the pot against haters within her inner circle on “Lost Ones,” or call out wack rappers on “Final Hour.”
Few albums actualize an artist’s talent as well as Miseducation. Before Drake, Queen Latifah, and Pharoahe Monch would use their singing abilities extensively on albums, Lauryn Hill gracefully kicked open the door on an LP that aimed to empower the youth, settle “the score,” and embrace love and motherhood. Largely self-produced, L-Boogie found an organic, instrumental pocket all of her own. Unafraid to weave in covers or allusions, this LP is among the most cohesive Pop albums of the last 25 years. “Every Ghetto, Every City,” was a here-and-now outcry for the singer, with a broad choral crescendo. “Everything Is Everything” took charge of the closing millennium in a brilliantly universal light. “Doo Wop (That Thing)” merged Hill’s gifts in one tangible place, calling back to ’60s girl-group Motown without gimmicks, but a mere stylistic display. In an era of over-sexed R&B and gender-clashing Hip-Hop, Lauryn Hill brought the sexes together with beautiful, gestalt music using her rhymes and vocal range at once. Not simply in Hip-Hop, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill is the album everybody wants to make in the 2000s. It’s paved the way for Adele as much as it has Drake, and remains seemingly unchanged by the times or their trends.
Album Number: 1 (solo)
Released: August 25, 1998
Label: Ruffhouse/Columbia Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #1 (certified gold, September 1998; certified platinum, September 1998; certified 8x platinum, December 2001)
Song Guests: D’Angelo, Mary J. Blige, Carlos Santana
Song Producers: (self), Vada Nobles, Che’ Guevara
So which album belongs in the 1990s Top 10? Make sure you vote above.