Today I was listening to Biggie's classic album Ready to Die and other 90's Hip Hop joints. As I sat back and absorbed the lyrics to the final track, "Suicidal Thoughts", it pushed me to ask a few internal questions. I was thinking to myself, "Have I ever heard a Rap Song so grim and cynical?". At first the Scarface song "In My Time" off Last of a Dying Breed came to mind. This particular track was typical Scarface talking about his own funeral and the love ones left behind. This is why I call him the "Grim Reaper of Hip Hop" on most days. Biggie went a step and level deeper with "Suicidal Thoughts". You see, Ready to Die is like a Suicide Note, Diary, and Memoire all wrapped into a collection of songs. I tell you, it's surely an amazing piece of work but given his early death, it's chilling as well.
As for the song, I attempted to remember the first time I heard it and my initial reaction. Looking back at it in 2018, I had to be amazed by the boldness of this song in 1994. I was a college freshman and listened to rap music every single day. I had to think "What the hell was this dude smoking and drinking when he wrote this song?". I mean, he starts the song off with the line "When I die, f**k it I want to go the hell cause I'm a piece of sh*t, it ain't hard to f**king tell". In the song he talked about heaven being too strict because of God and his rules/laws. He talked about his life of crime, family dysfunction and an ugly world in general. As I listen to this track tonight, I honestly don't remember a more vivid track in regard to the subject matter at hand. The album Ready to Die covers the life of a character (some of it based on Biggie but most of it is fiction) that lives a street life and at the end of the story, he commits suicide. Hip Hop is known for storytelling and for better or worse, this was graphic to say the least.
Personally it would take years for another MC to talk about death in this fashion. Of course prior to Ready to Die you had Tupac talking about life and death, Scarface and eventually Bone Thugs on the track "Crossroads". In the years following Ready to Die, we were introduced to DMX and Eminem. Both of these artists talked the pain and pleasure of life. Even with the emotional ride that Pac, Eminem and DMX took listeners on, I don't recall ever having chills like I did hearing "Suicidal Thoughts". This is honestly one of those songs that you almost wished was never recorded. You can also look at it in the fashion of a case study on Mental Health and possibly Substance Abuse. No, I'm not saying Biggie had either, I'm saying the song could represent a character suffering from either, or both. Puffy is also featured on the song trying to call Biggie and talk him out of harming himself. Puffy's character was the voice of reason and friend to Biggie on this track. There are so many layers to the song and album. At the end of the day, each of us have experienced a nightmare before. Maybe this was one that Biggie experienced and wanted to share with the world through his music.