Monday, October 31, 2011

Mo Money Mo Problems by The Notorious B.I.G. (feat. Mase & Puff Daddy)

Yes, Mase’s rapping skills were suspect, yes, Puff Daddy comes across as a shameless
self-promoter but man this song was fun.

“Mo Money Mo Problems” was the second single off the Notorious B.I.G.’s second and final album Life After Death. Released posthumously after his murder, this song was a huge success topping the Billboard charts for two weeks and saturating MTV and radio stations.

This song comes from a quote from Notorious B.I.G. stating that with more money came more problems in life. And while this song warns of this adage the many of the lyrics and the sample feel more like celebration then a warning.

The sample which comes from 1980 Diana Ross hit “I’m Coming Out,” which features the greatest (and one of the only) trombone solos in popular music history.

Let’s not talk about that jacket she’s wearing . . .

This song really could not have been more perfect for a rap song sample and Puff Daddy arranged it so well that people hardly cared about the skill or the content of the raps in this song. I know I didn’t when I was listening to this song as a teenager.

Listening to this song, the beat is infectious but the variation of the rapping styles comes across very clearly, illustrating how great the Notorious B.I.G. was a rap artist. Mace just barely gets through his verse. I could deal with his monotone and unaffected delivery if he rhythms of his rap were so monotonous. Every phrase has the same cadence and his lack of momentum and energy juxtaposed over the sample is pretty painful.

Puffy does bring it with his verse. There’s variations in the phrase lengths, he sues alliteration and check out how he flows when he starts “team much stronger than yours . . . “ (2:40). He works through the beat placing accents against the what you expect before landing back down later in the verse.

Then Biggie comes in and blows both Mase and Puffy away. From the initial spell-out of his name, his superior skills are immediately clear. There is a rhythmic energy and punctuation with every syllable he says. His words are by-far the most meaningful illustrating the theme of the song and the struggles that come with wealth. What’s interesting is that it doesn’t really come across as bragging so much as an honest expression of insecurities.

Puff Daddy makes a great choice to clear the top layer of the instrumentals to let Biggie rap over the base line. It not only provides a great moment of space in the song but really highlights what Biggie is doing with his verse and how he uses his rhymes to create momentum in the song.

"Mo Money Mo Problems," while not coming across as the deepest song is a fascinating reflection about the life and times of the Notorious B.I.G.  This song is a party song but on another layer, it's a statement about the flaws and the misconceptions of having lots of wealth.  I can't help but wonder if it's these problems that led to the death of Biggie, one greatest rappers of all time.  With every positive thing in life, there's a potential for something bad to happen.  Like this song the good feelings can't last forever and eventually with have to deal with out lives.

Unfortunately for the Notorious B.I.G. when the party stopped so did his life.

1 comment:

  1. I was waxing nostalgic on the rap stuff today as well.

    "Hell Yeah" is an expose on a bunch of people in hard times that refuse to just fall over and die. It doesn't touch sexism which can seem rare for rap. It just focuses on gaming the system that is seen as holding an entrepeneur down.

    Similarly to your post, those rappers had to grow and and Jay-Z certainly has in both in rhyme subject matter and in charitable world serving views.

    Feel good for me in music is often an insatiable aspect to the lyrical content. But that's not a knock on what you posted. I like that song quite a bit as well.