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Born Again

"Ten years from now, where do I want to be?"...

Born Again

8 / 10 "Ten years from now, where do I want to be?" contemplates Notorious BIG in an archive interview preceding the beats on 'Born Again'. "Just living, living comfortable." Obviously, this was not to be. But BIG should count himself lucky if he gets to rest in peace over the next decade. Hip-hop, it don't stop, not even when you're 6ft under. Business is business and a glut of out-takes, demos and half-arsed ramblings are certain to make it onto CD in the coming years.

Mirroring arch rival Tupac Shakur's releases from beyond the grave, the forecast is for gruesome exploitation and intermittent patches of garish hyperbole, as BIG's legacy spins out of control. Meantime, unexpectedly, some sunshine.

Almost three years after 24-year-old Christopher Wallace was slain in Los Angeles, he's 'back' with a mad, dangerous cocktail of evocative rhymes, all delivered in that most oddly affecting of monotone voices. Pieced together from unreleased material by his producer, Puff Daddy, 'Born Again' highlights why BIG was rap's champion protagonist in indelible colours and from a number of angles. Here you get full-blown BIG tracks set amid others where his presence is smaller, but the homage of other is massive, with snug-fitting add-on raps from more stars than you could pack in a stretch limo - Busta Rhymes, Eminem, Missy Elliott, Nas, Snoop Dogg and Method Man included. A tawdry idea on paper, perhaps, but far superior when yelping Busta and rumbling BIG let rip over the frantic groove of 'Dangerous MCs'. It's brilliant, very insane and your cynicism is razed on the spot.

/img/NotoriousBig1299.jpg. Admittedly, there are instances of extreme bad taste on 'Born Again', some of which make the concept of releasing records by dead artists positively ethical by comparison. The less said about the ugly misogyny of 'Big Booty Hoes', for instance, the better.

Manage to weather these moments, however, and 'Born Again' ranks as a noteworthy offering. Moreover, as another intriguing chapter in the colossal Death Row/Bad Boy rap feud, this decade's most shockingly incredible pop tale. It's a tale which is set to run and run, and 'Born Again' has you thinking the unthinkable - that a few more post-death dispatches from Notorious BIG might not be such a terrible thing.

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