We’ve got the classic ‘Going Back to Cali’ on our Where Ya At playlist, but really we want to go back to the source for a moment. We all know every nook and cranny of ‘Ready To Die’, and yet surely we still all get goosebumps when we play it, when familiarity momentarily gives way to wonder and awe and a reminder of its brilliance. And we had one such moment the other day when listing to the simply sensational ‘Everyday Struggle’. Now here is a tune that has always been one of our favourites amongst a glittering selection, but is not too often spoken about. And yet it shows off everything that is great about the album itself, and just why Biggie took rap to places no one had yet been. Less glitzy than anthems like ‘Big Poppa’, ‘Unbelievable’ (as on our Illest Playlist) or ‘Juicy’, much less hardcore than ‘Warning, ‘Ready to Die’ or ‘Gimme The Loot’, it is nonetheless startling.
Lyrically ‘Everyday Struggle’ is immense, an absolute archetype of the story-telling that BIG has become so famed for. Everyday tales of life as a mid-level hustler, dripping with authenticity and yet given an extra depth by its refreshingly stark emotional honesty. Life as a hustler is stressful, paranoid, soul-destroying, and in many ways no life at all. It is racked with self-doubt and self-loathing. And yet those involved in the life are drawn to it again and again even though the rewards are few and far between, and soured by the moral emptiness of the process itself. But of course what ‘Everyday Struggle’ also epitomises is the sparse beats of Biggie’s debut, and incredible and unheralded production job on this track from Puff’s team The Bluez Brothers, featuring an inspired jazz sample from Dave Grusin’s ‘Either Way’. Listen to the original and marvel at how they found it, and then how they thought to even use it. But from start to finish the backing track provides the perfect forum for BIG to spit his tales of life on the street. The insistent snap of the snare, especially when it double hits as the chorus begins the song, is the moment that makes the hair stand up on the neck. And it never goes down for the next five minutes.
And then there is the flow. Laced with his trademark doubled and tripled up rhymes coming in quick succession, the faultless delivery intertwined with the beat so seamlessly. I mean seriously, has anyone ever hit it quite so perfectly on the beat as BIG? And lyrics that are simply difficult to better. Who in their right mind can effortlessly rhyme Mayor Giuliani with John Gotti and make it sound velvet? Who can switch up the tempo and drop the couplet such as ‘Heard Tec got murdered in a town I never heard of, by some bitch named Alberta over nickel-plated burners’ with perfect pace? Who can drop so much slang into a rhyme and yet still convey meaning with crystal clarity? It’s Biggie of course, and syllable for syllable this tune simply kills it every time. It has a similar effect on me as the equally brilliant tale told in ‘Niggas Bleed’, albeit with a different hue in subject matter. But the analysis of that mini-masterpiece will have to wait for now, because on ‘Everyday Struggle’ BIG simply provides the beating heart of his stunning debut.