I recently watched the Notorious BIG biopic Notorious, which was very good, and it got me thinking about how Biggie’s albums were somewhat backwards – if he had been killed after Ready To Die it would have fit the life he described in that album, but Life After Death sounded (appropriately, given the title) so much more full of life. There’s nothing I would call a “sign-off” record there - sometimes an album does have something that fits the artists’s life perfectly. There are quite a few examples, but I think this decade has had two particularly good ones: Kings Crossing by Elliott Smith and Da Game Been Good To Me by UGK.
Kings Crossing is maybe my favourite Elliott Smith song, and there are a lot of brilliant tracks in his catalogue, which was cut short by his suicide. The swirling, layered intro and the depth of the production are miles from the 4 track grain of Roman Candle, but the depression and drug abuse themes are still there. Lyrically though, it’s like there’s a realisation in the song that being successful and famous hasn’t made it all better – it just pays the bills. The lyrics are superb, but I thought with Christmas approaching this would be the best snippet to quote:
It’s Christmas time, and there’s needles on the tree
A skinny Santa’s bringing something to me
His voice is overwhelming, but his speech is slurred
And I only understand every other word.
UGK are one of my favourite groups of all time, and Pimp C’s death came as a bit of a shock. The group’s final LP, UGK4Life, was released after his death, and while there are some excellent cuts throughout, it’s the final song, Da Game Been Good To Me, that really sums up what UGK, and Pimp C in particularly, were all about.
It’s a wonderfully warm, rolling beat, with a classic sung hook by Pimp C, who also co-produced. There’s no maudlin quality to Bun B’s verse, and that and the Pimp’s two verses have them doing what they do best – putting those that don’t respect the game in their place.