Biggie Smalls Made Hell A Little More Tolerable

‘Ready to Die’ was my salvation


Back in the day the only nine-to-five on Craigslist was on the corner of Governors and Main, in Hell. I worked at a startup run by a megalomaniac. He preached From Good To Great and then proceeded to break every recommendation James Collin noted in checklist-format. Leave your workers alone and trust their skill-set to do their job right? Oh, better bring them into meetings and preach, “The word the is colloquial you idiots! Do any of you know how to write?”

By the end of the day I was pissed, grumpy, agitated, ready to punch a cop if he dared asked me, “How ya doin’?” Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die was my salvation. Hard rhymes blasted out the windows of a newly leased Mazda as I sped along route 208. As the kids say, “I didn’t give a fuck.”

I’m typically the most non-threatening, whitest person in a vicinity, even at my new home in the Midwest, and I don’t mean that in a self-deprecating manner, but as self-evident truth. When I’m at the airport, TSA doesn’t make me walk through security. They take one look at the pasty, four-eyes smiling back at them and judge me just the same as Mormons, Amish, and suits flying first class: not a threat. Little do they know, as I lace up my shoes I’m mouthing, “Gimme the loot, gimme the loot.”

While he doesn’t get credit as a philosophical poet he inadvertently channels emotions each of us experiences when the world folds in and buries us.

Like many people I get stuck in the same musical loops day-in and day-out. “Ready to Die” was the first track I loaded up when the engine roared. It was how I felt. Not the parts about being a gangster—stealing, robbing, pressing Glocks into foreheads so they leave a red indentation to remember you by. Just the refrain.

The only album I needed.

After work I was a miserable character, and while I felt “I got techniques drippin out my buttcheeks,” there was no escape from the content mill hell where a Wall-Street foot stomped my neck, and asked me to jump. Sweatshops have more freedom. Biggie’s lyrics, while not reflective of my own life, did mirror my raw aggression, the anger at the universe and myself. I thought, “screw everything. If this is life then why bother? I’m ready to die and nobody can save me.”

I didn’t mean it. We all like to revel in the thought of death as escape when the casinos taken our money and somebody’s moved the exit. I accepted the cruelty. Condemned myself and reasoned that what I experienced was typical, and started playing “Everyday Struggle” as I clacked away at my hodgepodge desk.

I don’t wanna live no mo’
Sometimes I hear death knockin at my front do’
I’m livin everyday like a hustle, another drug to juggle
Another day, another struggle

Each of Biggie’s songs has a narrative cohesion, strung along by an overarching theme. While he doesn’t get credit as a philosophical poet he inadvertently channels emotions each of us experiences when the world folds in and buries us. He couldn’t exist today; he existed in the only time he could. And if he didn’t I might still be listening to Modest Mouse’s “Custom Concern” over and over and over again: “got to go to work, got to go to work, got to have a job.”

Ultimately, I quit start-up hell, with no hopes of another job. It was my one and only middle-finger to the narcissistic CEO. At one meeting big boss said, “No one ever quits this place. They only get fired.” I wonder if he still gives that speech. I bowed out of there with elegance, only burning bridges in my mind.

As I got in my car that day — that I wasn’t sure I could keep up the payments for — I turned on my iPod and pumped up “Juicy.”

“It was all a dream…”