"20 years to the day of the tragic murder of rapper The Notorious B.I.G. Mega Ran offers this heartfelt creative tribute to the man they called Biggie. Ran and producers Fresh Kils & DJ DN3 cleverly re-sample 10 classic B.I.G. bangers, adding new lyrics and perspective to the sounds of the legendary emcee. Narrated by Ran's childhood friend, Notorious R.A.N. revisits the feeling, the rhymes, and the charm of the fallen Hip-Hop hero, while continuing Mega Ran's track record of quality releases," reads an emailed press release sent along with Mega Ran's Biggie tribute mixtape, Notorious R.A.N: Ready to Live. As Ran (formerly Random) states, he's releasing Notorious R.A.N: Ready to Live today on March 9, 2017—the 20th anniversary of Christopher "Biggie" Wallace's tragic murder—with little to no prior press. I believe I first worked with Mega Ran—then, still Random AKA Mega Ran—around the time of his 2010 video game-sampling album, Forever Famicom, which was produced by our mutual friend and acquaintance K-Murdock. I recently reached back out to Mega Ran, who's currently travelling on the coast-to-coast Beavis & Butt-head-referencing MC LARS & MEGA RAN EXPERIENCE 2017 Tour, on a whim and he told me about two currently in-the-works EP's and a then as-yet-unannounced Notorious B.I.G. tribute project.
He's managed to keep the latter a pretty tight-lipped, under wraps project until today—previously only reaching out in two similar-minded fan club email and Facebook calls-to-action proclaiming: "MY NEXT ALBUM NEEDS A TITLE. I'm working on a tribute to The Notorious B.I.G. It's coming out March 9, 20 years to the date of his tragic (and still unsolved) murder. But it needs a title! Are you a bad enough dude to try?" So, with all that said and without further ado, I'm proud to present Mega Ran's Fresh Kils & DJ DN3-produced Biggie tribute, Notorious R.A.N: Ready to Live... along with a comprehensive interview with the video game and wrestling-loving emcee himself, as well as an Odin Magana-directed music video for EP stand-out "Lyrically;" "I hit 20 different thrift stores to find the sweater and hit the lab with Biggie on the brain. It's an honor to be able to create and be inspired by greatness," as Mega Ran perfectly put it within a recent email exchange. Enjoy and please, feel free to pick Notorious R.A.N: Ready to Live from Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, etc. and keep an eye and ear out for more heat and cold hard rhymes from Mega Ran!
Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Your Hip-Hop Hooray Hey... Ho-host
I. "[Mega] Ran and producers Fresh Kils & DJ DN3 cleverly re-sample 10 classic B.I.G. bangers, adding new lyrics and perspective to the sounds of the legendary emcee," reads part of your Notorious R.A.N: Ready to Live press release. What exactly inspired you to record and release a Biggie-centric album 20 years to the day of the tragic murder of the notorious rapper?
I'm big on dates and their significance... every project I've put out has been connected to an important date in my life. On March 9, 1997, I was 20 years old, living my life, and anxiously awaiting B.I.G.'s new album [Life After Death] and ready for him to change the game. Then, tragedy struck. So, this is a day that is one [of] the top five days for me—one that I won't ever forget. He was and is a huge inspiration for me, so I wanted to make a tasteful, fun tribute to my favorite emcee.
II. What was the typical process for writing and recording your Notorious R.A.N: Ready to Live compositions? Did you and producers Fresh Kils & DJ DN3 largely sample Biggie's tracks or the originals he and his producers once sampled?
We did a little of both. Kils and DN3 are both true [crate-]diggers, so for that reason, no one wanted to directly sample or just re-play existing Biggie loops; we wanted to freak them in a new way, but make sure that people could still recognize where it came from. So, we re-listened to all the original tracks, then broke them apart, re-building them from the ground up, and then, added our own flavor on top of them.
III. What does The Notorious B.I.G. mean to you and can you remember the first time you ever heard his music? Dare I ask you to select a favorite Biggie album or track?
B.I.G.'s music has always touched me in a special way. I think it was "Party & Bullsh*t" from the Who's The Man? Soundtrack. My ears instantly perked up when I heard the track, his super-flow and distinctive delivery; been scrambling since then to get more!
Man, too many favorites to name. He was one of the few emcees that could tell a story just as well as he could rip emcees up. Any song was always captivating.
IV. Would you care to briefly talk about the cleverly spliced-together "Donald Trump put fear in your heart... F**k up the party before it even start" portion of "Got a Story to Tell?" How did you and your producers come up with that clever little nugget and what type of message or call-to-action do you ideally, intend for it to deliver?
MAN! My jaw hit the floor when I heard that. The expert scratching on the album is handled by Fresh Kils' homies Uncle Fester & The Crate Crusaders. The latter did that one and it couldn't have been more precise; that wasn't even something my brain could have come up with; that was just excellent!
As far as a message, I just wanted the whole song to capture how absolutely astounded I was from the results of the election... nothing against anyone, just in the support of human decency, I was stunned. I just knew he couldn't win. So, to wake up the next morning and realize that it wasn't all a dream, to paraphrase B.I.G. I knew that I could find a way to make this into a song. While researching for this, I came across "Story to Tell" and realized that would be the best way. As a teacher, I would try to get my students to become more expressive in writing by asking them, "if you were talking to a space alien about this, would he be able to understand?" B.I.G. was great at that, probably one of the most expressive and thorough story-teller Hip-Hop has ever known.
V. What was the hardest part about meticulously re-visiting and re-working a collection of your Biggie favorites like "10 Crack Commandments," "Big Poppa," "Kick In The Door," and Pudgee's Notorious B.I.G. & Lord Tariq-featuring "Think Big" (also sampled by Pusha T & Timbaland)? Did you ever feel oddly close to Biggie while re-working his tracks?
The hardest part is walking the line... the line between tribute and original work. As an emcee you want to showcase your own skill set and tailor a situation to your own, but when creating a tribute work, you have to maintain the original spirit and intention of the artist you're drawing inspiration from. That was hard, mainly because I wanted to avoid profanity and really explicit themes and Biggie was full of those haha. But that was his charm, he could tell the most amazing story and have you not even noticing that the record was full of swears and you wouldn't even care. I just wanted to make something B.I.G. and Mrs. Wallace would be proud to listen to.
VI. Its press release states that Notorious R.A.N. is narrated by one of your childhood friends; would you care to reveal who said friend is and why you chose to recruit him or her, in particular, to narrate your latest release?
My homie James aka JC. He was there when I first heard B.I.G; he cut school with me to go and get Ready to Die from the record store... the dude I called when I heard B.I.G. was murdered. I felt like because he was so connected to pretty much every Biggie moment I have—he was the best guy to do it. B.I.G. was all about putting the homies on, with Junior M.A.F.I.A. and in so many of his lines... so, I wanted to do what he would do... hold it down and give the homies a moment to shine and this was the perfect opportunity. JC is a great spokesman and rep for the old block and just as big of a Biggie fan as I am, so it just fit... Spread love, it's the Brooklyn way!
VII. How do you feel about Biggie & Dilla's seemingly unfinished collaborative tracks "Dangerous MC's/The Ugliest" and okayplayer-premiered "Kick In The Door" (J Dilla Remix) being out there in the ether and spread across Internet Hip-Hop forums like wildfire?
I'm not a big fan of putting out or spreading songs from artists that are no longer with us, after their death... it just seems strange. We don't know if Dilla or B.I.G. wanted those out and for that reason, I can't fully enjoy it. I wish they were both here to give us all the clearance to rock those tracks, but it's all love—I'm sure that's all it is. People can't get enough.
VIII. Would you care to name a few of your favorite Biggie "deep cuts" (not included within Notorious R.A.N.)? Please, briefly explain why exactly you selected each.
Mostly guest verses... I was that guy who had to have everything Biggie appeared on, even wrote on. Loved the track "The Points" on the Panther soundtrack, his verse on Shaq's "[You] Can't Stop The Reign," so much stuff. Before Ready to Die, I copped The Best of [Notorious B.I.G.] tape that Mister Cee dropped and remember there being so many gems on that album that I had to go and dig for. Most of them used such blatant huge samples that I didn't have the budget to even thinking about re-producing, but there's so many; as dope as he was, B.I.G. managed to bust out his best stuff on remixes and guest spots, which made you have to collect them all.
IX. I'm just gonna go out on a limb here and assume Biggie is your all-time favorite rapper, but if you ever had the opportunity, who else's material would you like to highlight and re-work across an album/EP in a similar fashion to Notorious R.A.N: Ready to Live?
Of course! Man, if [I] ever were to do something like this with another artist, I feel like it would be Guru/Gang Starr. Guru is probably the reason I started rapping. I'd love to explore my favorite Gang Starr tracks and work on a tribute to him and DJ Premier, maybe one day.
X. In addition to Notorious R.A.N: Ready to Live, what else are you currently working on and prepping for release? Do you have any immediate plans to hit the studio and record anything with your current touring partner, MC Lars?
Yes, touring with with Lars is always fun. We're working on some new tracks for a literature-themed LP and we've been playing pieces of them live and it's been getting great reactions. Can't wait to put that out this Fall sometime. Also, working on some more wrestling-themed tracks for Mat Mania 2 with Lynx Kinetic and much more.