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Review Of Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s Conspiracy: Made Money

The great ungreat Biggie album is Conspiracy. If he had lived longer it would loom less large but coming right after Ready To Die and with Smalls at its heart it is a defacto Smalls album and therefore instantly more interested than anything else in the world.
Junior M.A.F.I.A. were Biggies Bed Stuy posse from back in his slingin‘ crack days and who he took with him into the big time. It dates from 95 and has as its subtext the whole East Coast-West coast thang bubbling somewhere in the background but in the foreground were a bunch of under twenty rappers who just weren’t good enough for where they were so thank God Biggie was there to save the day and thank God Lil Kim was such a strong presence.
It’s not that the rest of the rapping was bad, Lil Cease was the best of the bunch but Larceny and trife are pretty good, still on a song like “White Chalk” Method Man spits a line, Biggie spits a line (they use it as a chorus later) and the sound of flatlining is on the backtrack but the RAPS are not good enough.
The entire album is more sex and drugs and stick ups, though except for Biggie it doesn’t have the ring of truth of a Schooly D, let alone a NWA. The guns blaze and the bodies drop and the pussy is actually an afterthought and there is a sense that none of it is all that much fun, “Crime motherfuckin pays when you know what you’re doinsez Kleptomaniac but only Biggie who can’t stop laughing at this shit seems to enjoy any of it. The rest are peter pan’s Lost Boys to Lil Kim’s Wendy -the next year Kim would drop “Crush On You” with Lil Cease and all the implicit tension would come forth on the masterwork which cuts most everything cept for Biggies work. Listen to Biggie on “Oh My Lord” or here on “Player’s Anthem”:

I’m surrounded by criminals
Heavy rollers even the sheisty individuals
Smokin skunk and mad Phillies
Beatin down Billy Badasses, cracks in stacks and masses
If robbery’s a class, bet I pass it
Shit get drastic, I’m buryin ya bastards
Big Poppa never softenin
Take you to the church, rob the preacher for the offerin
Leave the fucker coughin up blood, and his pockets like rabbit ears
Covered the wife, kleenex for the kid’s tears
Versace wear, Moschino on my bitches
She whippin my ride, countin my one’s, thinkin I’m richest
Just the way players play, all day everyday
I don’t know what else to say
I’ve been robbin niggaz since Run and them was singin ‘Here We Go’
Snatchin ropes at the Roxie homeboy you didn’t know
my flow, detrimental to your health
Usually roll for self, I have son ridin shotgun
My mind’s my nine, my pen’s my Mac-10
My target, all you wack niggaz who started rappin
Junior M.A.F.I.A. steelo, niggaz know the half
Caviar for breakfast, champagne bubble baths
Runnin up in pretty bitches constantly
The Smalls bitch, who the fuck it was supposed to be?”
Playa’s Anthem,” Lil Kim’s “Get Money” and “Backstabbers” with its smart sample from the O’Jay’s originals are all three classic gangsta rap but the rest of the album comes to life only intermittently. “Backstabbers” is like a Diddy dry run for his moves on Life After Death and Lil Kim is scary and a serious playa in ways Foxy Brown never came close to. The album is exceedingly dark for a pop move and it has an aura of tension and loss maybe informed by how young and how seriously damaged these kids; the beats all sound like heartbeats slowing down and the steady punch of the backing tracks are, with the exception of “Backstabbers,” remote from pop. It’s a wonder it had any hits but that’s the power of Notorious. You could see Biggies recorded career like this along with grades:
Ready To Die A+
Conspiracy B+
Hardcore A
Life After Death A+
This is pretty impressive and pretty consistent stuff but the Junior Mafia are so consistently not there it’s irritating. Biggie would said he was gonna quit in 2000 to manage members of his posse and it begs the question which ones? Lil Cease? Manage to do what? Yeah, but then I listen to Hardcore and if he could do that to Lil Kim maybe he could do it with Lil Cease.
Conspiracy isn’t a tired and boring hit job, it is a vicious shot by young assassins who miss their intended victim so Biggie is left to clean up the mess on stuff like “Lyrical Wizardy“. It is an album filled with a deadly promise that would be fulfilled.

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