Rick Ross, Diddy, and French Montana have gotten together and revisited The Notorious B.I.G.’s classic “You’re Nobody (‘Til Somebody Kills You”) from his last album, “Life After Death” with a track they’re calling “Nobody”. While comments about the physical similarities between Biggie and Ross are easy to make, there is nothing at all similar about these two artists’ styles, body of work, or impact on hip hop. Diddy co-produced the original version, and the music from that version stays in place in this remake, with Ross spitting the new verses and French Montana on the hook. This single will be on Ross’s next album, entitled “Mastermind”, which is also co-produced by Diddy and set to be released March 4th. It will include performances from Big Sean, Kanye West and Lil Wayne.
I listened to both tracks, and while I really want to hate Ross for “Nobody”, I can’t say that I do — and I’m no Rick Ross fan. But I am very irritated with him, because Ross clearly was doing his best Biggie impersonation on the track. I’m sure Diddy, who was the centerpiece of all Notorious B.I.G.’s production during his life, was highly influential in guiding Ross through recording “Nobody”, but the end result left Ross’ style and flow totally absent, and left only the ghostly presence of Biggie Smalls moving through Ross and spilling onto the track — and not in the most flattering way.
Hip hop has a longstanding tradition of disliking “biters”, and is still figuring out how it feels about covering music, though hip hop has been around long enough for covers of classic songs and artists to be expected. Strictly speaking, “Nobody” isn’t a cover, because the words and the hook are different from the original. But it has all the problems a cover tune tends to have — it was done by an artist who ended up impersonating the original recording instead of bringing his own style and persona to make the original recording his own to some degree. As a result, I now end up saying I appreciated Ross’ imitation of Biggie on this track instead of saying I appreciated Ross’ interpretation of Biggie on this track. Don’t get me wrong — its a solid faux-Biggie, and I’ve heard lots of artists attempt to imitate Biggie’s wordplay and flow. But I had no interest in hearing Ross masquerade as B.I.G. — I was curious to hear how he would bring his lyrical content and delivery to the remake. The answer seems to be either Ross chose not to, or Diddy produced it out of the song. As far as French Montana’s hook goes, its not the worst I’ve ever heard, but it doesn’t add or detract from “Nobody”. I would have liked to have heard Ross attempting to sing the hook as Biggie did on the original.
All in all, “Nobody” isn’t terrible, but it did leave a lot to be desired. That’s my two cents — you be the judge. Hear Ross’ “Nobody” and the original below.