“Hypnotize” a huge posthumous hit for Notorious B.I.G.

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Rapper Notorious B.I.G., also known as Biggie Smalls, was murdered March 9, 1997. The performer, whose real name is Christopher Wallace, had friendships and alleged rivalries with other significant players in 1990’s rap scene. Most famously, Notorious B.I.G. was both friends and rivals with Tupac Shakur. The lives and deaths of both men have been the subject of movies and documentaries, and general speculation.

With the pain of Notorious B.I.G.’s death still too raw for some fans, his single “Hypnotize” is released and became one of his signature songs, even though it was released less than two months after his death. The song is found on the rapper’s “Life After Death” album.

“Hypnotize” by Notorious B.I.G., the making of a hit

While the song’s popularity is posthumous, “Hypnotize” was actually the last song Notorious B.I.G. would release while he lived. He was killed one week later. Despite the dark circumstances that will always be recalled when the song is mentioned, it is important to remember the track’s  qualities that keep fans listening to and appreciating the song.

The song’s backing instrumentation comes from two different sources. The basis for the beat is from “Rise” by Herb Alpert, and the hook comes from a song that most of Notorious B.I.G.’s fans are likely to be familiar – – “La Di Da Di” by Slick Rick.

When the beat and the hook are put together, the bass and the female lead (by a member of the group Total) kind of steal the show. The bass’ sound is deep, kind of sludgy and full of a danceable menace that makes it memorable. The song is also characterized by Notorious B.I.G.’s laidback, deep-voiced flow. The lyrics refer to several items and phrases that products of American entertainment – – from phrases borrowed from 1960s girl group songs, to “Star Wars” and other cultural artifacts, the song shows the rapper to be a connoisseur of popular culture. More than 20 years later, “Hypnotize” is still distinctive.

American audiences have heard the song used in snack commercials and movies. That a rapper who was once infamously linked to the so-called “East Coast-West Coast” rivalry, has a song used in nationwide advertising campaigns says something both about the likability of the song and the acceptability of rap and hip-hop.

The success of the song is also seen in its chart placement. At the time of its release, “Hypnotize” reached No. 1 on three US charts. In addition, according to Rolling Stone, the song is No. 30 among the Top 50 rap songs.

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