Happy Birthday: The Notorious B.I.G.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Today we celebrate the birthday of Christopher George Latore Wallace, but you probably know him better by one of three names that he tended to be recognized by: Biggie, Biggie Smalls, or – if you want to refer to him by his full rap name – The Notorious B.I.G.

Though Biggie was only 24 when he died, he nonetheless managed to deliver enough top-notch material in his time to be named by Billboard as one of the ten greatest rappers of all time. Indeed, even right up to his death, he was delivering work that was considered to be startlingly good: “Hypnotize,” the last single released in his lifetime, appears in Rolling Stone’s list of the 50 greatest rap songs in hip-hop history. It was also a smash hit upon its initial release, hitting #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as the magazine’s R&B Singles chart, and Rap Singles chart.

Written by The Notorious B.I.G. – henceforth to be referred to as Biggie – and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Deric Angelettie, and Ron Lawrence (with additional songwriting credit given to Andy Armer and Randy Alpert for “Rise,” the beat of which is sampled on the track), “Hypnotize” was the first single from LIFE AFTER DEATH, Biggie’s second studio album. It was P. Diddy who was able to sway Randy Alpert into letting him use the “Rise” beat when other rappers – including Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and Vanilla Ice, among others – asked for permission but failed to receive it.
“I was sent a cassette from Puffy [containing a rough version of Biggie’s recording], and when I cranked it up, I not only immediately loved it, but my gut thought that this could be a number one record once again,” said Alpert, in an interview with SongFacts.com. “The original 'Rise' record climbed the chart all summer and became number one around the end of October; Biggie's version was released and charted its first week at number two and went to number one the second week."

Unfortunately, Biggie wasn’t alive to see it: “Hypnotize” was released on March 1, 1997, and he was killed on March 9. 

While we can’t deny the events of that day in 1997, we should instead focus on the events of this day in 1972: happy birthday, Biggie, and thanks for themusic.

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