You Oughta Know: The Notorious B.I.G.

Thursday, May 21, 2020
The Notorious B.I.G. LIFE AFTER DEATH Cover

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.

Biggie was only 24 when he died,  but 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. As such, it’s hard to imagine that you don’t already know who he is and why his work is so respected and beloved, but if you don’t... Well, you oughta!

After all, right up to his death, Biggie 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 “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.

The tragedy of Biggie’s death, however, does not change the power of the work he produced during his life. Give it a listen and find out for yourself just how great he was.