"Hypnotize" is my very first hip-hop song. It has been the gateway to years of love for a genre of music that opened my eyes to other music, artists, film, television, literature, and endless inspiration. I remember vividly listening to the CD, Much Dance 1997, "Hypnotize" was the first track. I hypnotized myself and became even punnier.
On March 9th, 1997, Christopher Wallace was murdered. More widely known as Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls, The Black Frank White, Big Poppa, The King of New York. He was survived by his mother, wife, and two children. He was 25 years old. That November, the previously mentioned album was released, including the song dedicated to him, "I'll Be Missing You," released by his friend and producer, Sean Combs (Puff Daddy at the time.) The Biggie documentary Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell premiered on Netflix on March 1st, and I've got it queued up to watch this weekend. I anticipate that it will add more dimension to the character he has become because of the legendary status bestowed upon him, with good reason, post-mortem.
At a young age, thanks to my hip-hop introduction through "Hypnotize,"
I began to learn about the East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry, never really choosing sides, given that the mass appeal of the 'beef' became a supreme marketing tactic. I idolized Puff Daddy and Bad Boy Records in my empathy, and there are certain people of note we have an unexplainable resonance with. His evolution into LOVE feels full circle as I have come back to the things I feel akin to. The allure of Biggie and those from his era, including his West Coast counterpart, Tupac, are what sent me back to dig in the crates of hip-hop history. Arguably, I would say that hip-hop has defined its own culture from music, unlike any other genre, to be expansive and expressive. It is derived from oppression and sourcing that freedom of speech. It can be gritty, raw, and definitely egotistical, but also based on love and passion. It is inclusive through the core of the storytelling.
With the pivotal question still unanswered, who shot Biggie? One cannot help but wonder how his life would have unfolded. Yet his death gave him an immense influence. He and his counterparts could be considered the sacrificial lambs of the culture. Was it because they knew too much? Were they positioned for too much power? The conspiracies swirl surrounding his murder, which is part of the fascination that surrounds him. His songs were the first I could pinpoint manifestations unfolding. For example, he had the song "Who Shot Ya." In "Juicy," he references the 2001 9/11 attacks with the line: Time to get paid, blow up like the World Trade. His two studio albums were Ready to Die and Life After Death. Much like Tupac, his verses often happened after the fact as though they were these modern prophets. Whether these could be described as manifestations or warnings of potential outcomes, it makes you think and watch your mouth.
In the latest episode of Black-ish (which inspired this post as "Hypnotize" is pivotal to the storyline,) Anthony Anderson's character Dre claims Rakim has this title. Another viable king who is worthy of the crown. For me, it's not the old school vs. new school argument either it's remembering, acknowledging, and honoring the greats and seeing the historical impact their body of work had on future generations within music and across the board. There is an abyss of hip-hop music to explore. Going beyond the songs and learning the stories related to them it is a whole other listening experience. Perhaps it's my inquisitive nature, but the layering of life that goes into a single song? That's fascinating to me. "Hypnotize" was my starting point into a lifetime of love that gave me so much more besides that infamous line every cutie with a booty brought her ------. The lyrics are clever, captivating, and I am glad I didn't fully understand them when I was younger.