“Hypnotize” by The Notorious B.I.G. (1997)

The first time I heard “Hypnotize” on the radio, I knew it was gonna be huge. Biggie’s impeccable flow had seemingly improved in the two-plus years since he’d released his debut Ready To Die. Puff Daddy and his Hitmen sampled Herb Alpert’s 1979 disco hit “Rise” in a way that had equal appeal to the clubs and the streets. Hell, even the chorus (interpolated from Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick’s “The Show”) was sure to stick in your head for days if not weeks. And as I predicted, “Hypnotize” exploded. Within a few short weeks, the song was all over the radio, the video was all over MTV, and every club DJ was winding that beat back… (guitar lick) Uh! (guitar lick) UHH! (guitar lick/guitar lick/guitar lick/guitar lick)…hot/sicker than your average…

Unfortunately, by the time “Hypnotize” had infiltrated hip-hop, MTV and even top forty radio, Biggie was dead. Instead of heralding a triumphant return, bigger and badder than ever, “Hypnotize” turned into a weird post-mortem. A cocksure boast from a guy who in just a few short weeks had gone from the rapper who was about to set the charts on fire with his sophomore album to the latest hip-hop casualty. Yet, so many of us danced and rapped along-including me-and I’m not sure why. I guess “Hypnotize” was (and still it) so good or people were so fucking shocked that no one really put two and two together? I couldn’t tell you.

A quarter century later, it’s easy to just hear the song for what it is and hear “Hypnotize” as simply an anthem for Brooklyn, after all the single most memorable line besides the opener is “that Brooklyn bullshit, we on it”. But I still can’t fully entangle myself from that weirdness I felt throughout 1997, when I was dancing to BIG and mourning his shocking and senseless (and premature) death at the same time.

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