Foreign Gists

The story behind Biggie Smalls’ song ‘Hypnotize’


The Notorious B.I.G. was the best-selling hip hop artist of the 1990s, and it’s easy to see why. From ‘Juicy’ to ‘Big Poppa’, the Brooklyn rapper made some epic rap anthems that live on to this day. As P Diddy’s prodigy, The Notorious BIG went from freestyling on Brooklyn street corners to ruling the charts and producing platinum hit records. Biggie was a quiet guy, and we rarely got to see how he made these songs. Exploring how the late rapper produced these songs is fascinating, and even the tiniest look behind the scenes of the hit factory that was Bad Boy Entertainment is enthralling.

As listeners and fans of The Notorious B.I.G., yes, we got to hear the final version of these songs, and although there are minuscule snippets of the late rapper in the studio around the internet, they are brief and actually surprisingly uninformative and more often than not, they are not enough. 

Sometimes we need to dig even deeper to find those hidden gems. For fans, it is fascinating to see how artists we admire and producers we love piece small things together like a jigsaw puzzle and before they know it, something unimaginable is coming through the speakers. In this article, we’ll be looking Behind the Mic to discover the story behind The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1997 hit ‘Hypnotize’ and bring you facts no one else knows about on how this classic was made. 

‘Hypnotize’ was produced by P Diddy and samples the 1979 song ‘Rise’ by Herb Alpert. The track was written by Andy Armer and Herb Alpert’s nephew Randy “Badazz” Alpert. According to Randy Alpert, Diddy chose to use the bass riff of ‘Rise’ because, along with Chic’s track ‘Good Times’, it was an extremely popular song that the kids of New York City were rollerskating to. Alpert continued in an interview proceeded to say that “Over the years [he] was approached by Ice Cube, Easy E, Vanilla Ice, and maybe another 4-5 artists to use the song and [he] never said yes until [he] heard [the] rough version of Biggie’s recording.”

Surprisingly, many don’t know that Biggie wrote the entire song, even the female part. The original demo featured Biggie behind the mic singing the female’s part. Furthermore, still has the cassette demo. Now, if that isn’t something that needs to be freed from the old school archives, then I don’t know what is. The song also samples Slick Rick’s song ‘La Di Da Di’, the sample only appears partially during the chorus. 

For the chorus, Biggie specifically recruited Pam Long from the group Total. The majority of Life After Death including its lead single ‘Hypnotize’ was recorded in New York. The album was recorded during what was a media frenzy surrounding the East Coast versus West Coast beef, centred around Biggie and California rapper Tupac Shakur. ‘Hypnotize’ was the lead single for the album and has been certified platinum in the US and two times platinum in the UK making it one of Biggie’s most successful singles.

You can watch the music video for ‘Hypnotize’ in the video below.