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A musical murder : Who Shot Ya? by Notorious B.I.G. ft Puff Daddy

Notorious B.I.G. ft Puff Daddy – Who Shot Ya? – Lyrics analysis and meanings

Gangsta-rap songwriting

Lyrics

Intro – Puffy

As we proceed to give you what you need
9-5, motherfuckers
Get live, motherfuckers
As we proceed to give you what you need
9-5, motherfuckers
Get live, motherfuckers
As we proceed to give you what you need
Now turn the mics up
East Coast, motherfuckers
Turn that mic up
Bad Boy, motherfuckers
Yeah, that beat is knocking to that microphone
Turn that shit the fuck up
Uh, what? Turn it up louder, yeah, uh
As we proceed to give you what you need
J.M. motherfuckers
J.M. motherfuckers
9-5, motherfuckers

Verse 1

Who shot ya? Separate the weak from the obsolete
Hard to creep them Brooklyn streets
It’s on nigga, fuck all that bickering beef
I can hear sweat trickling down your cheek
Your heartbeat sound like Sasquatch feet
Thundering, shaking the concrete
Then the shit stop when I foil the plot
Neighbors call the cops, said they heard mad shots
Saw me in the drop, three and a quarter
Slaughter, electrical tape around your daughter
Old school, new school need to learn though
I burn, baby, burn like “Disco Inferno”
Burn slow like blunts with yayo
Peel more skins than Idaho Potato
Niggas know: the lyrical molesting is taking place
Fucking with B.I.G. it ain’t safe
I make your skin chafe, rashes on them asses
Bumps and bruises, blunts and Land Cruisers
Big Poppa smash fools, bash fools
Niggas mad because I know that cash rules
Everything around me two Glock 9s
Any motherfucker whispering about mines
And I’m Crooklyn’s finest
You rewind this, Bad Boy’s behind this

Interlude

As we proceed to give you what you need
9-5, motherfuckers
Get live, motherfuckers
As we proceed to give you what you need
East Coast, motherfuckers
Bad Boy, motherfuckers
Get high, motherfuckers
Get high, motherfuckers
Smoke blunts, motherfuckers
Get high, motherfuckers
Ready to die, motherfuckers
9-5, motherfuckers

Verse 2

I seen the light excite all the freaks
Stack mad chips, spread love with my peeps
Niggas wanna creep, gotta watch my back
Think the Cognac and indo sack make me slack?
I switches all that, cocksucker G’s up
One false move, get Swiss cheesed up
Clip to TEC, respect I demand it
Slip and break the 11th Commandment
Thou shalt not fuck with nor see Poppa
Feel a thousand deaths when I drop ya
I feel for you, like Chaka Khan I’m the don
Pussy when I want, Rolex on the arm
You’ll die slow but calm
Recognize my face, so there won’t be no mistake
So you know where to tell Jake, lame nigga
Brave nigga, turned front page nigga
Puff Daddy flips daily
I smoke the blunts he sips on the Baileys
On the rocks, tote Glocks at christenings
Hammer cock, in the fire position and…

Outro

Come here, come here, (It ain’t gotta be like that, Big)
Open your fucking mouth, open your—didn’t I tell you?
Don’t fuck with me? (Come on, man)
Huh? Didn’t I tell you not to fuck with me? (Come on, man)
Look at you now, huh? (Come on, man)
Can’t talk with a gun in your mouth, huh?
Bitch-ass nigga, what? Who shot ya?

6 gunshots]​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Outro – Puffy

To give you what you need
9-5, motherfuckers
Get live, motherfuckers (who shot ya?)
Get high, motherfuckers
Ready to die, motherfuckers, hah!
As we proceed (who shot ya?)
To give you what you need
9-5, motherfuckers
East Coast, motherfucker (Who shot ya?)
West Coast, motherfuckers
West Coast, motherfuckers, hah!
As we proceed, to give you what you need
As we proceed to give you what you need
Get live, motherfuckers
9-5, motherfuckers
Get money, motherfuckers
As we proceed to give you what you need
Get live, motherfuckers
9-5, motherfuckers
J.M. motherfuckers
J.M. motherfuckers
As we proceeeeeeed to give you what you need… 9-5

 

Biggie Smalls – Who shot ya? – Explanation of the lyrics

Intro – Puffy

As we proceed to give you what you need

The text is said in a scary, very ceremonious, perverse, sadistic voice.

The formula sounds like a religious ceremony text, where the priest describes what he does, saying aloud, taking on a magical, almost performative character – he makes things sacred by saying them. Based on these connotations, this text will later suggest that the story is a funeral ceremony, organized by those who will kill you, one (Puff Daddy), a half-mad sadist, and the other (The Notorious B.I.G.), a cold-blooded yet brutal giant thug.

to give you what you need: we do not know who this “you” is, is it us in the audience, or someone else? And what does “what you need“ mean? Nothing will answer this question in a sure way, so that these words will simply continue to hover, heavy with potential threats. And, who defines what this “you“ needs? We know expressions like “you need a good correction“, where the need is forcibly attributed to the one who considers that the other needs it. The following will rather give reason to this last hypothesis: here, the executioner defines what his voiceless victim needs.

9-5, motherfuckers

Violent contrast with the previous verse, so we must make a synthesis: ok, they are street guys who play gore priests…

9-5 is simply the year of creation of this song, it is a time signature and it also accompanies the “as we proceed“, the consciousness of the present time.

Get live, motherfuckers

This direct address sounds very aggressive and continues to stretch the song from the outset, to install a heavy, violent, tense atmosphere.

As we proceed to give you what you need

9-5, motherfuckers

Get live, motherfuckers

As we proceed to give you what you need

 

Intro – Notorious BIG

Now turn the mics up

A small intro shaped “heater”. These technical adjustments out loud are also part of the “raw” mood of the song, highlighting the live side of the performance.

East Coast, motherfuckers

Turn that mic up

Bad Boy, motherfuckers

Bad Boy Records is the name of Notorious BIG’s label

Yeah, that beat is knocking to that microphone

Turn that shit the fuck up

Uh, what? Turn it up louder, yeah, uh

As we proceed to give you what you need

JM motherfuckers

JM: Junior MAFIA, band with which Notorious BIG sang. The whole name means Junior Masters At Finding Intelligent Attitudes. That reminds the NWA, Niggaz Wit Attitude.

JM motherfuckers

9-5, motherfuckers

 

Verse 1 – Notorious BIG

Who shot ya? Separate the weak from the obsolete

Of course, the question “who shot ya?” takes the audience by surprise as a sudden aggression. The question sounds paradoxical: it speaks to the victim, though we know the person is dead thus unable to answer. Second thought: it is therefore a purely rhetorical question, said out of cynicism, of cruelty: the shooter knows he is speaking for himself, and claims the crime with irony. So, it starts strong: a killer who is joking about the death of his victim, live, right under our eyes???

Separate the weak from the obsolete: this half-quote takes up the structure of a well-known biblical sentence: “separate the wheat from the chaff “. Except that here Biggie replaced two terms that opposedpositive and negative, by two negative terms. Which amounts to nothing at all, and leads to reject both categories as equally bad, thus to shoot everybody unselectively. Very threatening.

It was only the first line, and you see, it’s already very strong, very twisted, very dense. This text will accumulate the effects, so hang in there!

Hard to creep them Brooklyn streets

Alone, this verse seems innocent, but located after the previous verse, it takes a double meaning: in Brooklyn, the competition is so tough that it is even difficult to survive.

To mention Brooklyn up front is obviously also a way of signing, a great classic of rap, one represents and one says where one comes from.

It’s on nigga, fuck all that bickering beef

It’s on nigga: it’s disturbing that he says that with his heavy voice, we do not know what’s on, but it’s not necessarily a good sign for us. Sounds threatening.

Fuck all that bickering beef: on the contrary, these words are reassuring, if we can give up, it’s over, we’re quiet? No, we’ll see that this is a trick, he intends to solve the problem and not give up.

I can hear sweat trickling down your cheek

This verse puts the pressure back, by deduction: if sweat trickles so hard from our cheek, it is because we are afraid, even terrorized, and therefore, what terrorizes us? He speaks about our cheek, by default we identify with this indefinite “you”… and so it’s scary !

It’s scary, but it’s beautiful, because it takes a great sensitivity to hear the sweat run on a cheek, the image is a precise mental zoom on a metonymic value detail (the sign evokes the feeling that causes it); in short, this verse comes from a complex, impressive thought: it is heavily aggressive, powerful, brutal, and yet curiously elegant, well thought out, refined, like hate cut diamond.

Your heartbeat sound like Sasquatch feet

Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, is the name of a hairy giant who lives in North America, a legendary frightening creature.

The verse has a double effect: at the same time, the image is funny, seductive, foolish, one wants to laugh with him; except that this description of our heart that would splash-splash like the giant’s feet, is super worrying, “you” feel on the verge of heart attack.

Thundering, shaking the concrete

So it’s our public‘s heart that is supposed to shake against the concrete… it’s not nice and it’s unconventional for a singer, to inflict such a treatment to his audience. In rap lyrics, it was rather new, but in culture, horror stories made to terrify the audience are a great classic, coming from the darkest, oldest ages.

This verse is the first to depend grammatically on a previous verse, the whole beginning was a juxtaposition of unpredictable ideas. These effects of break or continuity of meaning also have an impact on the mind of the public – it is struck by frequent surprises, like a series of psychological schocks; to write well is also to know how to manage these breaks and continuities of the flow of meaning through the flow of words.

Notice how powerful those lyrics sound:

  • In WHO SHOT YA?, in only 6 lines the author established a very tense, dark, powerful climate of fear, without hardly using any vulgar word, without even making any direct threat.
  • Now compare this efficiency to the lyrics of NWA’s STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, FUCK THA POLICE, or to Eazy-E’s REAL MUTHAPHUCKKIN’ G’S: in those lyrics, you see the authors swearing and making direct threats (“I’ma kill you“) at nearly every line, and still they don’t reach half of the emotional impact of WHO SHOT YA? That’s how you see that literary talent really makes a difference.

Then the shit stop when I foil the plot

See how the three verses were chained logically: he announces that it is “on“, hides what “it” is but displays our reactions of terror, then in one verse, he takes control. Right after, he will relaunch a scene described in a few verses, making this verse a hinge. Nice effect of narrative rhythm!

Neighbors call the cops, said they heard mad shots

With talent, the author makes a double narrative effect:

  • 1 / A change of focal length. We were on sensational zooms made on the audience itself, we move to an omniscient point of view
  • 2 / A change of chronology. We were in the present, we considered an emotion unfolding before our eyes, in ourselves, fictitiously, and suddenly we are “after”, after shots, that these neighbors heard. But these shots, by deduction… targeted us, have just killed us, and respond implicitly to the question “who shot ya?” Answer: it is the one who sang the question

Saw me in the drop, three and a quarter

Note the telegraphic style of these verses, it looks like a cop report that notes the essential facts.

Three and a quarter: hard to know what he’s talking about, it looks like a mix of the time it was (3:15?) and the number of people they were (3 and a quarter, which would be a joke ?, the Notorious B.I.G. being of an imposing size, could count for one and a quarter, from the point of view of someone mocking?)

The fact that some rap lyrics are incomprehensible is part of the game. Writing is showing one’s intelligence and it can consist in asking riddles to others. The words are like a test of social recognition: if you understand, you’re with us, but if you don’t, you feel excluded from our group. It is often the music of the oppressed people who thus play with darkness: they reverse the order of society and exclude those who exclude them.

Slaughter, electrical tape around your daughter

Violence of this image, which happens so suddenly, hitting innocence and hitting the audience. But, Biggie stops there, it’s just a flash of sadism, a situation not a story. Later on,  Eminem will exploit with talent this field of dramatized stories of murders or violence, telling them at the scale of one song, not just in one verse – developing an undercurrent of rap that is called horrorcore.

Old school, new school need to learn though

The change of theme and tone is striking. Suddenly, the sadistic slaughterer of the previous verse turns into… Minister of Hip Hop Education?

It’s one of those self-affirming lines so common in rap lyrics, where it’s about being the best.

I burn, baby, burn like Disco Inferno

Allusion to the track DISCO INFERNO by The Trammps, whose chorus sings in a cheerful and seductive tone “burn baby burn”. The allusion is therefore strongly ironic.

Burn slow like blunts with yayo

Yayo: slang name of cocaine.

Blunts with yayo: so it’s about smoking a joint with cocaine (“yayo“) in it, a method that makes consumption more intense and dangerous, the smoke goes into the blood through the lungs and ends up in the brain in seconds.

The repetition of “burnconfirms that the previous “burn baby burn “ was ironic, and comparing to a cocaine-enriched joint, so to a more violent drug than usual, adds to the irony of the quote: it does not really “burn” in the same way as in DISCO INFERNO.

Peel more skins than Idaho Potato

Still a strong, enigmatic, condensed, and violent image: he dares to assert that he peels more people than Idaho potatoes, Idaho being this rural state of the United States, mentioned here in an absurd way, almost disrespectful – it’s a New Yorker who speaks and he does not care about these rednecks.

Niggas know: the lyrical molesting is taking place

Bam, he changes his theme again and makes a mental movement by generalization as if he was suddenly aware of the present situation, in which he is rapping violently. It is again a suggestion and a self-fulfilling prophecy, as with our trickling sweat meant to scare us: he says certain things, so that they become true, as if his words had the magic power to produce effects in the world. Here, then, he asserts he’s capable of carrying out a lyrical molesting, a beating by the words, and said like that, after all that, and on that tone, yes, it is credible: it is a form of beating lyrics, it knocks again and again on our tense mind…

Fucking with BIG is not safe

Figure of speech: it’s an understatement. He told us that he was able to shoot us, tie our daughter, scare us, and so, to say it’s just “not safe” to annoy him willingly lowers the real level of danger he represents. Basically, he still plays yoyo with our emotions, blowing hot and cold.

I’m doing your skin chafe, rashes on them

This verse follows the previous one by logical deduction: it’s not safe, because…

These surprising images come from a different register than the previously evoked violence by firearm, they speak about disease, which adds to the unhealthy side of the character, who looks a bit like some STD.

Bumps and bruises, blunts and land cruisers

Land Cruiser: big 4 × 4 car.

Notice how every element of logic has been eliminated, the text removes the articles, the verbs, the adverbs, the complements, only raw things are left to clash and oppose each other violently, and our mind must do the job of picking up the pieces of a broken story, half understood: there’s a wounded victim on one side, and abusers who are smoking joints in some Land Cruisers on the other side, and guess where Biggie is?

Big Poppa smash fools, bash fools

Big Poppa, Biggie Smalls, Notorious BIG…. three of the many pseudonyms of the author whose real name was Christopher George Latore Wallace.

The series of verses remains coherent, continuous.

Pretty repetition of sound, funny and violent.

Niggas mad because I know that cash rules

New break, new change of theme.

Everything around me, two Glock 9s

Allusion to C.R.E.A.M., Cash Rules Everything Around Me: famous song by the Wu-Tang Clan, 1993.

Any motherfucker whispering about mines

Funny construction: we just had two verses crossing, that is to say that elements that go together belong to two different verses, while two elements that do not go together belong to the same verse:

  • I know that cash rules / everything around me
  • two Glock 9s / any motherfucker whispering about mines

There is an ellipse, but we can understand that the two Glocks are intended to calm the motherfucker who whispers.

And I’m Crooklyn’s finest

Still a very dense and enigmatic formulation.

Crooklyn: a nice little wordsplay, by concatenating two words into one: decoding, Crooklyn is Crook + Brooklyn = Brooklyn of crooks.

Crooklyn’s finest: what is “fine“ is refined (“fine butter“) or elegant. So, the “finest“ is the most refined of Crooklyn, so the most refined of all Brooklyn crooks. The public can confirm: Biggie’s verse was both very dirty, and very refined in its own way.

You rewind this, Bad Boy’s behind this

The injunction to rewind says several things: that it was worthy of being re-listened at, and that it was hard to understand.

Bad Boy’s behind this: Bad Boy records is the label of Notorious BIG, and “to be behind this“ is to be behind a plot, or a crime, a gloomy affair. In short, it equates Bad Boy with a criminal pulling the strings of a crime, the song in progress. This is yet another way to suggest fear in the audience.

 

Interlude

As we proceed to give you what you need

9-5, motherfuckers

Get live, motherfuckers

As we proceed to give you what you need

After the violent verse of Biggie, the public changes interpretation concerning this chorus, things became clear: it is a disguised death threat.

East Coast, motherfuckers

Bad Boy, motherfuckers

Get high, motherfuckers

Get high, motherfuckers

Smoke blunts, motherfuckers

Get high, motherfuckers

Ready to die, motherfuckers

9-5, motherfuckers

 

Verse 2 – Notorious BIG

I seen the light excite all the freaks

Freaks in American slang means two things: all those who appear abnormal, all forms of marginality; or, people a little perverse, loving sex too much. Biggie probably means both…

I seen: it’s broken english, he should write “I’ve seen“. But he speaks Crooklyn’s English there.

There is implicitly a wise posture that looks down on things. “I seen” sounds passive, he does not intervene, just notes. And “the freaks” expresses a moral judgment – this man sees people being excited by the light, which implies that he, unlike them, is not excited, not influenced by this light. Thus, he contemplates them, feeling superior.

What light is it? The following verses will say little more. One can think of the symbolic lights of glory.

Mad stack chips, spread love with my peeps

My peeps: it means “my friends”, but the expression refers to the peep shows, these little erotic shows that we look at in a box, so it takes a sexual connotation.

We can not know if these verbs are infinitives, or if “the light“ is still the grammatical subject. A little of both, the meaning floats in this song.

Note how again the meaning is shot by bursts of a few words, like automatic gunshots.

Niggas wanna creep, gotta watch my back

Repetition of this worrying term, to creep, which evokes other verbs and names in English – to creep outto be creepy, I’m a creep, in short, this verb carries some negativity.

Think the Cognac and indo sack make me slack?

Indo sack: probably a bad deliberate pronunciation of “indoor sack“, the bag of “indoor” grown grass.

I switches all that, cocksucker G’s up

I switches, another voluntary fault of English. We must say “I switch“. Switches is the 3rd person singular: “he switches“. These faults are an aggression against language, a symbolic vengeance against the school and the system.

Cocksucker g’s: the wording is seriously insulting, the rapper had insulted the public, relatively defenseless, but insulting G’s is more risky. It widens his aura of terror: if he can impress G’s, he’s really powerful.

One false move, get Swiss cheesed up

get Swiss cheesed up: Biggie makes a surprising metaphor and a pretty neologism by transforming this noun Swiss cheese into a verb, to describe the action of being pierced with holes, metaphor to say “to be shot by many bullets”.

Clip to TEC, respect I demand it

TEC: automatic pistol, fast charging. Impressive weapon.

The literary inversion of “respect I demand it” instead of a simpler “I demand respect” adds some beautiful emphasis, reinforced by the strange coincidence: the sounds of TEC can be heard in the word respect, which makes it sound weirdly logic, natural. It wouldn’t work with other weapons, AK or Uzi or Smith&Wesson.

Slip and break the 11th Commandment

As we know, there are only 10 Commandments in the Bible, of which “You will not kill” that Biggie ignores superbly. Again, it is an interesting symbolic aggression against Christianity. This rapper does not respect anything or anyone.

Thou shalt not fuck with nor see Poppa

Suddenly, this very surprising verse parodies the good old style of the old English Bibles, like the King James Bible, which referred to and was written in this style, where “Thou shalt“ is the ancient form of “you shall“.

Feel a thousand deaths when I drop ya

This verse goes with the previous one, it is the continuation of the “11th Commandment”, and makes a spectacular grammatical effect by suddenly changing the grammatical person to actualize the action, moving from the pompous style where Poppa is designated to the 3rd person, to the slang and violent style of “when I drop ya“, when I will throw you (= your corpse) in the first person, assuming his act totally. We can find the same cynicism in REAL MUTHAPHUCKKIN’ G’S by Eazy-E or KIM by Eminem.

I feel for you, like Chaka Khan I’m the Don

I feel for you, Chaka Khan’s song, 1984. The quote sounds foolish again, as the Notorious BIG’s style is light years away from this reference.

the Don: it refers to the godfathers of the Italian mafia, then more generally any neighborhood boss.

Pussy when I want, Rolex on the arm

Macho attributes, violently exhibited.

You’ll die slow but calm

And bam, again an aggression as sudden as brutal, and yet: these words, “slow but calm“, sound precisely full of calm, confident, quiet, realistic, concise.

The verses clash, he has just flaunted with misogyny and materialism, and chops us down just after. If each verse was violent, we would get tired of it, it would lose the effect.

Recognize my face, so there will be no mistake

A new virile self-affirmation: he shows that he is not afraid of being recognized by his victim, then by the police and then by society, since he demands to be recognized. He expresses pride and self-confidence again.

So you know where to tell Jake, lame nigga

Jake: in American slang, that means any cop. It’s coded language, from the delinquent world where one needs to talk about his enemies without them knowing it.

This verse means that the “you” is a snitch, an informer, thus someone particularly despised in the world of thugs.

Brave nigga, turned front page nigga

turned front page nigga: this part of the verse is difficult to understand, it seems that Biggie wants to say: you are a nigger of the front page of a newspaper, which has just announced your death, but we quickly turn the page, you are forgotten very quickly. He said all that in 4 words !!

lame nigga, brave nigga: that’s a lot of racist contempt from one African American to another. This element is also meant to shock: even sharing the same condition one has no mercy for one’s neighbor. That’s anti-Christian: no mercy for anybody.

Puff Daddy flips daily

flips: that alludes to the fact of “flipping the paper / money“, to slam proudly a wad of banknotes.

Another sudden change of theme and scene, concluding on the criminal success of the authors of the song.

I smoke the blunts he sips on the Baileys

Concrete illustration of material success, gangster version.

On the rocks, tote Glocks at Christenings

A surprising mix of different elements, the pleasures of alcohol and the death that lurks.

Hammer cock, in the fire position and…

Hammer cock: the words evoke the action of preparing the weapon to shoot by pulling the hammer backwards, before pressing the trigger that will release the hammer to trigger the shot. But literally, hammer means hammer and cock means dick. We say “to cock a gun“, to load a gun, and the expression leads to many puns in rap lyrics (including in women’s lyrics, for example in 212 of Azealia Banks).

and…: the verse closes on a suspense – usually a verse ends by throwing the chorus, but there, it launches an action scene as in the movies.

 

Outro

Come here, come here, (It’s not gotta be like that, Big)

Open your fucking mouth, open your didn’t I tell you?

Do not fuck with me? (Come on, man)

Huh? Did not I tell you not to fuck with me? (Come on, man)

Look at you now, huh? (Come on, man)

Can not talk with a gun in your mouth, huh?

Bitch-ass nigga, what?

6 shots.

Dramatic climax of this mini-plot of murder.

Who shot ya?

This is the final answer to the question of the title and the first verse, with yet another ironic resumption since we know the answer.

Such staged live criminal facts with sound effects, for aesthetic purposes, will be the great idea of ​​the first albums of Eminem with Dr Dre, very spectacular, full of interludes (“skits”) and cinematographic effects. This execution in front of our eyes has made children…

 

Outro – Puffy

To give you what you need

At this point, these words take a new meaning again, confirming our suspicions during their second expression: they were indeed threats, and now we understand that “what you need“ was 6 bullets in the head… which makes a strong emotional effect.

9-5, motherfuckers

Get live, motherfuckers (who shot ya?)

Get high, motherfuckers

Ready to die, motherfuckers, hah!

As we proceed (who shot ya?)

To give you what you need

9-5, motherfuckers

East Coast, motherfucker (Who shot ya?)

West Coast, motherfuckers

West Coast, motherfuckers, hah!

As we proceed, to give you what you need

As we proceed to give you what you need

Get live, motherfuckers

9-5, motherfuckers

Get money, motherfuckers

As we proceed to give you what you need

Get live, motherfuckers

9-5, motherfuckers

JM motherfuckers

JM motherfuckers

As we try to give you what you need… 9-5

Crazy, terrifying and nightmarish repetition !

 

SYNTHESIS

What a song !

It is a jewel of darkness, provocation, dark humor, sinister mood, morbid fascination, and violent emotional impact on the public.

We are already accustomed to death threats in rap lyrics, they are frequent and banal, and precisely: usually, threats sound superficial, and less inspired authors repeat them in a loop, so that their rap looks like the ridiculous draft of an unconvincing, excited, illeterate thug.

In WHO SHOT YA? on the contrary, Biggie Smalls (aka The Notorious B.I.G.) fascinates in defining the crime scene as the initial and final situation of his song, and its central theme. His song does not align a series of threats, it gradually zooms in on a performance it patiently stages. There is no conflict or plot prior to the murder, nothing comes to explain why one kills the other. This conflict necessarily exists, so that this scene of murder is probably the climax, the final high point of a plot that opposed the murderer and his victim; but Biggie is not interested in it at all, he pays full attention only to the most intense moment: the execution.

In this way, it kills the dramatic tension – since there will be no suspense, no doubt about the facts: the singer has just killed someone with 6 bullets in the head, cruelly shot by the mouth. Suddenly, he pretends to shift this dramatic tension, making suspense carry on the identity of the murderer: Who killed you? Except that as we have seen, the singer knows the answer from the start. So? The song would not have dramatic force ?

On the contrary! WHO SHOT YA? is hyper-dramatic, but more subtly than in stories that would only play on the revelation of events, it plays largely on the revelation of feelingsintentions, partially hidden information:

  • Intro: we learn that a sinister and violent action is in progress.
  • Verse 1: we learn that someone “shot ya” (us?) and that one seeks to know who did it, false question.
  • Verse 1: The man who speaks to us describes our fright reaction, which makes us understand that we are witnessing a terrifying scene, or even… that we are the victim.
  • Verse 1: we learn that the man who speaks to us has violent intentions, speaks like a killer, describes the fear he inspires to his enemies… it becomes obvious that he is the killer.
  • Interluderepetition increases our suspicions.
  • Verse 2: things become very clear and the death threat is formulated in three verses “get Swiss cheesed up“, “You’ll die slow but calm“, “Hammer cock, in the fire position and…
  • Outrological consequence of previous preparations: the murder scene, 6 bullets in the head.

So, it’s not as if we had been told a story that ended in murder, we rather were shown at first an enigmatic scene, which was gradually revealed, element after element, as a murder scene. Do you understand the difference? It is always very interesting, in a screenplay, to make information play rather than action, because action does not make the audience react so much, they passively integrate it, contemplate it or react emotionally to it, whereas information and its ambiguities make the audience think, participate, try to guess, which generates a more pleasant aesthetic experience.

Moreover, this highly dramatic song is also a beautiful piece of raw poetry, with its hallucinatory images, its strange metaphors, its thoughtful violence, its humorous cruelty, its sudden ruptures of meaning and rhythm, its original wording… This kind of text does not come from the streets but from literature, even if it is partly written in the language of the streets, and it’s clear that the author, for example through his biblical quotes, has a written culture in mind, which contributes to the quality of his verses.

 

Gangsta-rap songwriting

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