Genre of lyrics “who shot yah” by Notorious B.I.G.

The contentious song “who shot yah” was written, produced and sung by American rapper Christopher George Wallace popularly known as Notorious B.I.G. in the year 1995. The song was produced and marketed during the famous competition and feud between the East Coast and the West Coast over dominance in the hip-hop music market. The song “who shot yah” was marketed as a hip-hop rap song and in the sub-genre of east coast rap. The song  was controversial as was common with east coast rap music at the time because it was released months after B.I.G’s main opponent Tupac Shakur had been involved in a shooting in a recording studio in New York, B.I.G’s hometown. Many believed that the song spoke about the shooting (Brown, 2004).

The song qualifies to be classified as east coast rap music for a number of reasons. Firstly, Notorious B.I.G, the singer was from the east coast. The song also makes fun of artists who were from the west coast. For instance, Notorious B.IG states, “Who shot Yah? Separate the weak from the obsolete, hard to creep them Brooklyn streets” (Zephaniah, 2004). The song qualifies to be classified under hip-hop because of the slow delivery of rhymes over beats. It falls under hip-hop music as it composed of spoken rhyming lyrics with a powerful rhythmical accompaniment. The main characteristic of the song is that it has a slow, loose and easy delivery of poetry as is common in hip-hop music. Other traits that lead to its classification as falling under hip-hop music include the use of short rhythmical lines and excellent story telling abilities. The song is also made of dark semi-autobiographic lyrics.

In the song “who shot yah” the strongest dominant feature is the loose and slow delivery of semi-autobiographic lyrics that promote violence. However, the slow delivery and the presence of a light beat accompanying the delivery of rhymes lyrics can lead the song to be classified as falling under R&B music. The use of the light beat is common in most other genres of music.



Brown, J. (2004) Ready to die: the story of Biggie Smalls, Notorious B.I.G., King of the world & New York City: fast money, Puff Daddy, faith and life after death: the unauthorized biography London: Amber Books Publishing

Krims, A. (2000) Rap music and the poetics of identity, London: Cambridge University Press

Moore, A. F. (2003). Analyzing popular music, London: Cambridge University Press

Nielsen Business Media, Inc (20 Jul 2002) Billboard magazine Nielsen Business Media, Inc Vol. 114, No. 29 (88)

Paniccioli, E. & Powell, K. (2004). Who Shot Ya: Three Decades of Hip-Hop Photography New York, NY: HarperCollins

Zephaniah, B. (2004) Gangster rap, Bloomsbury, NJ: Bloomsbury


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