Who Shot Ya?

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"Who Shot Ya?"
Song by The Notorious B.I.G.
Released February 20, 1995
Recorded 1994
Genre Gangsta rap
Length 5:16
Songwriter(s) Christopher Wallace
Producer(s) Nashiem Myrick, Sean Combs (co.)
Extended version of Ready to Die track listing
"Suicidal Thoughts"
"Who Shot Ya?"
"Just Playing (Dreams)"
Born Again track listing
"If I Should Die Before I Wake"
"Who Shot Ya?"
"Can I Get Witcha"
Greatest Hits track listing
"Dead Wrong"
"Who Shot Ya?"
"Ten Crack Commandments"

"Who Shot Ya?" is a controversial gangsta rap song by The Notorious B.I.G., a B-side to his 1995 hit single, "Big Poppa". The track was later released on the posthumous album Born Again, the remastered edition of Ready to Die, and The Greatest Hits.

Originally the song was recorded for the Mary J. Blige album My Life and meant for what eventually became the K. Murray Interlude (as evidenced on the track by use of the same instrumental); however, Biggie's version was considered too violent to be put into an R&B album and Keith Murray was asked to record his version instead.[1] The song samples David Porter's "I'm Afraid The Masquerade Is Over".


In March 2008, Chuck Philips wrote an LA Times article naming James "Jimmy Henchman" Rosemond, a hip-hop CEO, as an organizer of the attack on Tupac in 1994 at Quad Studios in New York. The article alleged that Smalls and Sean Combs knew about the attack a week in advance. The article relied heavily on anonymous sources and internal FBI documents Philips obtained. After the article was published, The Smoking Gun revealed that Philips' FBI documents were fake. In April 2008, the LA Times printed a full retraction of the Quad Studios article and released Philips from the newspaper shortly thereafter. Philips blamed the Times editors for forcing him to rely on the fake FBI documents.[2]

In June 2011, New York inmate Dexter Isaac came forward as one of Philips' anonymous sources, claiming that he participated in the Quad Studios attack. Philips told LA Weekly that he demanded a "front-page retraction" in the LA Times.[3]


Lyrical interpretation[edit]

Tupac Shakur and many of his fans interpreted the song to be a diss track mocking his robbery/shooting in Manhattan, New York due to the timing of its release, a mere one month after the shooting incident. Although the track did not specifically call out Tupac, it contained suspicious lines[4] in both the first and second verse.

The first verse opens with these lyrics:[5]

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 soun' like Sasquatch feet
Thundering, shaking the concrete
Finish it, stop, when I foil the plot
Neighbors call the cops said they heard mad shots

Everything Around Me, 2 Glock 9's
Any motherfucker whispering about mines
And I'm Crooklyn's finest
You rewind this, Bad Boy's behind this.[6]

The song's second verse contains lines such as:

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

Abruptly, the second verse halts and the music is cut when the song breaks into spoken word in which Biggie speaks these words before gunshots sound off, after which the rest of the instrumental plays:

C'mere, c'mere
open your fucking mouth, open your... didn't I tell you
don't fuck with me? Huh?
Didn't I tell you not to fuck with me?
Look at you now Huh?
Can't talk with a gun in your mouth huh?
Bitch-ass nigga, what?

After Biggie's song was released, it was met with a high amount of controversy, adding fuel to the East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry. Wallace and Sean Combs have asserted that the song was recorded months earlier, with Biggie exclaiming in a Vibe magazine interview: "I wrote that muthafuckin' song way before Tupac got shot," he said. "It was supposed to be the intro to that shit Keith Murray was doing on Mary J. Blige's joint. But Puff said it was too hard."[7]

Despite the controversy, Biggie frequently performed the song live,[8] perhaps to intimidate or challenge his rival during the widely publicized feud, as seen in the biopic film Notorious, further promoting the East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry.

Because of the song's controversial nature and ambiguous target, XXL magazine.com included it in an article titled "8 Subliminal Diss Records That No One Claims",[9] which was published November 5, 2010, approximately 15 years after the song was released. The article reads:

Though Biggie and his entire camp have continuously denied that “Who Shot Ya?” was directed towards 2Pac, the timing of its release and the perceived subliminal shots (no pun intended) lead us to believe that this was most likely a diss record.

Response from 2Pac[edit]

After the song was released, Shakur felt that the song was directed at him, raising suspicions that Biggie did in fact have prior knowledge about the shooting. This caused Shakur to become increasingly hostile towards Biggie, Puff Daddy, Bad Boy Records, and all of its associates. Shakur called the timing of the song's release "tasteless" in a Vibe Magazine interview.[10] "Even if that song ain't about me," Shakur told Vibe, "You should be, like, 'I'm not putting it out, 'cause he might think it's about him.'"

Shakur admitted he released his infamous diss track "Hit 'Em Up" as a response to "Who Shot Ya?",[10] referring to the song in the chorus: "Who shot me? / But your punks didn't finish." Thereafter, tensions arose and for the rest of his life, Shakur remained on the offensive against Biggie and Bad Boy Records.

In a separate interview with Vibe, he defended his attacks against Bad Boy: "Fear got stronger than love, and niggas did things they weren't supposed to do. They know in their hearts-that's why they're in hell now. They can't sleep. That's why they're telling all the reporters and all the people, 'Why they doing this? They fucking up hip hop and blah-blah-blah, 'cause they in hell. They can't make money, they can't go anywhere. They can't look at themselves, 'cause they know the prodigal son has returned."[11]


"Who Shot Ya?" has become one of the most well known, yet hotly debated, songs in hip hop. MTV.com has described the song as "using the art of music to make the art of war sound beautiful."[12] The Daily Collegian of University of Massachusetts Amherst referred to the song as "a heated verbal assault".[4] Jay-Z, an affiliate and former school mate of the Notorious B.I.G. had this to say about hearing the song for the first time:

You're just as good as your competition around you....You know when someone else pushes you to really step your game up? Like I said, I'm a fan of hip-hop. People know that about me. So my man [Kareem] "Biggs" [Burke] had brought me 'Who Shot Ya' [before it came out]. He brought it to me on 125th Street [in Harlem] like it was a drug deal: He jumps in my car, looks around, puts in 'Who Shot Ya' and then he gets out and says, 'You keep that.' Because he knew I'm a fan of the game. He knew that if I heard 'Who Shot Ya,' it's going to inspire me to make songs even hotter. But that song, it was so crazy. It just had an effect on everybody. The world stopped when he dropped 'Who Shot Ya.'[12]

References by other artists[edit]

Because of the song's infamy and association with the East Coast-West Coast hip-hop rivalry, the song's title has been referred to many times by other artists.

In Mobb Deep's song "Drop a Gem on 'em", a diss song directed towards Tupac Shakur, Prodigy raps these lines, referring to "Who Shot Ya?" and the 1994 shooting at Quad Studios:[13]

It's terror-dome when you see my click you need to run behind shit
You got a gat you'd better find it and use that shit
Think fast and get reminded of robberies in Manhattan
You know what happened: 60G's worth of gun clappin'
Who Shot Ya? You'd probably scream louder than a opera
New York gotcha, now you wanna use my mob as a crutch
What you think you can't get bucked again?
Once again...

LL Cool J has released a song titled "I Shot Ya" And a remix featuring Foxxy Brown, Keith Murray, Prodigy and Fat Joe

Lil' Kim, an affiliate and romantic partner of the Notorious B.I.G. mentioned "Who Shot Ya?" in the original unreleased version of her song Big Momma Thang, a song aimed at Biggie's wife Faith Evans and Tupac Shakur: "Oh yeah, Who Shot Ya?(uh-huh)/ Who knows but they gotcha (uh huh)..."[14]

Philadelphia group State Property borrowed the opening bars in their song "It's On":[15] "Who shot ya? Separate the weak from State Prop' the/ Kids who squash beef and run them streets...."

Nas uses a rhyming scheme in his song Ether with the lyrics: "Nah, I'm tryna' kick the shit you need to learn though/That ether, that shit that make your soul burn slow", which mirrors the following bars in Who Shot Ya?: "Old school new school need to learn though/I burn baby burn like Disco Inferno".[15] As well as this, 'Ether' opens with sampled gunshots from 'Who Shot Ya?'.

Kanye West uses a play on the lyrics: "And I'm (and I'm) Crooklyn's Finest/ You rewind this/ Bad Boy's behind this" in his song 'Where You At (The Whole City Behind Us)', featuring The Game and Ludacris, which West raps, "And I'm (and I'm) Chi-Town's finest/ Where you at? The whole city behind us."

On Jay-Z's song "Venus vs. Mars" featured on The Blueprint 3, Jay-Z raps:[16] "Shawty like Pac, me Big Poppa/Screaming Hit 'Em Up, I’m screaming Who Shot Ya..."

Jay Electronica references "Who Shot Ya?" (and "Drop a Gem on 'em") in "Attack of the Clones". "Who shot ya? The black bach blasting over opera, phantom of the chakaras...."

Das Racist repeats the phrase "Who Shot Ya?" at the end of their song "Ek Shaneesh" off their first mixtape, Shut Up, Dude.

Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park references both "Big Poppa" and "Who Shot Ya?" in their 2012 song "Until It Breaks". "It's something for your people on the block to/ Blackout and rock to/ Give you watch you need like Poppa, Who shot ya?/ Separate the weak from the obsolete/ You're meek/ I creep hard on imposters'"

On MF DOOM and Madlib's project Madvillainy, the song "Figaro" references "Who Shot Ya?" with the line '"Who shot ya/who got ya...'"


The beat used is a looped sample of David Porter's version of 'I'm Afraid the Masquerade is Over'. The song makes lyrical references to both the Wu-Tang Clan song "C.R.E.A.M." and Snoop Dogg's "Gz Up Hoes Down", as well as Disco Inferno by The Trammps.[17] It was featured in the 2002 film 8 Mile.[18]

Covers, remixes and samples[edit]

The song's instrumental has since become a freestyle standard, being sampled by many different artists:

Mos Def samples the track and references The Notorious B.I.G. in the track "Brooklyn", from his debut album Black on Both Sides.

Ja Rule recorded a song using the beat titled "Guess Who Shot Ya". It is a diss towards 50 Cent and provides hints that he organized 50 Cent's shooting in 2000.

In 2006, lead vocalist of System of a Down, Serj Tankian, did a remix of the song for the video game Marc Eckō's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure.

Big L free styled to the beat of Who Shot Ya? after an interview with Tim Westwood.[19]

Lil' Kim made her own version of the song which draws many lyrics from the original version. It was recorded in 2003 or 2004. The production team Midi Mafia created a rock remix in 2006.

Canibus recorded a freestyle to the beat of Who Shot Ya? [20]

In 2008 Papoose used the beat and some of the lyrics from this song to make his version of "Who Shot Ya?", which was a diss record to Uncle Murda. It is featured on his 2008 mixtape "Build or Destroy" and lasts 8:03.

Game uses the instrumental to "Who Shot Ya?" on "300 Bars", which is a diss to 50 Cent and G-Unit.

Faith Evans' "Alone in This World" samples her late husband's song on Faithfully released in 2001.

Chino XL samples the beat from Who Shot Ya? on one of his disses to Tupac. The song was never released.

DMX recorded two freestyles on the beat from I Shot Ya? including one dissing 2pac. He later reused lyrics in "Get at Me Dog", "Bring Your Whole Crew" and "Murdergram".

Although not sampling the beat, Nas' song Ether, a diss track aimed at Jay-Z, samples the gunshots heard after the spoken word segment of Who Shot Ya?[21]

Kendrick Lamar released a freestyle to the instrumental on his "Training Day" mixtape and again during a radio interview with Funkmaster Flex.

Honey Cocaine interpolated the instrumental on her song "Who Shot Me?" from her "90's Gold" mixtape.

Living Colour cover and reinterpret the song as an anti-gun and anti-Police Violence track on their 2016 digital mixtape EP, also titled "Who Shot Ya." Also appearing on their full length 2017 album Shade. Some lyrics are dropped or changed to alter the meaning slightly. The mixtape also features 3 mixes of the Living Colour version that feature different artists, one featuring Prodigal Sunn, Black Thought, Chuck D, Pharaohe Monch, Kyle Mansa & Sandy Starr, another featuring Niro Barnes & Divine Styler, and another featuring Taz

Appears on[edit]


  1. ^ "Key Tracks: Mary J. Blige's My Life". redbullmusicacademy.com. Red Bull Music Academy. Retrieved 2015-12-28. 
  2. ^ Reid, Shaheem (March 17, 2008). "Biggie, Diddy Knew Tupac Would Be Ambushed In 1994, Alleges Los Angeles Times Reporter". MTV News. 
  3. ^ Chuck Philips Demands L.A. Times Apology on Tupac Shakur | News | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
  4. ^ a b Collegian, Daily (2002-09-16). "The Daily Collegian". The Daily Collegian. Retrieved 2012-03-15. [dead link]
  5. ^ "Who Shot Ya Lyrics". Sing365.com. Retrieved 2012-03-15. [dead link]
  6. ^ Author. "The Notorious B.I.G. Who shot ya? lyrics". From Who Shot Ya?. rapgenius. Retrieved 15 September 2012. 
  7. ^ "Vibe Magazine September 96 - Stakes is High". Jj_productions.tripod.com. 1995-12-16. Retrieved 2012-03-15. [dead link]
  8. ^ "Notorious B.I.G. - Who Shot Ya Live In Chicago 1995". YouTube. 2009-09-12. Retrieved 2012-03-15. 
  9. ^ "8 Subliminal Diss Records That No One Claims". Xxlmag.Com. Retrieved 2012-03-15. 
  10. ^ a b "Tupac Talks 'Hit Em Up' Vs. 'Who Shot Ya?' (Pg. 2)". Vibe. 2010-09-13. Retrieved 2012-03-15. 
  11. ^ "Vibe Magazine September 96 - Stakes is High". Jj_productions.tripod.com. Retrieved 2012-03-15. [dead link]
  12. ^ a b "MTVNews.com: Notorious B.I.G.: Still The Illest". Mtv.com. 2006-03-09. Retrieved 2012-03-15. [dead link]
  13. ^ "Drop A Gem On Em Lyrics by Mobb Deep". Lyricsdepot.com. Retrieved 2012-03-15. 
  14. ^ "Lil' Kim - Big Momma Thang (2Pac & Faith Evans Diss)". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-03-15. 
  15. ^ a b "Rappers Using Biggie Lyrics (part 2 of 10)". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-03-15. [dead link]
  16. ^ "Jay-Z - Venus Vs. Mars Lyrics". Elyricsworld.com. Retrieved 2012-03-15. 
  17. ^ "The Notorious B.I.G. – Who Shot Ya? Lyrics". Rap Genius. Retrieved 2012-03-15. 
  18. ^ 8 Mile (2002) - Soundtracks - IMDb
  19. ^ "Big L Interview and Who Shot Ya Freestyle". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-03-15. [dead link]
  20. ^ "Canibus - Who Shot Ya Freestyle". YouTube. 2008-04-17. Retrieved 2012-03-15. 
  21. ^ "Nas's Ether sample of The Notorious B.I.G. feat. Puff Daddy's Who Shot Ya?". WhoSampled. Retrieved 2012-03-15.