Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace (pictured) was gunned down on March 9, 1997, just two months shy of his 25th birthday. With fame and all the perks that came along with his stellar rapping ability, he was destined to achieve so much more. On Tuesday, Biggie Smalls, as he also known, would have been 41 years of age. NewsOne takes a look back at the life and legacy of the heavyweight Brooklyn rap legend.
Hip-hop music was in a curious place, as many were still mourning the death of Wallace’s rival, Tupac “2Pac” Shakur, who was killed a mere six months prior on September 7, 1996, in Las Vegas via a drive-by shooting. Because of the tensions between East and West Coast rappers at the time, many fans thought 2Pac’s death was a fatal warning serving as a salvo for the escalating coastal war. Dying in a similar fashion, Biggie’s murder left a foreboding cloud over the industry as it suddenly became less about the music and more about the violence it inspired.
Born Christopher George Latore Wallace to Jamaican parents George Latore and Voletta Wallace, the future Bad Boy star was raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. According to his mother’s accounts, Wallace was a good student but succumbed to the trappings of the streets while in middle school. By the time he reached high school, his involvement in the drug trade increased and he was later jailed for his actions. Despite his life of crime, Wallace had a natural knack for rapping and made a demo tape using the alias Biggie Smalls.
The tape made its way to the hands of Mister Cee, a popular DJ who worked with another Brooklyn legend, rapper Big Daddy Kane. Mister Cee played the tape for editors at hip-hop magazine The Source who were so wowed that they featured Biggie in its “Unsigned Hype” column in a March 1992 issue and reportedly invited him to record more music. The demo caught the ears of Uptown Records producer and A&R Sean “Diddy” Combs who rushed to sign the hefty MC.
Wallace still sold drugs as he joined Combs’ newly minted label, Bad Boy Records, later in 1992. After an appearance on a remix of Mary J. Blige’s smash “Real Love” single as the Notorious B.I.G., Wallace became a household name.
Watch Blige’s “Real Love” remix with B.I.G. here:
Combs developed his protégé along slowly, having Wallace appear on tracks with reggae star Super Cat, LL Cool J, and more, but it was with his debut album, “Ready To Die,” in September of 1994 that Wallace cemented himself as a force.
Marrying R&B singer Faith Evans a month prior, Wallace’s career arc was exceptional, considering West Coast hip-hop ruled heavily on the air waves and among consumers. Spawning huge hits in the singles “Juicy,” “Big Poppa,” and “One More Chance,” the LP went on to go platinum four times.
Between his debut and sophomore effort, Wallace helmed the creation of off-shoot music group Junior M.A.F.I.A., featuring childhood friends Lil’ Kim and Lil’ Cease. The crew had hits in the singles “Player’s Anthem” and “Get Money” — both staples of any old-school rap mix nationwide.
Surprisingly enough, Shakur and Wallace were once allies and had even performed live shows with each other. Things took a turn, however, when Shakur accused Uptown Records boss Andre Harrell, Combs, and Wallace of setting him up for a robbery and shooting in a New York studio in 1994.