“I never wish death on nobody, cause there ain’t coming back from that.” – Notorious B.I.G.
Today marks the day in which Christopher Wallace, better known as Brooklyn’s own Notorious B.I.G. aka Biggie Smalls “never came back from that.”
On March 9th, 1997 the rap world lost one of its most respected and influential lyricists. The East coast rapper’’s life was cut short in a matter of minutes during a tragic drive-by shooting on the streets of Los Angeles. Even though his life was lost that night, we are able to listen to his story through his records, for Wallace had a way with words that no other rapper could achieve. Years after bullets stopped him from telling them, his stories live on.
The Notorious B.I.G was born on May 21st, 1972 and raised in Bedford-Syudvesant, more commonly known as Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, in New York City. He was raised by his mother, Voletta Wallace, who was a school teacher, but had no connection to his father, as he left Wallace while he was only two. He grew up on the streets of Brooklyn and lived a life filled with the hustle and crime. He began selling crack cocaine when he was only twelve years old.
“Things Done Changed”
Wallace received his “Notorious” name when he was just ten years old because of his large size — and despite his environment, was a good student who excelled, especially in English. He attended a private Catholic school but later requested to transfer from Roman Catholic Bishop McLaughlin Memorial to George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School — a state funded public school. It was then his mother noticed his attitude began to change even though he still excelled academically. Other legendary rappers attended his school included Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes.
His trademark was not his name, rather his skill and flow.
Biggie’s rap game began in battles on the mean streets of Brooklyn where he blew the minds and lyrics of his competitors out of the water. In 1994 Biggie came out with his first album, Ready to Die, under the guidance of Sean “P. Diddy” Combs. It was a success commercially and went platinum in a short amount of time. Biggie was named MC of The Year at the 1995 Billboard Music Awards — just one year after the release. B.I.G continued on making music, but would still return to his roots on the streets of Brooklyn. He had several more run-ins with the law and soon met Tupac Shakur, a well renowned West Coast rapper. The two became friends and were often seen in interviews on television together.
East Coast vs West Coast
On November 30th, 1994, a friendship turned into one of the most well known coastal battles in hip hop. Tupac Shakur was shot five times in the lobby of the recording studio where he was making his third solo album. He blamed Biggie for the incident, saying that he set him up. It is said that as Tupac was breathing what he thought were his last gasps of air, he extended out his middle finger to express his hate towards B.I.G. Thus began the East Coast/West Coast war. After Shakur recovered from his injuries he continued expressing his hate towards Smalls through rhymes. The Notorious B.I.G never responded to the harsh words, despite the raunchy rumor Shakur made up about having an affair with Biggie’s wife Faith Evans. The feud was so intense that it caused fans to turn against one another, resulting in a country wide battle. When Shakur was finally gunned down to his demise on September 7th, 1995 Biggie made an attempt to mend the animosity by attending West coast events.
On March 9th, 1997 an eerily similar time line of events lead to the death of Christopther “Biggie Smalls” Wallace. Like his former friend and rival, he was gunned down in a drive-by shooting on the streets of Los Angeles — hip-hop was forever changed.
“I Remember When I Used to Eat Sardines for Dinner…”
Throughout his career, Biggie produced the hits we all still love today. Many of us can rap every single word of his hits “Juicy,” “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” featuring Puff Daddy, and of course, “Big Poppa.” In the short span of his career, Smalls received countless accolades and won numerous awards for his contribution to music. “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” received several nominations, including Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group at the GRAMMY Awards; Best Rap Video at the MTV Video Music Awards; and Best R&B/Soul Album and Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video at the Soul Train Music Awards.
1995 – The Notorious B.I.G. – Rap Artist of the Year – Billboard
1995 – The Notorious B.I.G. – New Artist of the Year, Solo – Source
1995 – Ready to Die – Album of the Year- Source
1995 – The Notorious B.I.G. – Lyricist of the Year – Source
1995 – The Notorious B.I.G. – Live Performer of the Year – Source
1995 – “One More Chance” – Rap Single of the Year – Billboard
1997 – “Hypnotize” – Best Rap Video – MTV VMAs
1998 – Life After Death – Best R&B/Soul Album, Male – Soul Train Awards
Biggie continues to tell stories through his songs and serves as an influence for everyone in the industry.