The Notorious B.I.G.

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The Notorious B.I.G.
The Notorious B.I.G.jpg
Background information
Birth name Christopher George Latore Wallace
Also known as Biggie Smalls,[1] Big Poppa, Frank White, King of New York
Born (1972-05-21)May 21, 1972
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died March 9, 1997(1997-03-09) (aged 24)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres Hip hop
Occupation(s) Rapper
Years active 1992–1997
Labels Uptown Records
Bad Boy
Associated acts Sean Combs, Junior M.A.F.I.A., Lil Kim, 112, The Commission, Faith Evans, 2Pac
Website www.myspace.com/notoriousbig

Christopher George Latore Wallace (May 21, 1972 – March 9, 1997), better known by his stage names The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie or Biggie Smalls,[2] was an American rapper.

Wallace was raised in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. When he released his debut album Ready to Die in 1994, he became a central figure in the East Coast hip hop scene and increased New York's visibility in the genre at a time when West Coast hip hop was dominant in the mainstream.[3] The following year, Wallace led his childhood friends to chart success through his protégé group, Junior M.A.F.I.A. While recording his second album, Wallace was heavily involved in the growing East Coast/West Coast hip hop feud.

On March 9, 1997, Wallace was killed by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. His double-disc set Life After Death, released 16 days later, rose to No. 1 on the U.S. album charts and was certified Diamond in 2000, one of the few hip hop albums to receive this certification.[4] Wallace was noted for his "loose, easy flow",[5] dark semi-autobiographical lyrics and storytelling abilities. Two more albums have been released since his death. He has certified sales of 17 million units in the United States.[6]

Life and career

1972–94: Early life, arrests, career beginnings and first child

Born in St. Mary's Hospital on May 21, 1972, Wallace grew up in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, New York City on 226 St. James Place[7] near the border of Bedford-Stuyvesant, considered at the time to be within the latter neighborhood's boundaries.[8][9] He was the only child of Voletta Wallace, a Jamaican preschool teacher, and George Latore, a welder and small-time Jamaican politician.[8][10] His father left the family when Wallace was two years old, and his mother worked two jobs while raising him. At the Queen of All Saints Middle School, Wallace excelled in class, winning several awards as an English student. He was nicknamed "Big" because of his overweight size by age 10.[11] At the age of 12, he began selling illegal drugs. His mother, often away at work, did not know of her son's drug sales until Wallace was an adult.[12]

At his request, Wallace transferred out of the Roman Catholic Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School to attend the state-funded George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School, which future rappers Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes also attended at the time. According to his mother, Wallace was still a good student, but he developed a "smart-ass" attitude at the new school.[10] At seventeen, Wallace dropped out of school and became further involved in crime. In 1989, he was arrested on weapons charges in Brooklyn and sentenced to five years' probation. In 1990, he was arrested on a violation of his probation.[13] A year later, Wallace was arrested in North Carolina for dealing crack cocaine. He spent nine months in jail before making bail.[12]

Wallace began rapping when he was a teenager. He entertained people on the streets and performed with local groups the Old Gold Brothers and the Techniques.[3] After being released from jail, Wallace made a demo tape under the name Biggie Smalls, a reference to a character in the 1975 film Let's Do It Again as well as his stature; he stood at 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m) and weighed as much as 300 to 380 pounds (140–170 kg) according to differing accounts.[14] The tape was reportedly made with no serious intent of getting a recording deal, but was promoted by New York-based DJ Mister Cee, who had previously worked with Big Daddy Kane, and was heard by the editor of The Source.[13]

In March 1992, Wallace was featured in The Source '​s Unsigned Hype column, dedicated to aspiring rappers, and was invited to produce a recording with other unsigned artists in a move that was reportedly uncommon at the time.[not in citation given][15] The demo tape was heard by Uptown Records A&R and record producer Sean Combs, who arranged for a meeting with Wallace. He was signed to Uptown immediately and made an appearance on label mates, Heavy D & the Boyz' "A Buncha Niggas" (from the album Blue Funk).[3][16] Soon after signing his recording contract, Combs was fired from Uptown and started a new label.[17] Wallace followed and in mid-1992, signed to Combs' new imprint label, Bad Boy Records. On August 8, 1993, Wallace's longtime girlfriend gave birth to his first child, T'yanna.[18] Wallace wanted his daughter to complete her education, despite being a high school dropout himself. Wallace said that if his mother had promised him what he promised his daughter, everything she wanted, Wallace would have been not only a graduate but also at the top of his class.[19] He continued selling drugs after the birth to support his daughter financially. Once Combs discovered this, he forced Wallace to quit.[3]

Later in the year, Wallace gained exposure on a remix to Mary J. Blige's single "Real Love", under the pseudonym The Notorious B.I.G. He recorded under this name for the remainder of his career, after finding the original moniker "Biggie Smalls" was already in use.[20] "Real Love" peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was followed by a remix of Blige's "What's the 411?". He continued this success, to a lesser extent, on remixes with Neneh Cherry ("Buddy X") and reggae artist Super Cat ("Dolly My Baby", also featuring Combs) in 1993. In April 1993, his solo track, "Party and Bullshit", appeared on the Who's the Man? soundtrack.[21] In July 1994, he appeared alongside LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes on a remix to label mate Craig Mack's "Flava in Ya Ear", reaching No. 9 on the Hot 100.[22]

1994: Ready to Die and marriage

On August 4, 1994, Wallace married R&B singer Faith Evans after they met at a Bad Boy photoshoot.[23] Four days later, Wallace had his first pop chart success as a solo artist with double A-side, "Juicy/Unbelievable", which reached No. 27 as the lead single to his debut album.[24]

Ready to Die was released on September 13, 1994, and reached No. 13 on the Billboard 200 chart,[25] eventually being certified four times Platinum.[26] The album, released at a time when West Coast hip hop was prominent in the U.S. charts, according to Rolling Stone, "almost single-handedly... shifted the focus back to East Coast rap".[27] It immediately gained strong reviews and has received much praise in retrospect.[27][28] In addition to "Juicy", the record produced two hit singles: the Platinum-selling "Big Poppa", which reached No. 1 on the U.S. rap chart,[5] and "One More Chance" featuring Faith Evans, a loosely related remix of an album track and its best selling single.

1995: Junior M.A.F.I.A., Conspiracy and coastal feud

In August 1995, Wallace's protégé group, Junior M.A.F.I.A. ("Junior Masters At Finding Intelligent Attitudes"), released their debut album Conspiracy. The group consisted of his friends from childhood and included rappers such as Lil' Kim and Lil' Cease, who went on to have solo careers.[29] The record went Gold and its singles, "Player's Anthem" and "Get Money" both featuring Wallace, went Gold and Platinum. Wallace continued to work with R&B artists, collaborating with R&B groups 112 (on "Only You") and Total (on "Can't You See"), with both reaching the top 20 of the Hot 100. By the end of the year, Wallace was the top-selling male solo artist and rapper on the U.S. pop and R&B charts.[3] In July 1995, he appeared on the cover of The Source with the caption "The King of New York Takes Over", a reference to his Frank White alias from the 1990 film King of New York. At the Source Awards in August 1995, he was named Best New Artist (Solo), Lyricist of the Year, Live Performer of the Year, and his debut Album of the Year.[30] At the Billboard Awards, he was Rap Artist of the Year.[13]

In his year of success, Wallace became involved in a rivalry between the East and West Coast hip hop scenes with Tupac Shakur, his former friend and associate. In an interview with Vibe in April 1995, while serving time in Clinton Correctional Facility, Shakur accused Uptown Records' founder Andre Harrell, Sean Combs, and Wallace of having prior knowledge of a robbery that resulted in him being shot five times and losing thousands of dollars worth of jewelry on the night of November 30, 1994. Though Wallace and his entourage were in the same Manhattan-based recording studio at the time of the shooting, they denied the accusation.[31] Wallace said: "It just happened to be a coincidence that he [Shakur] was in the studio. He just, he couldn't really say who really had something to do with it at the time. So he just kinda' leaned the blame on me."[32] In 2012, a man named Dexter Isaac, serving a life sentence for unrelated crimes, claimed that he attacked Shakur that night and that the robbery was orchestrated by James Rosemond aka Jimmy Henchman.[33]

Following his release from prison, Shakur signed to Death Row Records on October 15, 1995. Bad Boy Records and Death Row, now business rivals, became involved in an intense quarrel.[34]

1996: More arrests, Tupac Shakur's death and second child

Wallace began recording his second studio album in September 1995. The album, recorded in New York, Trinidad and Los Angeles, was interrupted during its 18 months of creation by injury, legal wranglings and the highly publicized hip hop dispute in which he was involved.[35] During this time, he also worked with R&B/pop singer Michael Jackson for the HIStory album.[36] Lil' Cease claimed in 2013 that Wallace denied his wishes to meet Jackson, citing that he did not "trust Michael with kids".[37]

On March 23, 1996, Wallace was arrested outside a Manhattan nightclub for chasing and threatening to kill two autograph seekers, smashing the windows of their taxicab and then pulling one of the fans out and punching them.[13] He pleaded guilty to second-degree harassment and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service. In mid-1996, he was arrested at his home in Teaneck, New Jersey, for drug and weapons possession charges.[13]

In June 1996, Shakur released "Hit 'Em Up", a diss song in which he claimed to have had sex with Wallace's wife (at the time estranged) and that Wallace copied his style and image. Wallace referred to the first claim about his wife's pregnancy on Jay-Z's "Brooklyn's Finest" where he raps: "If Faye (Faith Evans, his wife at the time) have twins, she'd probably have two 'Pacs. Get it? 2Pac's?". However, Wallace did not directly respond to the record during his lifetime, stating in a 1997 radio interview that it was "not [his] style" to respond.[32]

Shakur was shot multiple times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on September 7, 1996, and died six days later on September 13, 1996 of complications from the gunshot wounds. Rumors of Wallace's involvement with Shakur's murder were reported almost immediately. A two-part series Chuck Philips wrote for the Los Angeles Times in 2002, "Who Killed Tupac Shakur?", based on police reports and multiple sources reported that "the shooting was carried out by a Compton gang called the Southside Crips to avenge the beating of one of its members by Shakur a few hours earlier" and that Wallace paid for the gun.[38][39] His family publicly denied the report.[40] producing documents purporting to show that the rapper was in New York and New Jersey at the time. The New York Times called the documents inconclusive stating:

The pages purport to be three computer printouts from Daddy's House, indicating that Wallace was in the studio recording a song called Nasty Boy on the afternoon Shakur was shot. They indicate that Wallace wrote half the session, was In and out/sat around and laid down a ref, shorthand for a reference vocal, the equivalent of a first take.But nothing indicates when the documents were created. And Louis Alfred, the recording engineer listed on the sheets, said in an interview that he remembered recording the song with Wallace in a late-night session, not during the day. He could not recall the date of the session but said it was likely not the night Shakur was shot. We would have heard about it, Mr. Alfred said."[41]

Moreover, Philips' article was based on multiple sources. As the Assistant Managing Editor of the LA Times Mark Duvoisin wrote: "Philips' story has withstood all challenges to its accuracy, ...[and] remains the definitive account of the Shakur slaying."[42] Faith Evans remembered her husband calling her the night of Shakur's death and crying due to him being in shock. Evans added, "I think it’s fair to say he was probably afraid, given everything that was going on at that time and all the hype that was put on this so-called beef that he didn’t really have in his heart against anyone." Wayne Barrow, Wallace's co-manager at the time, said Wallace was recording the song "Nasty Girl" the night Shakur was shot.[43]

On October 29, 1996, Faith Evans gave birth to Wallace's son, Christopher "C.J." Wallace, Jr.[18] The following month, Junior M.A.F.I.A. member Lil' Kim released her debut album, Hard Core, under Wallace's direction while the two were having a "love affair".[3] Lil' Kim recalled being Wallace's "biggest fan" and her being "his pride and joy."[44] In a 2012 interview, Lil' Kim said Wallace prevented her from doing a remix of the Jodeci single "Love U 4 Life" by locking her in a room and according to her, Wallace stated that she was not "gonna go do no song with them."[45]

1997: Life After Death and car accident

During the recording sessions for his second album, tentatively named "Life After Death... 'Til Death Do Us Part", later shortened to Life After Death, Wallace was involved in a car accident that shattered his left leg and temporarily confined him to a wheelchair.[3] The injury forced him to use a cane.[31]

In January 1997, Wallace was ordered to pay US$41,000 in damages following an incident involving a friend of a concert promoter who claimed Wallace and his entourage beat him up following a dispute in May 1995.[46] He faced criminal assault charges for the incident which remains unresolved, but all robbery charges were dropped.[13] Following the events of the previous year, Wallace spoke of a desire to focus on his "peace of mind". "My mom... my son... my daughter... my family... my friends are what matters to me now".[47]

Death

March 1997 shooting

Composite sketch of the suspect in the shooting.

Wallace traveled to Los Angeles, California in February 1997, to promote his upcoming second studio album and film a music video for its lead single, "Hypnotize". On March 5, 1997, he gave a radio interview with The Dog House on KYLD in San Francisco. In the interview he stated that he had hired security since he feared for his safety, not just because of the ongoing East Coast–West Coast feud, but because of his role as a high profile celebrity in general.[48] Life After Death was scheduled for release on March 25, 1997. On March 8, 1997, he presented an award to Toni Braxton at the 1997 Soul Train Music Awards in Los Angeles and was booed by some of the audience.[31] After the ceremony, Wallace attended an after party hosted by Vibe magazine and Qwest Records at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.[31] Other guests included Faith Evans, Aaliyah, Sean Combs, and members of the Bloods and Crips gangs.[11]

On March 9, 1997, at around 12:30 a.m. (PST), Wallace left with his entourage in two GMC Suburbans to return to his hotel after the Fire Department closed the party early because of overcrowding.[49] Wallace traveled in the front passenger seat alongside his associates, Damion "D-Roc" Butler, Junior M.A.F.I.A. member Lil' Cease and driver, Gregory "G-Money" Young. Combs traveled in the other vehicle with three bodyguards. The two trucks were trailed by a Chevrolet Blazer carrying Bad Boy's director of security.[11]

By 12:45 a.m. (PST), the streets were crowded with people leaving the event. Wallace's SUV stopped at a red light at the corner of Wilshire Blvd & South Fairfax Ave[50] 50 yards (46 m) from the museum. A dark colored Chevrolet Impala SS pulled up alongside Wallace's SUV. The driver of the Impala, a black male dressed in a blue suit and bow tie, rolled down his window, drew a 9 mm blue-steel pistol and fired at the GMC Suburban; four bullets hit Wallace.[11] Wallace's entourage rushed him to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where doctors performed an emergency thoracotomy, but he was pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m. (PST).

His autopsy was released to the public in December 2012, over a decade after his death. According to the report, three of the four shots were not fatal. The first bullet hit in his left forearm and traveled down to his wrist; the second hit him in the back, missing all vital organs, and exited through his left shoulder; and the third hit his outer left thigh and left through his inner thigh. The report said that the third bullet struck "the left side of the scrotum, causing a very shallow, 38 inch [10 mm] linear laceration." The fourth bullet was fatal, entering through his right hip and striking several vital organs, before stopping in his left shoulder area. That bullet struck his colon, liver, heart and upper lobe of his left lung.[51]

Murder case

Wallace's murder remains unsolved and there are many theories regarding the identities and motives of the murderers. Immediately after the shooting, reports surfaced linking the Shakur and Wallace murders, because of the similarities in the drive-by shootings.[52] In 1997, Los Angeles Times authors Chuck Philips and Matt Laitt reported that the key suspect was a member of the Crips acting in service of a personal financial motive.[53]

A 2002 book by Randall Sullivan called Labyrinth compiled information about the murders of Wallace and Shakur based on information provided by retired LAPD detective Russell Poole.[11][54] In the book, Sullivan accused Marion "Suge" Knight, co-founder of Death Row Records and a known Bloods affiliate, of conspiring with David Mack, an LAPD officer (whom Sullivan alleged without evidence to be a Death Row employee), to kill Wallace and make Shakur's and Wallace's death appear the result of a bi-coastal rap rivalry.[55][56] The book stated that one of Mack's alleged associates, Amir Muhammad (although there was never evidence that Muhammad knew Mack), was the hitman. The theory was based on evidence provided by an informant (who later recanted),[57] and an alleged but unsupported resemblance of Muhammed to the facial composite.[55][56] Filmmaker Nick Broomfield released a documentary, Biggie & Tupac, based on information from the book.[54]

Broomfield's low-budget documentary on the deaths of Tupac and Biggie was as the New York Times described it, a "largely speculative" and "circumstantial" account relying on flimsy evidence, failing to "present counter-evidence" or "question sources."[41] Moreover, the motive suggested for the murder of Biggie in the Broomfield film—to decrease suspicion for the Shakur shooting six months earlier—was, as The New York Times put it, "unsupported in the film."[41]

An article published in Rolling Stone by Sullivan in December 2005 accused the LAPD of not fully investigating links with Death Row Records based on Poole's evidence. Sullivan claimed that Sean Combs "failed to fully cooperate with the investigation" and according to Poole, encouraged Bad Boy staff to do the same.[11] The accuracy of the article was later refuted in a letter by the Assistant Managing Editor of the LA Times accusing Sullivan of using "shoddy tactics." Sullivan, in response, quoted the lead attorney of the Wallace estate calling the newspaper "a co-conspirator in the cover-up."[58] In alluding to Randall Sullivan-Russell Poole theory that formed the basis of the Wallace family's dismissed 500 million dollar suit against the City of Los Angeles, The New York Times wrote: "A cottage industry of criminal speculation has sprung up around the case, with documentaries, books and a stream of lurid magazine articles implicating gangs, crooked cops and a cross-country rap rivalry,"[59] noting that everything associated with the death of the Notorious BIG had been "big business."

In connection with Randall Sullivan's assertion that the LA Times was involved in a cover-up conspiracy with the L.A.P.D., it is instructive to note that conflicting theories of the Wallace murder were offered in different sections of the Times. The Metro section of the Times wrote that police suspected a connection between the Notorious B.I.G's death and the Rampart Division police-corruption scandal consistent with Sullivan and Poole's theory.[60] The Metro section ran a photo of Amir Muhammad, identified by police as a mortgage broker unconnected to the murder who appeared to match details of the shooter, and the paper printed his name and driver's license. But Chuck Philips, a staff writer for the business section of The Times, who had been following the Wallace investigation and had not heard of the Rampart-Muhammad theory, searched for Muhammad whom the Metro reporters could not find for comment. It took Philips only three days to find Muhammad, who had a current ad for his mortgage broker business running in the Los Angeles Times. Muhammed who was not a suspect at the time came forward to clear his name. The Metro section of the paper was opposed to running a retraction. But the business desk editor Mark Saylor [61] said "Chuck is sort of the world's authority on rap violence" and pushed, along with Philips, for the paper to retract the article.[60]

The May 2000 Los Angeles Times correction article was written by Philips, who quoted Muhammad as asking, "I'm a mortgage broker, not a murderer" and asking, "How can something so completely false end up on the front page of a major newspaper?"[62] The story cleared Muhammad’s name.[60][63] A later 2005 story by Chuck Philips, showing that the main informant for the Poole/Sullivan theory of Biggie's murder, implicating Muhammed, David Mack, Suge Knight and the L.A.P.D in a conspiracy, was a schizophrenic with admitted memory lapses known as "Psycho Mike" who confessed to hearsay.[64] John Cook of Brill's Content noted that Philips' article "demolished" [63] the Poole-Sullvan theory of Biggie's murder.

In the book The Murder of Biggie Smalls, investigative journalist and author Cathy Scott suggested that Wallace and Shakur's murders might have been the result of the East Coast-West Coast feud and the financial gain for the record companies, because the rappers were worth more dead than alive.[65]

The criminal investigation into Smalls' murder was re-opened in July 2006 to look for new evidence to help the city defend the civil lawsuits brought by the Wallace family.[66][67]

Retired LAPD detective Greg Kading, who worked on the Biggie Smalls murder case for three years, alleges that the rapper was shot by Wardell Fouse (a.k.a Darnell Bolton and "Poochie"), an associate of Suge Knight, who was later killed in July 2003 after being shot in the back while riding his motorcycle. Kading believes Knight hired Poochie via his girlfriend "Theresa Swann" to kill Biggie to avenge the death of Tupac,[68] whom Kading alleges was killed under the orders of Sean Combs.[69]

In December 2012, the LAPD released the autopsy results conducted on Wallace's body, to generate new leads. The release was criticized by the long-time lawyer of his estate, Perry Sanders Jr., who objected to an autopsy.[70] The case remains officially unsolved.

Lawsuits

Wrongful death claim

In March 2005, the relatives of Wallace filed a wrongful death claim against the city of Los Angeles based on the evidence championed by Russell Poole.[56] They claimed the LAPD had sufficient evidence to arrest the assailant, but failed to use it. David Mack and Amir Muhammad (a.k.a. Harry Billups) were originally named as defendants in the civil suit, but were dropped shortly before the trial began after the LAPD and FBI dismissed them as suspects.[56]

The case came for trial before a jury on June 21, 2005. On the eve of the trial, a key witness who was expected to testify at trial, Kevin Hackie, revealed that he suffered memory lapses due to psychiatric medications. He had previously testified to knowledge of involvement between Suge Knight, David Mack, and Amir Muhammed but later said that the Wallace attorneys had altered his declarations to include words he never said. Hackie took full blame for filing a false declaration.[57] Several days into the trial, the plaintiffs' attorney disclosed to the Court and opposing counsel that he had received a telephone call from someone claiming to be a LAPD officer and provided detailed information about the existence of evidence concerning the Wallace murder. The court directed the city to conduct a thorough investigation, which uncovered previously undisclosed evidence, much of which was in the desk or cabinet of Det. Steven Katz, the lead detective in the Wallace murder investigation. The documents centered around interviews by numerous police officers of an incarcerated informant, who had been Rafael Perez's cellmate for some extended period of time. He reported that Perez had told him about his and Mack's involvement with Death Row Records and their activities at the Peterson Automotive Museum the night of Wallace's murder. As a result of the newly discovered evidence, the judge declared a mistrial and awarded the Wallace family its attorneys' fees.[71]

On April 16, 2007, relatives of Wallace filed a second wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles. The suit also named two LAPD officers in the center of the investigation into the Rampart scandal, Rafael Perez and Nino Durden. According to the claim, Perez, an alleged affiliate of Death Row Records, admitted to LAPD officials that he and Mack (who was not named in the lawsuit) "conspired to murder, and participated in the murder of Christopher Wallace". The Wallace family said the LAPD "consciously concealed Rafael Perez's involvement in the murder of ... Wallace".[72]

United States District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper granted summary judgment to the city of Los Angeles on December 17, 2007, finding that the Wallace family had not complied with a California law that required the family to give notice of its claim to the State within six months of Wallace's death.[73] The Wallace family refiled the suit, dropping the state law claims on May 27, 2008.[74]

The Wallace suit against the city of Los Angeles was finally dismissed in 2010. It was described by the New YorkTimes as "one of the longest running and most contentious celebrity cases in history."[59] "A cottage industry of criminal speculation has sprung up around the case, with documentaries, books and a stream of lurid magazine articles implicating gangs, crooked cops and a cross-country rap rivalry," noted New YorkTimes journalist Ben Sisario,[59] alluding to Russell Poole's and Randall Sullivan's theory and Nick Broomfield's documentary among others. The Wallace suit had asked for 500 million dollars from the City of LA. "Everything related to Notorious B.I.G. has been big business," said Sisario in his obituary on the suit.[59]

Defamation

On January 19, 2007, Tyruss Himes (better known as Big Syke), a friend of Shakur who was implicated in the murder by television channel KTTV and XXL magazine in 2005, had a defamation lawsuit regarding the accusations thrown out of court.[75]

Posthumous career

Sixteen days after his death, Wallace's double-disc second album was released as planned with the shortened title of Life After Death and hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts, after making a premature appearance at No. 176 due to street-date violations. The record album featured a much wider range of guests and producers than its predecessor.[76] It gained strong reviews and in 2000 was certified Diamond, the highest RIAA certification awarded to a solo hip hop album.

Its lead single, "Hypnotize", was the last music video recording in which Wallace would participate. His biggest chart success was with its follow-up "Mo Money Mo Problems", featuring Sean Combs (under the rap alias "Puff Daddy") and Mase. Both singles reached No. 1 in the Hot 100, making Wallace the first artist to achieve this feat posthumously.[3] The third single, "Sky's The Limit", featuring the band 112, was noted for its use of children in the music video, directed by Spike Jonze, who were used to portray Wallace and his contemporaries, including Sean Combs, Lil' Kim, and Busta Rhymes. Wallace was named Artist of the Year and "Hypnotize" Single of the Year by Spin magazine in December 1997.[77]

In mid-1997, Combs released his debut album, No Way Out, which featured Wallace on five songs, notably on the third single "Victory". The most prominent single from the record album was "I'll Be Missing You", featuring Combs, Faith Evans and 112, which was dedicated to Wallace's memory. At the 1998 Grammy Awards, Life After Death and its first two singles received nominations in the rap category. The album award was won by Combs' No Way Out and "I'll Be Missing You" won the award in the category of Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group in which "Mo Money Mo Problems" was nominated.[78]

Wallace had founded a hip hop supergroup called The Commission, which consisted of Jay-Z, Lil' Cease, Combs, Charli Baltimore and himself. The Commission was mentioned by Wallace in the lyrics of "What's Beef" on Life After Death and "Victory" from No Way Out but never completed an album. A song on Duets: The Final Chapter titled "Whatchu Want (The Commission)" featuring Jay-Z was based on the group.

In December 1999, Bad Boy released Born Again. The album consisted of previously unreleased material mixed with guest appearances including many artists Wallace had never collaborated with in his lifetime. It gained some positive reviews but received criticism for its unlikely pairings; The Source describing it as "compiling some of the most awkward collaborations of his career".[79] Nevertheless, the album sold 2 million copies. Wallace appeared on Michael Jackson's 2001 album, Invincible. Over the course of time, his vocals were heard on hit songs such as "Foolish" by Ashanti and "Realest Niggas" in 2002, and the song "Runnin' (Dying to Live)" with Shakur the following year. In 2005, Duets: The Final Chapter continued the pattern started on Born Again, criticized for the lack of significant vocals by Wallace on some of its songs.[80][81] Its lead single "Nasty Girl" became Wallace's first UK No. 1 single. Combs and Voletta Wallace have stated the album will be the last release primarily featuring new material.[82]

Musical style

Wallace, accompanied by ad libs from Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, uses onomatopoeic vocables and multi-syllabic rhymes on his 1995 collaboration with R&B group, 112.

Wallace tells vivid stories about his everyday life as a criminal in Brooklyn (from Life After Death).

On this track, Wallace, accompanied by, at the time, fellow Bad Boy label men Mase and founder Sean Combs, talks about anxiety and the pressures of fame.

Problems playing these files? See media help.

Wallace mostly rapped on his songs in a deep tone described by Rolling Stone as a "thick, jaunty grumble",[83] which went deeper on Life After Death.[84] He was often accompanied on songs with ad libs from Sean "Puffy" Combs. On The Source '​s Unsigned Hype, his style was described as "cool, nasal, and filtered, to bless his own material".[85]

Allmusic describe Wallace as having "a talent for piling multiple rhymes on top of one another in quick succession".[5] Time magazine wrote Wallace rapped with an ability to "make multi-syllabic rhymes sound... smooth",[28] while Krims describes Wallace's rhythmic style as "effusive."[86] Before starting a verse, Wallace sometimes used onomatopoeic vocables to "warm up" (for example "uhhh" at the beginning of "Hypnotize" and "Big Poppa" and "whaat" after certain rhymes in songs such as "My Downfall").[87]

Lateef of Latyrx notes that Wallace had, "intense and complex flows",[88] Fredro Starr of Onyx says, "Biggie was a master of the flow",[89] and Bishop Lamont states that Wallace mastered "all the hemispheres of the music".[90] "Notorious B.I.G. also often used the single-line rhyme scheme to add variety and interest to his flow".[88] Big Daddy Kane suggests that Wallace didn't need a large vocabulary to impress listeners – "he just put his words together a slick way and it worked real good for him".[91] Wallace was known to compose lyrics in his head, rather than write them down on paper, in a similar way to Jay-Z.[92][93]

Wallace would occasionally vary from his usual style. On "Playa Hater" from his second album, he sang in a slow-falsetto.[94] On his collaboration with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, "Notorious Thugs", he modified his style to match the rapid rhyme flow of the group.

Themes and lyrical content

Wallace's lyrical topics and themes included mafioso tales ("Niggas Bleed"), his drug dealing past ("10 Crack Commandments"), materialistic bragging ("Hypnotize"), as well as humor ("Just Playing (Dreams)"),[95] and romance ("Me & My Bitch").[95] Rolling Stone named Wallace in 2004 as "one of the few young male songwriters in any pop style writing credible love songs".[84]

Guerilla Black, in the book How to Rap, describes how Wallace was able to both "glorify the upper echelon"[96] and "[make] you feel his struggle".[97] According to Touré of The New York Times in 1994, Wallace's lyrics "[mixed] autobiographical details about crime and violence with emotional honesty".[12] Marriott of The New York Times (in 1997) believed his lyrics were not strictly autobiographical and wrote he "had a knack for exaggeration that increased sales".[13] Wallace described his debut as "a big pie, with each slice indicating a different point in my life involving bitches and niggaz... from the beginning to the end".[98]

Ready to Die is described by Rolling Stone as a contrast of "bleak" street visions and being "full of high-spirited fun, bringing the pleasure principle back to hip-hop".[84] Allmusic write of "a sense of doom" in some of his songs and the NY Times note some being "laced with paranoia";[5][99] Wallace described himself as feeling "broke and depressed" when he made his debut.[99] The final song on the album, "Suicidal Thoughts", featured Wallace contemplating suicide and concluded with him committing the act.

On Life After Death, Wallace's lyrics went "deeper".[84] Krims explains how upbeat, dance-oriented tracks (which featured less heavily on his debut) alternate with "reality rap" songs on the record and suggests that he was "going pimp" through some of the lyrical topics of the former.[86] XXL magazine wrote that Wallace "revamped his image" through the portrayal of himself between the albums, going from "midlevel hustler" on his debut to "drug lord".[100]

Allmusic wrote that the success of Ready to Die is "mostly due to Wallace's skill as a storyteller";[5] in 1994, Rolling Stone described Wallace's ability in this technique as painting "a sonic picture so vibrant that you're transported right to the scene".[27] On Life After Death Wallace notably demonstrated this skill on "I Got a Story to Tell", creating a story as a rap for the first half of the song and then retelling the same story "for his boys" in conversation form.[94]

Legacy

Considered one of the best artists in hip hop music, Wallace was described by Allmusic as "the savior of East Coast hip-hop".[3] The Source Magazine named Wallace the greatest rapper of all time in its 150th issue in 2002.[101][102] In 2003, when XXL magazine asked several hip hop artists to list their five favorite MCs, Wallace's name appeared on more rappers' lists than anyone else. In 2006, MTV ranked him at No. 3 on their list of The Greatest MCs of All Time, calling him possibly "the most skillful ever on the mic".[103] Editors of About.com ranked him No. 4 on their list of the Top 50 MCs of Our Time (1987–2007).[104] In 2012, The Source ranked him No. 3 on their list of the Top 50 Lyrical Leaders of all time.[105] Rolling Stone has referred to him as the "greatest rapper that ever lived".[106]

Since his death, Wallace's lyrics have been sampled and quoted by a variety of hip hop, R&B and pop artists including Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Alicia Keys, Fat Joe, Nelly, Ja Rule, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Game, Clinton Sparks, Michael Jackson and Usher. On August 28, 2005, at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards, Sean Combs (then using the rap alias "P. Diddy") and Snoop Dogg paid tribute to Wallace: an orchestra played while the vocals from "Juicy" and "Warning" played on the arena speakers.[107] In September 2005, VH1 held its second annual "Hip Hop Honors", with a tribute to Wallace headlining the show.[108]

Wallace had begun to promote a clothing line called Brooklyn Mint, which was to produce plus-sized clothing but fell dormant after he died. In 2004, his managers, Mark Pitts and Wayne Barrow, launched the clothing line, with help from Jay-Z, selling T-shirts with images of Wallace on them. A portion of the proceeds go to the Christopher Wallace Foundation and to Jay-Z's Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation.[109] In 2005, Voletta Wallace hired branding and licensing agency Wicked Cow Entertainment to guide the estate's licensing efforts.[110] Wallace-branded products on the market include action figures, blankets, and cell phone content.[111]

The Christopher Wallace Memorial Foundation holds an annual black-tie dinner ("B.I.G. Night Out") to raise funds for children's school equipment and supplies and to honor the memory of the late rapper. For this particular event, because it is a children's schools' charity, "B.I.G." is also said to stand for "Books Instead of Guns".[112]

There is an oversize portrait mural of Wallace as Che Guevara on Fulton Street in Brooklyn a half mile west from the star's old block.[113] A fan petitioned to have the corner of Fulton Street and St. James Place, near Wallace's childhood home renamed in his honor, garnering support from local businesses and attracting more than 560 signatures.[113] The Notorious B.I.G's children C.J and Ty'anna are set to star in an animated series called House of Wallace.[114]

Biopic

Notorious is a 2009 biographical film about Wallace and his life that starred rapper Jamal "Gravy" Woolard as Wallace. The film was directed by George Tillman, Jr. and distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Producers included Sean "Diddy" Combs, Wallace's former managers Wayne Barrow and Mark Pitts, as well as Voletta Wallace.[115] On January 16, 2009, the movie's debut at the Grand 18 theater in Greensboro, North Carolina was postponed after a man was shot in the parking lot before the show.[116] The film grossed over $44,000,000 worldwide.[117]

In early October 2007, open casting calls for the role of Wallace began.[118] Actors, rappers and unknowns all tried out. Beanie Sigel auditioned[119] for the role, but was not picked. Sean Kingston claimed that he would play the role of Wallace, but producers denied it.[120] Eventually it was announced that rapper Jamal "Gravy" Woolard was chosen to play Wallace[121] while Wallace's son, Christopher Wallace, Jr. was cast to play Wallace as a child.[122] Other cast members include Angela Bassett as Voletta Wallace, Derek Luke as Sean Combs, Antonique Smith as Faith Evans, Naturi Naughton formerly of 3LW as Lil' Kim, and Anthony Mackie as Tupac Shakur.[123] Bad Boy released a soundtrack album to the film on January 13, 2009; the album contains hit singles of B.I.G. such as "Hypnotize", "Juicy", and "Warning" as well as rarities.[124]

Discography

Awards and nominations

The Notorious B.I.G. awards and nominations
Awards and nominations
Award Wins Nominations
Billboard Music Awards
2 2
Grammy Awards
0 4
MTV Video Music Awards
1 2
Soul Train Music Awards
1 3
Totals
Awards won 4
Nominations 11

Wallace received two nominations from the Billboard Music Awards in 1995, including Rap Artist of the Year and Rap Single of the Year. The song "Mo Money Mo Problems" received several nominations in 1998, 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. Overall, Wallace has received four awards from eleven nominations; one award and six nominations were received posthumously.

Billboard Music Awards

The Billboard Music Awards is sponsored by Billboard magazine and held annually in December.[125][126]

Year Recipient Award Result
1995 The Notorious B.I.G. Rap Artist of the Year Won
"One More Chance" Rap Single of the Year Won

Grammy Awards

The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States.[125][127][128]

Year Recipient Award Result
1996 "Big Poppa" Best Rap Solo Performance Nominated
1998 "Hypnotize" Best Rap Solo Performance Nominated
"Mo Money Mo Problems" (with Mase and Puff Daddy) Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group Nominated
Life After Death Best Rap Album Nominated

MTV Video Music Awards

The MTV Video Music Awards is an annual awards ceremony established in 1984 by MTV.[125][129][130]

Year Recipient Award Result
1997 "Hypnotize" Best Rap Video Won
1998 "Mo Money Mo Problems" (with Mase and Puff Daddy) Best Rap Video Nominated

Soul Train Music Awards

The Soul Train Music Awards is an annual awards show that honors black musicians and entertainers.[125][131]

Year Recipient Award Result
1998 Life After Death Best R&B/Soul Album, Male Won
"Mo Money Mo Problems" (with Mase and Puff Daddy) Best R&B/Soul Album Nominated
Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video Nominated

The Source Awards

The Source Awards were awarded by hip hop magazine The Source.[132][133]

Year Recipient Award Result
1995 The Notorious B.I.G. New Artist of the Year, Solo Won
Ready to Die Album of the Year Won
The Notorious B.I.G. Lyricist of the Year Won
The Notorious B.I.G. Live Performer of the Year Won

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Further reading

  • Coker, Cheo Hodari (2004). Unbelievable: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of the Notorious B.I.G. New York: Three Rivers Press. ISBN 0-609-80835-4. 
  • Wallace, Voletta; McKenzie, Tremell and Evans, Faith (foreword) (2005). Biggie: Voletta Wallace Remembers Her Son, Christopher Wallace, aka Notorious B.I.G. Atria. ISBN 0-7434-7020-6. 

External links