Fifteen years ago today, hip-hop lost one of its most-towering and talented figures in Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace. The tragic murder of the Brooklyn-raised rhyme slinger in Los Angeles still remains an unsolved mystery, even as FBI investigations had a major breakthrough in the case by way of an inmate’s confession last summer.
Biggie Smalls, as he was also called, and his feud with West Coast mainstay Tupac “2Pac” Shakur has long been speculated on as the impetus behind why both men perished violently.
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Born in New York May 21, 1972, to Jamaican-born parents, Biggie’s early days were spent in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn. A reported honors student, Biggie would later transfer out of private school and later move to a tech high school that both Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes attended. During this time, Biggie fell in to a life of crime and drug dealing, hiding his lifestyle from his mother, Voletta.
Biggie was a prodigious rapper, developing the skill as a teenager but never taking it seriously. After being released from jail on cocaine charges, he released a demo that made its way into the hands of DJ Mister Cee, which eventually found its way to the editor’s desk of The Source magazine. Once he appeared in the magazine’s “Unsigned Hype” column, he made an updated demo that was later discovered by Sean “Diddy” Combs, then an employee of Uptown Records, who signed Biggie immediately.
Diddy’s post at Uptown Records ended in 1992, and he went on start his Bad Boy label, bringing Biggie along. The rapper was still dabbling in drugs but eventually let the streets go in favor of his rap career. Biggie released two well-received studio projects under the moniker Notorious B.I.G. (for legal reasons) before his passing. His Bad Boy debut, “Ready To Die,” in September of 1994 also marked the first album released by Combs’ label. The album spawned the smash hits “Juicy,” “Big Poppa,” and “One More Chance.”
Now a star, B.I.G.’s platform was expanded and gave way for him to oversee the release of his crew’s, Junior M.A.F.I.A., album, which featured longtime friends Lil’ Kim and Lil’ Cease. Around the same time, in 1995, 2Pac accused Combs and Biggie of setting him up for a robbery and a shooting in a New York recording studio. Formerly friendly, Pac and Biggie would be forever linked by their war of words.
Many believed it was their bicoastal feud that led to their untimely deaths. In November of 1996, 2Pac was shot in a drive-by in Las Vegas, later dying of the wounds, and just six months later, B.I.G.’s shooting was eerily similar.
While attending an after-party around the time of the Soul Train Music Awards, B.I.G. and his security entourage were stopped at a lot, when a vehicle pulled alongside his SUV and fired shots at Wallace. Despite his team getting him to a nearby hospital, Wallace was declared dead shortly after. Later that month, Wallace’s double album, “Life After Death,” was released posthumously, going diamond (10 million sold), according to the RIAA.
Biggie Smalls deep baritone and expert command of flow has been imitated by many but never replicated with the skill he possessed. His ability to paint haunting narratives with the descriptive flair of a best-selling novelist, Biggie’s legacy remains intact. The Notorious B.I.G.’s name is firmly housed within the annals of hip-hop history.
Rest In Peace, Biggie Smalls. You were the illest.