The Notorious B.I.G.

  • Rapper born Christopher Latore Wallace in 1972 from New York City. Died in 1997 from gunshot wounds, at the age of 24. He was also known as Biggie Smalls or just Biggie.
  • Wallace was an excellent student in middle school, winning several awards in English. By the age of 10, he was given the nickname “Big” because he was overweight. His father left the family when he was 2, and his mother worked multiple jobs to make ends meet, so he often was alone, and by the age of 12, he started to deal in drugs. He began to rap on the streets to entertain others. He attended the same high school as fellow rappers DMX, Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes, but he dropped out at 17, and got deeper into drug dealing. He was arrested multiple times – his arrest in 1991 for dealing crack landed him in jail for 9 months before he made bail.
  • After he was released from jail, he made a demo tape called Microphone Murderer, using the name Biggie Smalls (referencing a character by that name in the 1975 film Let’s Do It Again). He had no serious plans to get a record deal, but the tape was heard by several New York outlets, and eventually it came to the attention of Sean Combs (aka Puff Daddy). Combs met with Wallace and signed him immediately to a recording contract in mid-1992.
  • Later in 1992, he collaborated with Mary J. Blige on a hip hop version of her single Real Love – he now was using the name The Notorious B.I.G., since the actor that played the role of Biggie Smalls in the movie Let’s Do It Again threatened to sue Wallace if he continued to use the name. In 1993, he collaborated with several other rappers, and he released his first single, Party and Bullshit, from the film Who’s the Man?
  • His break came with the release of his debut album, Ready to Die, in September 1994. The album was certified 6x platinum. The first single from the album, Juicy, reached #3 on the Rap Chart, and the follow-up single, Big Poppa, topped the chart, and peaked at #6 on the Hot 100 chart.
  • In 1995, he released the single One More Chance (Stay With Me Remix), with his wife Faith Evans contributing vocals on the song. It entered the Hot 100 at #5 – at the time, it tied the record for the highest debuting single of all time. Ultimately, it reached #2 on the Hot 100, and #1 on the Rap Chart, and it was Rap Single of the Year at the Billboard Music Awards in 1995. He was named Rap Artist of the Year at the same ceremony.
  • The Notorious B.I.G.’s success shifted attention in the hip hop world to so-called “East Coast Hip Hop,” and away from “West Coast Hip Hop.” This led to a rivalry between characters involved in the genre on both coasts, and in particular, West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur. In June 1996, Shakur released the song Hit ‘Em Up – the lyrics include a claim that Shakur had sex with Faith Evans and that The Notorious B.I.G. had copied Shakur’s style and image.
  • The Notorious B.I.G. recorded his second studio album over an 18 month period. The recording took so long in part because of his several arrests during this time – he was arrested for threatening to kill 2 fans that asked for his autograph, and he also was arrested for drug and weapon charges. He also was in a car accident, spending several months confined to a wheelchair.
  • In September 1996, Shakur was murdered, and there were rumors that Wallace was involved. Early in the morning on March 9, 1997, after a post-awards ceremony party ended, Wallace and his entourage were at a stop light when a car stopped alongside Wallace’s SUV. A black man in a blue suit and bow tie opened fire on the SUV – 4 bullets struck Wallace, and he was pronounced dead 30 minutes later.
  • Sixteen days after his death, his new album, Life After Death, was released. It reached #1 on the album chart, and by 2000, it had achieved diamond status – only of only 10 hip hop albums that have been certified diamond. Two singles from the album reached #1 on the Hot 100 chart – Hypnotize and Mo Money Mo Problems. A third single, Sky’s The Limit, reached #1 on the Rap Chart. Also after Wallace’s death, 2 singles from Puff Daddy that had The Notorious B.I.G. as a featured artist reached #2 on the Hot 100 – Been Around the World and It’s All About the Benjamins. 
  • At the 1998 Grammy awards, The Notorious B.I.G. was nominated for 3 awards, including Best Rap Performance. Winning the award that year was Sean Combs’ I’ll Be Missing You, a tribute song to the memory of Wallace.
  • Three posthumous albums have been released – Born Again in 1999 topped the Billboard 200 album chart and sold over 2 million copies in the U.S. 2005’s Duets: The Final Chapter also is certified Platinum. The most recent album, The King & I, a collaborative album by Faith Evans and The Notorious B.I.G., was released in 2017.
  • In the rap world, The Notorious B.I.G. is considered among the greatest.  Hip hop magazine and website The Source named him the greatest of all time in 2002. Rolling Stone has referred to him as the greatest rapper of all time, and Billboard named him the greatest in 2015. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2020. Here’s the last video that he filmed – the entertaining Hypnotize. Like hip hop? Watch the vid!

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