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Notorious B.I.G. 1972–1997

Notorious B.I.G. 19721997

Rap artist

Released Ready to Die

Friendship Turned to Deadly Rivalry

A Targeted Hit

Selected discography

Sources

Notorious B.I.G. fully embodied the gangsta life he portrayed on his rap albums. A former crack dealer and convict, B.I.G. rapped his way to a better life only to lose that life to the street violence he could not leave behind. At age 24 he became the victim of a drive-by shootingthe second death connected to a purported deadly feud between rap musics East Coast and West Coast factions which had claimed the life of rapper Tupac Shakur only months before. B.I.G.s death cut short a career that promised to propel him into the upper echelons of the music business. His posthumous second albumironically and prophetically titled Life After Death Til Death Do Us Part confirmed that the heavyweight rapper had the potential to be big on the music charts.

Notorious B.I.G., born Christopher Wallace, was the only child of Voletta Wallace, a preschool teacher who raised him alone in the tough Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Although he was described as a shy, overweight youngster, Christopher Wallace soon took on the hardened mentality of the gang members around him and began dealing drugs under the street name Biggie Smalls. He never finished high school and, at age 17, was arrested on drug charges in North Carolina and spent nine months in jail. Even after finding success in the music industry, B.I.G. continued to run afoul of the law. In 1995, he was arrested in New York and charged with assault after he allegedly chased two people with a baseball bat and smashed the window of their cab. He was twice arrested in New Jerseyfirst for allegedly robbing and assaulting a man, then on drug and weapons charges. In the rap world, these incidents established his credibility as someone well-acquainted with the streets but B.I.G. understood the dangers of living out the life he rapped about. In 1994, after the release of his first album, he told the Chicago Tribune that he was scared to death. Scared of getting my brains blown out. B.I.G. moved out of his Brooklyn neighborhood to a safer locale in New Jersey.

Released Ready to Die

B.I.G. shook the music world with his debut album, Ready to Die, an unflinching portrayal of the despair experienced daily in much of urban America. The album

At a Glance

Born Christopher G. Wallace, in Brooklyn, New York; shot to death March 9, 1997, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Voletta Wallace; married Faith Evans (a singer); children: TYanna, Christopher, Jr, Known by the street name Biggie Smalls and the stage name Notorious B.I.G.

Career: Rapper, Albums: Ready to Die, 1994; Ufe After Death Til Death Do Us Part, 1997. Guest appearance on Martin, Fox-TV.

Awards: Billboard Award, Rap Artist of the Year, 1995.

detailed drug sales, sex, violence, incarceration, and death, much of which was drawn from his own life. I cant say Im proud of dealing drugs, B.I.G. once said. But you do what you can to survive in the hood. Live in the real bad part of the hood for a while and youll see how desperate it can make you, he continued. B.I.G. drew on that desperation and his law-breaking past in his songs, in which he matter-of-factly described himself as a former drug dealer and stickup man who had turned to rapping, Jon Parales wrote in the New York Times He recalled the mundane details of bagging, transporting and selling drugs; he boasted about sexual conquests and mourned a murdered girlfriend. After transporting listeners through a brutal urban landscape, the album closes with the death of its rapping narrator who takes his own life. The Los Angeles Times said the album was jolting and uncompromising and called B.I.G. one of (rap) musics most talented and promising voices. He was named Rap Artist of the Year at the Billboard Awards in 1995 and cited as Rap Singer of the Year for the song One More Chance.

Friendship Turned to Deadly Rivalry

B.I.G. was the protégé of Sean Puffy Combs, head of the New York City record company Bad Boy Entertainment. When B.I.G first appeared on the scene, he hung around with Tupac Shakur. The two rappers once shared a friendship, but it had evolved into a bitter rivalry. Shakur accused B.I.G. of copying his musical style and being involved in a 1994 incident in which Shakur was robbed and shot. B.I.G. made references to Shakur in his music and Shakur rapped back that he had had sex with B.I.Gs wife, rhythm and blues vocalist Faith Evans. The rivalry grew and expanded including Combs and Deathrow CEO Marion Suge Knight, rap groups Mobb Deep, The Dogg Pound, Junior M.A.F.I.A. and fans of the two rap artists. In September of 1996, Shakur was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. The media immediately picked up on the rift between B.I.G. and Shakur as a possible motive for murder but the speculation regarding B.I.G.s involvement in the slaying did not result in any arrests.

A Targeted Hit

B.I.G. was sitting in the passenger side of his GMC Suburban following a music industry party in Los Angeles shortly after midnight on March 9, 1997, listening to a tape of his second album which was to be released in two weeks. A dark-colored carwhich police believe had been waiting for the rapperpulled up beside the Suburban. Several shots from a nine-millimeter handgun were fired into B.I.G.s upper body before the car raced away. Notorious B.I.G. was pronounced dead when his body arrived at Los Angeless Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The way it went down, said a police official, it was a targeted hit. Police and music industry insiders quickly speculated that B.I.G.s murder may have been a retaliation killing for the death of Shakur. But in spite of the very public nature of the murder, committed in front of dozens of witnesses that included several off-duty police officers who were acting as security guards, there were no arrests in the case and the investigation seemed permanently stalled. Family and friends of B.I.G. accused the police of dragging their feet because the death of a young black man does not take high priority. The death of Tupac Shakur has likewise been unsolved. The deaths of Shakur and (B.I.G.) have forced official America to peer into the world of the leading rappers, who have made millions and surrounded themselves with armed heavies, wrote a London Times contributor. In 1998, Vibe magazine reported that Orlando Anderson, who was a suspect in Shakurs murder, was also questioned in B.I.G.s murder. The car used in B.I.G.s drive-by shooting had been found and belonged to Andersons cousin. Anderson had reportedly also been at the same industry party as B.I.G. Orlando Anderson was murdered in a shooting unrelated to both Shakurs and B.I.G.s murders.

B.I.G. commented on the day before his death that he wanted to see my kids get old, a wish that was to go unfulfilled. B.I.G.s funeral attracted raps elite and drew hordes of fans onto Brooklyn streets to honor the rap star buried in a white double-breasted suit in an extra-large mahogany casket. At the time of his death, B.I.G. was separated from his wife, singer Faith Evans. He and Evans had a son, also named Christopher, and B.I.G had a 4-year-old daughter, Tyanna, from a previous relationship. Two weeks before his death, according to the Los Angeles Times, B.I.G. was fatalistically quoted as saying: Theres nothing that protects you from the inevitable. If its gonna happen, its gonna happen, no matter what you do. It doesnt matter if you clean your life up and live it differently. What goes around comes around, man.

Selected discography

Ready to Die, Bad Boy Entertainment, 1994.

Life After Death Til Death Do Us Part, Bad Boy Entertainment, 1997.

Sources

Associated Press, March 10, 1997.

Facts on File, March 13, 1997, p. 170.

London Times, March 11, 1997.

Los Angeles Times, March 10, 1997, p. A1; March 11, 1997, p. B1; March 19, 1997, p. B1.

Newsweek, March 24, 1997, p. 74.

New York Times, March 10, 1997, p. A8.

People, March 24, 1997, p. 69; March 31, 1997, p.108.

Vibe, December/January 19971998; September 1998.

Dave Wilkins and Rebecca Parks

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Notorious B.I.G.

Notorious B.I.G.

Rap artist

For the Record

Coincidence or Premonition?

A Targeted Hit

Selected discography

Sources

Even in death, Notorious B.I.G. was bigger than life. His death at age 24the second drive-by slaying of a gangsta rapper in a sixmonth span-intensified a purported deadly feud between rap musics East Coast and West Coast factions. B.I.G.s funeralhe was buried in a white double-breasted suit and an extra-large mahogany casketattracted raps elite and drew hordes of fans onto Brooklyn streets. And his posthumous second albumironically and prophetically titled Life After Death Til Death Do Us Part confirmed that the heavyweight rapper had the potential to be big, indeed, on the music charts.

At the same time, he was a hard man to pin down. A former crack dealer and convict, BI.G. rapped his way to a better life only to lose that life to the street violence he could not leave behind. A big man, he was variously described as standing between 6-feet and 6-feet-3-inches tall and weighing between 230 and 380 pounds. Born Christopher Wallace, he used the street name Biggie Smalls and the stage name Notorious B.I.G. The product of a brutal environment, he commented on the

For the Record

Born Christopher G. Wallace, in Brooklyn, New York; shot to death March 9, 1997, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Voletta Wallace; married Faith Evans (a singer); children: Tyanna, Christopher.

Wallace was known by the street name Biggie Smalls and the stage name Notorious B.I.G.

Arrived on the music scene in 1994 with the debut album Ready to Die, which sold more than 1 million copies. B.I.G.s second album, titled Life After Death Til Death Do Us Part, was released shortly after his death.

Awards: Billboard Award, Rap Artist of the Year, 1995.

day before his death that he wanted to see my kids get old. That wish, however, went unfulfilled. One some level, B.I.G., seemed to know that the odds were against him escaping his violent past. In 1994, after the release of his first album, he told the Chicago Tribune that he was scared to death. Scared of getting my brains blown out.

Coincidence or Premonition?

B.I.G. shook the music world with that debut album, Ready to Die, an unflinching portrayal of the despair experienced daily in much of urban Americaand its brutal outcomes. The album detailed drug sales, sex, violence, incarceration, and death. The Los Angeles Times said the album was jolting and uncompromising and called B.I.G. one of (rap) musics most talented and promising voices. He was named Rap Artist of the Year at the Billboard Awards in 1995 and cited as Rap Singer of the Year for the song One More Chance. After transporting listeners through a brutal urban landscape, the album closes with the death of its rapping narratorwho takes his own life.

Notorious B.I.G.s music is perhaps equal parts fiction and autobiography. Before attaining fame, he was a small-time crack dealer in the tough Bedford-Stuyve-sant section of Brooklyn. He never finished high school and, at age 17, was arrested on drug charges in North Carolina and spent nine months in jail. In 1995, he was arrested in New York and charged with assault after he allegedly chased two people with a baseball bat and smashed the window of their cab. He was twice arrested in New Jerseyfirst for allegedly robbing and assaulting a man, then on drug and weapons charges. I cant say Im proud of dealing drugs, B.I.G. once said. But you do what you can to survive in the hood. Live in the real bad part of the hood for a while and youll see how desperate it can make you. B.I.G. drew on that desperation and his law-breaking past in his songs, in which he matter-of-factly described himself as a former drug dealer and stickup man who had turned to rapping, Jon Parales wrote in the New York Times. He recalled the mundane details of bagging, transporting and selling drugs; he boasted about sexual conquests and mourned a murdered girlfriend.

A Targeted Hit

B.I.G. was sitting in the passenger side of his GMC Suburban following a music industry party shortly after midnight on March 9, 1997. He was listening to a tape of his second album, which was to be released in two weeks. A dark-colored carwhich police believe had been waiting for the rapperpulled up beside the Suburban. Several shots from a nine-millimeter handgun were fired into B.I.G.s upper body; he was shot in the head at least once. Then the car raced away. Notorious B.I.G. was pronounced dead on arrival at Los Angeless Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The way it went down, said a police official, it was a targeted hit. Police and music industry insiders quickly speculated that B.I.G.s killing may have resulted from a volatile, vicious rift in the rap music worldconjecture that was not proven.

Notorious B.I.G. was produced by, and the protégé of, Sean Puffy Combs, head of the New York City record company Bad Boy Entertainment. Combs was the rival of producer Marion Suge Knight, owner of Death Row Records, a leading West Coast gangsta rap label. In September 1996, six months before B.I.G.s death, rapper Tupac Shakura Death Row recording artist with a promising future in filmswas gunned down in a similar drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. The two rappers once shared a friendship, but it had evolved into a bitter rivalry. Shakur accused B.I.G. of copying his musical style and being involved in a 1994 incident in which Shakur was robbed and shot repeatedly. B.I.G. taunted Shakur on the song called Who Shot Ya, and Shakur rapped back that he had had sex with B.I.Gs wife. The deaths of Shakur and (B.I.G.) have forced official America to peer into the world of the leading rappers, who have made millions and surrounded themselves with armed heavies, wrote a London Times contributor.

B.I.G. was the son of Voletta Wallace, a Brooklyn preschool teacher who named him Christopher and raised him alone. Christopher Wallace, its been said, was a shy, overweight youngster who became a crack dealerbefore morphing into Notorious B.I.G. and nearly leaving his harsh past behind by chronicling it on record. He did not make it, however. At the time of his death, B.I.G. was separated from his wife, singer Faith Evans. He and Evans had a son, also named Christopher, and B.I.G had a 4-year-old daughter, Tyanna, from a previous relationship. Two weeks before his death, according to the Los Angeles Times, B.I.G. was fatalistically quoted as saying: Theres nothing that protects you from the inevitable. If its gonna happen, its gonna happen, no matter what you do. It doesnt matter if you clean your life up and live it differently. What goes around comes around, man.

Selected discography

Ready to Die, Bad Boy Entertainment, 1994.

Life After Death Til Death Do Us Part, Bad Boy Entertainment, 1997.

Sources

Associated Press, March 10, 1997.

Facts on File, March 13, 1997.

London Times, March 11, 1997.

Los Angeles Times, March 10, 1997; March 11, 1997; March 19, 1997.

Newsweek, March 24, 1997.

New York Times, March 10, 1997.

People, March 24, 1997; March 31, 1997.

Dave Wilkins

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Notorious B.I.G., The

THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.

Born: Christopher Wallace; Brooklyn, New York, 21 May 1972; died Los Angeles, California, 9 March 1997

Genre: Hip-Hop

Best-selling album since 1990: Life after Death (1997)

Hit songs since 1990: "Juicy," "Big Poppa," "Hypnotize"


In the early 1990s the New Yorkbased rapper the Notorious B.I.G. exploded onto a hip-hop scene then dominated by "G-Funk," the synthesizer-laden, funk-based style pioneered by the West Coast rapper and producer Dr. Dre. The Notorious B.I.G.'s gritty, unromanticized tales of urban crime injected a note of reality into GFunk's over-the-top and often facile celebration of the pleasures of "gangsta" life. B.I.G.'s charisma and skill as a storyteller created an instant critical and commercial sensation, re-establishing East Coast rap as a vital force in hip-hop and paving the way for New Yorkbased rappers such as Nas and Jay-Z. The Notorious B.I.G.'s murder in 1997 cut short a career just reaching its prime.


Up from the Streets

Born in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York, Christopher Wallace began rapping with local groups while still a teenager, taking the name Biggie Smalls in reference to his imposing height and girth. An able but indifferent student, he dropped out of high school at age seventeen, and his subsequent career as a crack dealer resulted in a nine-month stint in a North Carolina jail. A demo tape he made shortly after his release got him a brief write-up in the respected hip-hop magazine The Source. The article attracted the attention of Uptown Records producer Sean "Puffy" Combs, who immediately signed Biggie. When Combs left Uptown a short time later to form his own label, Bad Boy, he took Biggie with him. In 1993 the Notorious B.I.G., as he was now known, made his debut as a guest rapper on remixes of the Mary J. Blige singles "Real Love" and "What's the 411?" He soon followed these with his first solo track, "Party and Bull****," which was heard on the soundtrack of the movie Who's the Man and generated much anticipation for his debut album.

Released in September 1994, Ready to Die stands as one of the landmark albums of 1990s hip-hop. Although New York was universally acknowledged as the cradle of hip-hop culture and music, by the early 1990s the hard-edged beats and socially conscious rhymes of East Coast rap had largely been supplanted in popularity by the lazy melodic grooves and gleefully amoral "gangsta" posturing of West Coast G-Funk. On Ready to Die the Notorious B.I.G. takes G-Funk-style crime narratives and infuses them with wit and emotional depth, delivering tightly constructed yet seemingly effortless rhymes over Combs's slick, pop-oriented production. On the album's first single, "Juicy," the Notorious B.I.G. spins an autobiographical rags-to-riches tale over a sample of Mtume's huge R&B hit from 1983, "Juicy Fruit," conveying the contrast between his old and new lives with skillful economy: "We used to fuss when the landlord dissed us / No heat, wonder why Christmas missed us / Birthdays was the worst days / Now we sip champagne when we thirst-ay." A sample of another R&B hit from 1983, the Isley Brothers' "Between the Sheets," anchors the album's second single, "Big Poppa," an upbeat boast of sexual prowess that became the Notorious B.I.G.'s signature song. Ready to Die counterbalances its carefree celebrations of sex, crime, and material wealth with more sober-minded tracks. "Warning" depicts the paranoia that accompanies sudden wealth and fame, while "Things Done Changed" casts a melancholy, nostalgic eye on a deteriorating city neighborhood: "Back in the days, our parents used to take care of us / Look at em now, they even f****** scared of us." The overall result is an album of considerable richness and complexity, unified by the Notorious B.I.G.'s consistently authoritative storytelling. Appropriately, Ready to Die had an immediate impact on hip-hop and popular music, selling 4 million copies and turning the Notorious B.I.G. into a star.

In late 1994 the Notorious B.I.G. married a Bad Boy label mate, the R&B singer Faith Evans. He spent the following year bolstering the success of Ready to Die with guest spots on tracks by artists such as Total, R. Kelly, and Michael Jackson. He also used his newfound clout to launch Junior M.A.F.I.A., a rap group consisting of some of his childhood friends. In 1996 the Junior M.A.F.I.A. member Lil' Kim launched a successful solo career under the tutelage of the Notorious B.I.G., with whom she began an affair.


Rivalry and Murder

With the Notorious B.I.G.'s success Bad Boy challenged Los Angelesbased Death Row Records as hip-hop's dominant label, sowing the seeds for an intense East Coast/West Coast rivalry. In November 1994 the Death Row artistand former friend of the Notorious B.I.G.Tupac Shakur was shot several times in the lobby of a Manhattan recording studio. Shakur accused the Notorious B.I.G. and Combs of masterminding the attack. Although the two denied this, Shakur held a grudge and in 1996 recorded "Hit 'Em Up," a scathing, personal attack on the Notorious B.I.G., Bad Boy, and the entire East Coast scene. In September 1996 Shakur was murdered in an unsolved drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. Speculation linked the Notorious B.I.G. to Shakur's death. Six months later, on March 9, 1997, the Notorious B.I.G. was gunned down in Los Angeles. The two deaths rocked the hip-hop community, leading to an extensive, long-term soul-searching regarding the violence permeating rap music and the rap industry.

In death, the Notorious B.I.G., like Shakur, came to be regarded as a kind of hip-hop martyr. This image enhanced the immense respect he already enjoyed as an artist and increased the already-high anticipation of his second album, Life after Death, which was released three weeks after the Notorious B.I.G.'s murder. A sprawling double album of twenty-four tracks, Life after Death enlisted a wide array of producers and guest artists in a successful attempt to expand upon the pop-friendly yet gritty hip-hop style of Ready to Die. It was also a stunning commercial success. It debuted at number one on the charts, selling 700,000 copies in its first weeks and ultimately going eleven-times platinum. Its first two singles, "Hypnotize" and "Mo Money Mo Problems," made the Notorious B.I.G. the first artist to have two posthumous number one hits. Moreover, Combs's and Evans's tribute to the Notorious B.I.G., "I'll Be Missing You," became one of the most successful singles of 1997. Born Again (1999), a collection of previously unreleased tracks, was also a commercial success, debuting at number one and selling 2 million copies.

The Notorious B.I.G. brought a fresh and distinct voice to hip-hop in the 1990s, expanding the genre both as an art form and as a commercial powerhouse. While his success restored the relevance the East Coast hip-hop scene had lost during the rise of West Coast rap, it also helped engender a bitter and murderous rivalry between the two coasts that divided hip-hop.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Ready to Die (Bad Boy, 1994); Life after Death (Bad Boy, 1997); Born Again (Bad Boy, 1999).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

C. Scott, The Murder of Biggie Smalls (New York, 2000); R. Sullivan, Labyrinth (New York, 2002).

WEBSITES:

www.notoriousonline.com; www.badboyonline.com.

matt himes

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"Notorious B.I.G., The." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved May 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/notorious-big