Biggie Smalls also known as The Notorious B.I.G or Biggie was an American rapper widely regarded as one of the most influential rappers the world has ever seen. Even though he had a short life (he died at the young age of 24), he still recorded so many achievements in hip-hop and till today is seen by many as one of the greatest rappers that ever lived. Find out more about the life of The Notorious B.I.G here.
Biggie Smalls was born Christopher George Latore Wallace on the 21st of May, 1972 in Brooklyn, New York. He was the only known child born by his Jamaican parents. His mother, Voletta Wallace, was a preschool teacher, while his dad Selwyn George Latore was a welder and local politician. Biggie grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. At a young age, he already had a massive size and so the nickname Biggie naturally came about.
Biggie had a rough life while growing up, his father left the family when he was still young and as such, his mom had to work two jobs to support their family. This left him without much supervision and by the age of 12, he was dealing drugs on the street unknown to his mother.
Christopher George Latore Wallace had his education at various schools including Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School and George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School, all located in various parts of Brooklyn. Even though he excelled in school, he dropped out at the age of 17.
As a teenager, he entertained people on the streets with his rap skills but continued to dabble into petty crimes. At 17, he was charged with weapons possession but received a probationary sentence. However, by 18, he was charged with dealing drugs and landed in jail for 9 months.
Upon his release from jail, Biggie made his foray into the music industry. He released his first work (a demo tape) with the name Biggie Smalls in 1991. The name ‘Biggie Smalls’ was from a character in the 1975 American action-crime-comedy film Let’s Do It Again. His work attracted the attention of renowned hip-hop magazine The Source and they featured him in their magazine as one of hip-hop’s promising talents.
On the back of that publicity, Biggie produced another demo and by 1992 was signed to Uptown records, home to record producer Sean Combs (P. Diddy) who would become his very good friend. Shortly after, Combs founded his own label, Bad Boy Records, and Biggie moved over to it. Between 1992 and 1994, he featured on the songs of other label mates including the likes of Mary J Blige. They released two hit songs Real Love and What’s the 411.
Biggie released his first album titled Ready to Die on the 13th of September 1994. The album was a critical and commercial success and made it to number 13 on billboard top 200 charts.
The album had monster hits such as One More Chance, Juicy and Big Poppa. Biggie also settled on the official name The Notorious B.I.G. Following his success, he became friends with fellow rapper Tupac Shakur, who was already a popular artiste at the time. Biggie followed up his debut success with more accomplishments in 1995. Junior M.A.F.I.A (a hip-hop group which he mentored and which featured the likes of Lil Kim and Lil Cease) released a successful debut album titled Conspiracy.
Biggie also featured on the songs of other artists and earned numerous awards. Billboard Awards named him the rap artist of the year while the Source Awards named him lyricist of the year as well as the live performer of the year amongst other awards.
Death of The Notorious B.I.G.
On the 8th of March 1997, Biggie attended the Soul Train Awards where he was booed. This was an indication that people still suspected him of knowing what happened to rival rapper Tupac, who was shot dead 6 months earlier. After that, Biggie and his entourage attended the awards after-party held at Petersen Automotive Museum. On their way back to their hotel, they stopped at a red light. While waiting for the light to turn green, a black car approached the vehicle carrying Biggie and fired at the truck. Biggie suffered multiple gunshots and was rushed to the hospital where he died shortly after.
Biggie’s funeral was held on the 18th of March at a funeral home in Manhattan. Attendees included the likes of Lil Kim, Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, Busta Rhymes etc. After the service, his remains were cremated and handed over to his family.
Even though Biggie’s murder (as well as that of Tupac) has been the subject of many speculations, conspiracy theories, crime shows, and investigation reports, it has never been officially solved and no one has been convicted for either.
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Life after Death: Posthumous Album and Awards.
Biggie’s 2nd studio album Life after Death was released on the 25th of March, 1997, just weeks after his death. The album was a huge success. Two singles from the album Hypnotize and Mo Money Mo Problems reached No.1 on the Billboard top 100 while the album itself achieved a similar status on the Billboard top 200. The album sold over 10,000,000 units and was certified diamond by the RIAA in 2000.
Sean Combs released his own debut album later in 1997 and it featured a beautiful evergreen tribute to Biggie titled I’ll Be Missing You. The song featured Faith Evans and won the 1998 Grammy for the best rap performance by a duo or group. Since then, two other posthumous albums by Biggie have been released including Born Again (1999) and Duets: A Final Chapter (2005). In 2009, a biopic chronicling Biggie’s short but accomplished life was released. The biopic is titled Notorious.