The Notorious B.I.G.

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The Notorious B.I.G.
Background information
Birth nameChristopher George Latore Wallace
Also known asBiggie Smalls, The Notorious B.I.G., Big Poppa, Frank White[1]
Born(1972-05-21)May 21, 1972
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedMarch 9, 1997(1997-03-09) (aged 24)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
GenresHip hop
OccupationsRapper
Years active1992–1997
LabelsUptown Records
Bad Boy
Associated actsLil' Kim, Sean Combs, Junior M.A.F.I.A., Total, 112, The Commission, Jay-Z, Faith Evans
Websitewww.myspace.com/notoriousbig
 
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The Notorious B.I.G.
Background information
Birth nameChristopher George Latore Wallace
Also known asBiggie Smalls, The Notorious B.I.G., Big Poppa, Frank White[1]
Born(1972-05-21)May 21, 1972
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedMarch 9, 1997(1997-03-09) (aged 24)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
GenresHip hop
OccupationsRapper
Years active1992–1997
LabelsUptown Records
Bad Boy
Associated actsLil' Kim, Sean Combs, Junior M.A.F.I.A., Total, 112, The Commission, Jay-Z, Faith Evans
Websitewww.myspace.com/notoriousbig

Christopher George Latore Wallace (May 21, 1972 – March 9, 1997), best known as The Notorious B.I.G., was an American rapper. He was also known as Biggie Smalls (after a character in the 1975 film Let's Do It Again).

Wallace was raised in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. When Wallace 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 at a time when West Coast artists were more common in the mainstream.[2] 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 East Coast/West Coast hip-hop feud, dominating the scene at the time.

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 15 days later, hit #1 on the U.S. album charts and was certified Diamond in 2000 (one of the few hip hop albums to receive this certification).[3] Wallace was noted for his "loose, easy flow",[4] dark semi-autobiographical lyrics and storytelling abilities. Since his death, a further two albums have been released. MTV ranked him at #3 on their list of The Greatest MCs of All Time.[5] He has certified sales of 17 million units in the United States.[6]

Contents

Early life

Born in St. Mary's Hospital, despite later claiming to be raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, Wallace grew up in neighboring Clinton Hill.[7] Wallace was the only child of Voletta Wallace, a Jamaican preschool teacher, and George Latore, a welder and small-time Jamaican politician.[8] His father left the family when Wallace was two years old, leaving his mother to work 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 size before he turned 10.[9] At the age of 12, he began selling drugs. His mother, often away at work, did not know that her son was selling drugs until Wallace was an adult.[10]

At his request, Wallace transferred out of the private Roman Catholic Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School to attend the state-funded George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School. Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes were also students at that school. According to his mother, Wallace was still a good student, but developed a "smart-ass" attitude at the new school.[8] At seventeen, Wallace dropped out of high 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.[11] A year later, Wallace was arrested in North Carolina for dealing crack cocaine. He spent nine months behind bars until he made bail.[10]

Rapping career

Wallace began rapping when he was a teenager. He would entertain people on the streets as well as perform with local groups, the Old Gold Brothers and the Techniques.[2] After being released from prison, Wallace made a demo tape under the name Biggie Smalls, a reference to his childhood nickname and to his stature; he stood at 6' 3" (1.91 m) and weighed as much as 300 to 380 pounds according to differing accounts.[12] 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.[11]

In March 1992, Wallace 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.[13] 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).[2][14] Soon after signing his recording contract, Combs was fired from Uptown and started a new label.[15] 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.[16] Wallace continued selling drugs after the birth to support his daughter financially. Once Combs discovered this, he was made to quit.[2]

Wallace gained exposure later in the year on a remix to Mary J. Blige's single "Real Love", under the pseudonym The Notorious B.I.G., the name he would record under for the remainder of his career, after finding the original moniker "Biggie Smalls" was already in use.[17] "Real Love" peaked at #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.[16] 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 #9 on the Hot 100.

Ready to Die and marriage

On August 4, 1994, Wallace married singer Faith Evans after they met at a Bad Boy photoshoot.[16][18] Four days later, Wallace had his first pop chart success as a solo artist with double A-side, "Juicy/Unbelievable", which reached #27 as the lead single to his debut album.

Ready to Die was released on September 13, 1994, and reached #13 on the Billboard 200 chart,[19] eventually being certified four times Platinum.[20] 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".[21] It gained strong reviews on release and has received much praise in retrospect.[21][22] In addition to "Juicy", the record produced two hit singles; the Platinum-selling "Big Poppa", which reached #1 on the U.S. rap chart,[4] and "One More Chance" featuring Faith Evans, a loosely related remix of an album track and its best selling single.

Junior M.A.F.I.A. 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 consisting of his friends from childhood and included rappers such as Lil' Kim and Lil' Cease, who went on to have solo careers.[23] 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 Bad Boy 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.[2] In July 1995, he appeared on the cover of The Source with the caption "The King of New York Takes Over". 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.[24] At the Billboard Awards, he was Rap Artist of the Year.[11]

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 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 repeatedly 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 occurrence, they denied the accusation.[25]

It just happened to be a coincidence that he 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.[26]

Following 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.[27]

Arrests, Shakur's death and second child

Wallace began recording his second record 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.[28] During this time, he also worked with pop singer Michael Jackson for the HIStory album.[29]

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.[11] 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.[11]

In June 1996, Shakur released "Hit 'Em Up", a diss song in which he explicitly 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. Geddit? 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.[26]

Shakur was shot multiple times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on September 7, 1996, and died six days later of complications from the gunshot wounds. Rumors of Wallace's involvement with Shakur's murder were reported almost immediately, and later in a two-part article by Pulitzer prize-winning LA Times investigative reporter Chuck Philips (this version) in September of 2002 [30]. Wallace denied the allegation claiming he was in a New York recording studio at the time.[25] Following his death, an anti-violence hip hop summit was held.[2]

On October 29, 1996, Faith Evans gave birth to Wallace's son, Christopher "C.J." Wallace, Jr.[16] 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 involved in an apparent love affair.[2]

Life After Death and car accident

During the recording sessions for his second record, 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 confined him to a wheelchair.[2] The injury forced him to use a cane.[25]

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.[31] He faced criminal assault charges for the incident which remain unresolved, but all robbery charges were dropped.[11] 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".[32]

March 1997 shooting and death

Composite sketch of the suspect in the shooting.

Wallace traveled to California in February 1997, to promote his upcoming album and record 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; this was because he was a celebrity figure in general, not because he was a rapper.[33] Life After Death was scheduled for release on March 25, 1997. On January 8, 1997, Biggie Smalls and Sean "Puffy" Combs made a video "What's Beef" which was directed by Dave Meyers. On March 8, 1997, he presented an award to Toni Braxton at the 11th Annual Soul Train Music Awards in Los Angeles and was booed by some of the audience.[25] After the ceremony, Wallace attended an after party hosted by Vibe magazine and Qwest Records at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.[25] Other guests included Faith Evans, Aaliyah, Sean Combs, and members of the Bloods and Crips gangs.[9]

On March 9, 1997, at around 12:30 a.m., 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.[34] 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.[9]

By 12:45 a.m., the streets were crowded with people leaving the event. Wallace's truck stopped at a red light 50 yards (46 m) from the museum. A black Chevrolet Impala SS pulled up alongside Wallace's truck. The driver of the Impala, an African American 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 in the chest.[9] Wallace's entourage rushed him to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, but he was pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m.

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.[35]

In 2002, Randall Sullivan released LAbyrinth, a book compiling information regarding the murders of Wallace and Shakur based on evidence provided by retired LAPD detective, Russell Poole.[9][36] Sullivan accused Marion "Suge" Knight, co-founder of Death Row Records and an alleged Bloods affiliate, of conspiring with David Mack, an LAPD officer and alleged Death Row security employee, to kill Wallace and make Shakur and his death appear the result of a fictitious bi-coastal rap rivalry.[37][38] Sullivan believed that one of Mack's associates, Amir Muhammad (also known as Harry Billups), was the hitman based on evidence provided by an informant, and due to his close resemblance to the facial composite.[37][38] Filmmaker Nick Broomfield released an investigative documentary, Biggie & Tupac, based mainly on the evidence used in the book.[36]

Both David Mack and Suge Knight deny knowing each other. Much of the confusion of the theories of Sullivan and Violetta Wallace may stem from their belief (stated by Ms. Wallace in a deposition during her now-dismissed case) that the D-Mack referred to by Chuck Philips (this version), in his investigation of the Tupac and Biggie assassinations, was David Mack. In fact, according to Chuck Philips (this version), the "D-Mack," believed to be involved in the Biggie and Tupacs murders, was not the policeman David Mack of the LAPD but a Los Angeles music figure named Darius Rogers who had close ties to Sean "Diddy" Combs.

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 evidence from Poole. Sullivan claimed that Sean Combs "failed to fully cooperate with the investigation" and according to Poole, encouraged Bad Boy staff to do the same.[9] 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."[39]

The criminal investigation was re-opened in July 2006 in the hopes that new evidence might help the City defend the civil lawsuits brought by the Wallace family.[40][41]

In January 2011, the case was reinvigorated as a result of new information reported by Anderson Cooper's AC360 "Cold Case" show and blog[42] that it was being re-investigated by a law enforcement task force composed of the LAPD, the L.A. County District Attorney's Office, and the FBI.[43] In April, the FBI released redacted documents about their investigation into the shooting, revealing that the bullets were rare 9mm Gecko ammunition manufactured in Germany. The documents reported that LAPD officers monitoring the party Wallace was attending were also employed as security personnel for Knight; the documents also speculated that the Genovese crime family was withholding evidence about Wallace's death.[44]

Basketball player Shaquille O'Neal was a close friend of Wallace's and on the night of Wallace's death, he was supposed to meet him at an after party. O'Neal has reportedly struggled with guilt about Wallace's death since that night.[45]

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.[38] 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.[38]

The case came for trial before a jury on June 21, 2005. 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.[46]

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".[47]

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 Wallace family to give notice of its claim to the State within six months of Wallace's death.[48] The Wallace family refiled the suit, dropping the state law claims on May 27, 2008.[49] The city never answered the amended complaint, and with the agreement of both sides, the suit was voluntarily dismissed on April 5, 2010 without prejudice.[50]

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.[51]

Posthumous career

Fifteen days after his death, Wallace's double-disc second album was released as planned with the shortened title of Life After Death and hit #1 on the Billboard 200 charts, after making a premature appearance at #176 due to street-date violations. The record album featured a much wider range of guests and producers than its predecessor.[52] 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 #1 in the Hot 100, making Wallace the first artist to achieve this feat posthumously.[2] 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.[53]

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.[54]

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 record 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".[55] Nevertheless, the album sold 3 million copies. Over the course of time, Wallace's vocals would appear 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. He also appeared on Michael Jackson's 2001 album, Invincible. In 2005, Duets: The Final Chapter continued the pattern started on Born Again and was criticized for the lack of significant vocals by Wallace on some of its songs.[56][57] Its lead single "Nasty Girl" became Wallace's first UK #1 single. Combs and Voletta Wallace have stated the album will be the last release primarily featuring new material.[58]

Legacy

Wallace is celebrated as one of the greatest rap artists and is described by Allmusic as "the savior of East Coast hip-hop".[2] The Source and Blender named Wallace the greatest rapper of all time.[59] 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, he was ranked at #3 in MTV's The Greatest MC's of All Time.[5]

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.[60] In September 2005, VH1 had its second annual "Hip Hop Honors", with a tribute to Wallace headlining the show.[61]

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.[62] In 2005, Voletta Wallace hired branding and licensing agency Wicked Cow Entertainment to guide the Estate's licensing efforts.[63] Wallace-branded products on the market include action figures, blankets, and cell phone content.[64]

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".[65]

Style

Wallace mostly rapped on his songs in a deep tone described by Rolling Stone as a "thick, jaunty grumble",[66] which went deeper on Life After Death.[67] He was often accompanied on songs with ad libs from Sean "Puffy" Combs. On The Source's Unsigned Hype, they described his style as "cool, nasal, and filtered, to bless his own material".

Allmusic describe Wallace as having "a loose, easy flow" with "a talent for piling multiple rhymes on top of one another in quick succession".[4] Time magazine wrote Wallace rapped with an ability to "make multi-syllabic rhymes sound... smooth",[22] while Krims describes Wallace's rhythmic style as "effusive".[68] 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").[69]

Lateef of Latyrx notes that Wallace had, "intense and complex flows",[70] Fredro Starr of Onyx says, "Biggie was a master of the flow",[71] and Bishop Lamont states that Wallace mastered "all the hemispheres of the music".[72] "Notorious B.I.G. also often used the single-line rhyme scheme to add variety and interest to his flow".[70] 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".[73] Wallace was known to compose lyrics in his head, rather than write them down on paper, in a similar way to Jay-Z.[74][75]

Wallace would occasionally vary from his usual style. On "Playa Hater" from his second album, he sang in a slow-falsetto.[76] 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)"),[77] and romance ("Me & My Bitch").[77] Rolling Stone named Wallace in 2004 as "one of the few young male songwriters in any pop style writing credible love songs".[67]

Guerilla Black, in the book How to Rap, describes how Wallace was able to both "glorify the upper echelon"[78] and "[make] you feel his struggle".[79] According to Touré of The New York Times in 1994, Wallace's lyrics "[mixed] autobiographical details about crime and violence with emotional honesty".[10] 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".[11] 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".[80]

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".[67] Allmusic write of "a sense of doom" in some of his songs and the NY Times note some being "laced with paranoia";[4][81] Wallace described himself as feeling "broke and depressed" when he made his debut.[81] 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".[67] 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.[68] 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".[82]

Allmusic wrote that the success of Ready to Die is "mostly due to Wallace's skill as a storyteller";[4] 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".[21] On Life After Death Wallace notably demonstrated this skill on "I Got a Story to Tell" telling a story as a rap for the first half of the song and then as a story "for his boys" in conversation form.[76]

After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Christopher began to see life more on the positive side rather than the negative when he realized that he could have died when the explosion occurred. Instead of dying, Christopher only suffered minor scratches when he was performing his own remix of the song "Real Love" a few blocks away on the street. Christopher also refers to this event in his song "Juicy" when he mentions blowing up like the world trade.[83]

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.[75] 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.[84] Ultimately, the film grossed over $43,000,000 worldwide.

In early October 2007, open casting calls for the role of Wallace began.[85] Actors, rappers and unknowns all tried out. Beanie Sigel auditioned[86] for the role, but was not picked. Sean Kingston claimed that he would play the role of Wallace, but producers denied he would be in the film.[87] Eventually it was announced that rapper Jamal "Gravy" Woolard was cast as Wallace[88] while Wallace's son, Christopher Wallace, Jr. was cast to play Wallace as a child.[89] 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.[90] 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.[91]

Discography

Studio albums

Posthumous albums

Collaboration albums

Compilation albums

Awards and nominations

The Notorious B.I.G. awards and nominations
Awards and nominations
AwardWinsNominations
Billboard Music Awards
22
Grammy Awards
04
MTV Video Music Awards
12
Soul Train Music Awards
13
Totals
Awards won4
Nominations11

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.[92][93]

YearNominated workAwardResult
1995The Notorious B.I.G.Rap Artist of the YearWon
"One More Chance"Rap Single of the YearWon

Grammy Awards

The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States.[92][94][95]

YearNominated workAwardResult
1996"Big Poppa"Best Rap Solo PerformanceNominated
1998"Hypnotize"Best Rap Solo PerformanceNominated
"Mo Money Mo Problems" (with Mase and Puff Daddy)Best Rap Performance by a Duo or GroupNominated
Life After DeathBest Rap AlbumNominated

MTV Video Music Awards

The MTV Video Music Awards is an annual awards ceremony established in 1984 by MTV.[92][96][97]

YearNominated workAwardResult
1997"Hypnotize"Best Rap VideoWon
1998"Mo Money Mo Problems" (with Mase and Puff Daddy)Best Rap VideoNominated

Soul Train Music Awards

The Soul Train Music Awards is an annual awards show that honors black musicians and entertainers.[92][98]

YearNominated workAwardResult
1998Life After DeathBest R&B/Soul Album, MaleWon
"Mo Money Mo Problems" (with Mase and Puff Daddy)Best R&B/Soul AlbumNominated
Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music VideoNominated

The Source Awards

The Source Awards were awarded by hip hop magazine The Source.

YearNominated workAwardResult
1995The Notorious B.I.G.New Artist of the Year, SoloWon
Ready to DieAlbum of the YearWon
The Notorious B.I.G.Lyricist of the YearWon
The Notorious B.I.G.Live Performer of the YearWon

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Further reading

External links