Christopher George Latore Wallace (21 May 1972 - 9 March 1997), best known as The Notorious B.I.G., was an American rapper from Brooklyn, New York. Wallace is renowned for his loose and easy flow, dark semi-autobiographical lyrics and storytelling abilities. He is considered one of the greatest and most influential rappers of all time.
Wallace was raised in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. When he 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 in the genre at a time when West Coast hip hop was dominant in the mainstream. 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 growing East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry, which mainly involved himself (and his label, Bad Boy Records), and West Coast-based rapper Tupac Shakur (and his label, Death Row Records).
On the night of 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 16 days later, rose to No. 1 on the U.S. album charts and was certified Diamond in 2000, one of the few hip hop albums to receive this certification. Two more albums have been released since his death. He has certified sales of over 17 million units in the United States.
Life and careerEdit
1972-1994: Early life, arrests, career beginnings and first childEdit
Wallace was born in St. Mary's Hospital on 21 May 1972, and was brought up in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn. He was the only child of Voletta Wallace, a Jamaican preschool teacher, and Selwyn George Latore, a welder and small-time Jamaican politician. His father left the family when Wallace was two years old, and his mother worked two jobs whilst 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 by the age of ten. By the time he was twelve, Wallace began selling illegal drugs. His mother, often away at work, was unaware of her son's drug dealing until he was an adult.
At his own request, Wallace transferred from the Roman Catholic Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School to the state-funded George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School, where future rappers Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes also attended at the time. According to his mother, Wallace was still a good student, but developed a "smart-ass" attitude at the new school. At seventeen years of age, Wallace dropped out of 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. One year later, Wallace was arrested in North Carolina for dealing crack cocaine. He spent nine months in jail before making bail.Wallace began rapping when he was a teenager. After being released from jail, Wallace made a demo tape using the name "Biggie Smalls", a reference to a character in the 1975 film Let's Do It Again. The tape was reportedly made with no serious intent of getting a recording deal, but was promoted by New York-based DJ Mister Cee and was heard by the editor of The Source magazine. In March 1992, Wallace was featured in the Unsigned Hype column of The Source, a section dedicated to aspiring rappers, and made a recording off the back of this success. 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 the song "A Buncha Niggas" by label mates Heavy D & the Boyz from their album Blue Funk. Shortly after signing his recording contract, when things appeared to be moving upwards in a positive direction, Combs was fired from Uptown Records and started his own record label; Bad Boy Records. Wallace joined him, and signed to Bad Boy Records in mid-1992.
Later in the year, Wallace gained exposure on a remix to Mary J. Blige's single "Real Love". This was the first use of the stage name The Notorious B.I.G., after he was forced to change his name when he found that his original moniker "Biggie Smalls" was already in use by another rapper. He appeared on remixes to songs by Neneh Cherry and Super Cat. In April 1993, his solo track, "Party and Bullshit", was featured on the Who's the Man? soundtrack.
On 8 August 1993, Wallace's ex-girlfriend Jan gave birth to his daughter, T'yanna. Wallace had been seperated for some time before T'yanna's birth. Wallace hoped that his daughter would go on to complete her education, despite him being a high school dropout himself. He continued selling drugs after her birth to support his daughter financially. Once Combs found out about this, he forced him to stop hustling. In July 1994, Wallace made a memorable appearance alongside LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes on a remix to label mate Craig Mack's "Flava in Ya Ear", which reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100.
1994: Ready to Die and marriageEdit
On 4 August 1994, Wallace married R&B singer Faith Evans after they first met at a Bad Boy Records photoshoot just nine days earlier. Five days later, Wallace had his first pop chart success as a solo artist with the double A-side "Juicy/Unbelievable", which reached #27 as the lead single to his debut album.
Ready to Die was released on 13 September 1994, and reached #13 on the Billboard 200 chart, eventually being certified x4 Platinum. The album, released at a time when West Coast hip hop dominated the hip-hop scene, was a predominant force in shifting the focus back to East Coast hip hop. It immediately received strong reviews and has received much praise in retrospect. In addition to "Juicy", the record produced two hit singles: the Platinum-selling "Big Poppa", which reached #1 on the U.S. rap chart, and "One More Chance" featuring Faith Evans, a loosely related remix of an album track and it's best-selling single.
Around the time of the album's release, Wallace became friends with Tupac Shakur. Wallace's cousin Lil' Cease recalled the pair being close, often traveling together whenever they were not active in furthering their careers. According to him, Wallace was a frequent guest at Shakur's home and they constantly spent time together when Shakur was in California or Washington, D.C. Wallace also formed a friendship with Shaquille O'Neal, and the pair collaborated on the song "You Can't Stop the Reign" in 1996.
1995: Junior M.A.F.I.A., Conspiracy and coastal feudEdit
In August 1995, Wallace's protégé group, Junior M.A.F.I.A., released their debut album Conspiracy. The group consisted of his friends from childhood, such as Lil' Kim and Lil' Cease, who would go on to have solo careers. The record went Gold and it's singles "Player's Anthem" and "Get Money" both featuring Wallace, went Gold and Platinum respectively. Wallace continued to work with R&B artist, including 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 both the U.S. pop and R&B charts. In July 1995, he appeared on the cover of The Source with the caption "The King of New York Takes Over", a reference to his Frank White alias from the 1990 film King of New York. At the Source Awards in August 1995, Wallace was named Best New Artist (Solo), Lyricist of the Year, Live Performer of the Year, and his debut Album of the Year. At the Billboard Awards, he was named Rap Artist of the Year.
Wallace began recording his second studio album in September 1995. Recorded in New York, Trinidad and Los Angeles, the album was interrupted several times during its eighteen-month creation length due to injury, legal wrangles and the coastal feud in which he was involved.
1996: Arrests, death of Shakur and second childEdit
On 23 March 1996, Wallace was arrested outside a Manhattan nightclub for chasing and threatening to kill two autograph seekers, smashing the windows of their taxi and then pulling one of the fans out and punching them. 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, NJ for drug and weapons possession charges.
In June 1996, Shakur released "Hit 'Em Up", a diss track in which he claimed to have had sex with Faith Evans (who was estranged at the time) and that Wallace copied his style and image. Wallace responded to the claim about his wife's pregnancy on Jay Z's "Brooklyn's Finest", where he raps "If Faye (Faith Evans) have twins, she'd probably have two 'Pacs. Get it? 2Pacs?" However, Wallace never directly responded to the record during his lifetime.
Shakur was shot multiple times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas on 7 September 1996 and died six days later due to complications from the gunshot wounds. Rumours of Wallace's involvement with Shakur's murder were reported almost immediately. In 2002, investigative journalist released a report titled "Who Killed Tupac Shakur?", in which he concluded, with the use of police reports and multiple sources, that "the shooting was carried out by a Compton gang called the Southside Crips to avenge the beating of one of its members by Shakur a few hours earlier" and that Wallace had paid for the gun. Wallace's family publicly denied the report, stating that Wallace was recording in New York and New Jersey at the time. Faith Evans remembered Wallace calling her and crying due to him being in shock.
On 29 October 1996, Evans gave birth to Wallace's son, Christopher Wallace, Jr.. The following month, Lil' Kim released her debut album, Hard Core, under Wallace's direction while the two were having a "love affair".
1997: Life After Death and car accidentEdit
During the recording sessions for his second album, Wallace was involved in a car accident that shattered his left leg and temporarily confined him to a wheelchair. Wallace spent months in a hospital following the accident and had to complete therapy, in addition to needing a walking stick. Despite his hospitalisation, he continued to work on the album.
In January 1997, Wallace was ordered to pay US$41,000 in damages to a friend of a concert promoter who claimed Wallace and his entourage beat him up following a dispute in May 1995. He faced criminal assault charges for the incident which remain unresolved, but all robbery charges were dropped.
Death and funeralEdit
Wallace travelled to Los Angeles in February 1997 to promote his upcoming second studio album and film a music video for its lead single, "Hypnotize". The album, Life After Death, was scheduled for release on 25 March 1997.
On 7 March, he presented an award to Toni Braxton at the 1997 Soul Train Music Awards and was booed by some of the audience. After the ceremony, Wallace attended an after party hosted by Vibe magazine and Qwest Records at the Petersen Automotive Museum.
On 9 March, Wallace left in a GMC Suburban SUV at 12:30 a.m. (PST). By 12:45 a.m., the streets were crowded with people leaving the event. Wallace's SUV stopped at a red light at the corner of Wilshire Blvd & South Fairfax Ave 50 yards from the museum. A dark coloured Chevrolet Impala SS pulled up alongside Wallace's SUV. The driver of the Impala, a black male dressed in a blue suit and bow tie, rolled down his window, drew a 9mm blue-steel pistol and fired at the SUV. Four bullets hit Wallace. His entourage rushed him to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where doctors performed an emergency thoracotomy, but he pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m.
Wallace's autopsy was released to the public in December 2012, over a decade after his death. According to the report, three of the four shots were not fatal. The first bullet hit in his left forearm and travelled down to his wrist; the second hit him in the back, missing all vital organs, and exited through his left shoulder; and the third hit his outer left thigh and left through his inner thigh. The fourth bullet was fatal, entering through his right hip and striking several vital organs, before stopping in his left shoulder area. That bullet struck his colon, liver, heart and upper lobe of his left lung.
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 Wallace's murder to that of Tupac Shakur, because of the similarities in the drive-by shootings and the involvement of Shakur and Wallace in the East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry. In 1997, Los Angeles Times writers Chuck Philips and Matt Laitt reported that the key suspect was a member of the Crips acting in service of a personal financial motive.
Wallace's funeral was held on 18 March 1997 at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel in Manhattan. There were among 350 mourners at the funeral, including Lil' Kim, Lil' Cease, Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, Flavor Flav, Run-D.M.C., DJ Kool Herc, Busta Rhymes, Salt-n-Pepa, Foxy Brown, Sister Souljah and others. After the funeral, his body was cremated and the ashes were given to his family.