Born: May 21, 1972
Place of Birth: New York, NY
Died: March 9, 1997
Place of Death: Los Angeles, CA
Zodiac Sign: Gemini
Career, Life and Death
Christopher George Latore Wallace (May 21, 1972 – March 9, 1997), known professionally as The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls, or Biggie, was an American rapper. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest rappers of all time.
Wallace was born in St. Mary's Hospital in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, the only child of Jamaican parents, Voletta Wallace, a preschool teacher, and Selwyn George Latore, a welder and politician. His father left the family when Wallace was two years old, and his mother worked two jobs while raising him. Wallace grew up in Clinton Hill, on 226 St. James Place, near the border of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
Wallace was raised in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. His debut album Ready to Die (1994) made him a central figure in East Coast hip hop, and increased New York City's visibility in the genre at a time when West Coast hip hop dominated the mainstream. The following year, Wallace led Junior M.A.F.I.A. to chart success, a protégé group composed of his childhood friends. In 1996, while recording his second album, Wallace was heavily involved in the growing East Coast–West Coast hip hop feud. Wallace was murdered by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997. His second album, Life After Death (1997), released sixteen days later, rose to number one on the U.S. album charts. In 2000, it became one of the few hip-hop albums to be certified Diamond.
Wallace was noted for his "loose, easy flow", dark semi-autobiographical lyrics, and storytelling, which focused on crime and hardship. Three more albums have been released since his death, and he has certified sales of over 17 million records in the United States, including 13.4 million albums.
At Queen of All Saints Middle School, Wallace excelled, winning several awards as an English student. He was nicknamed "Big" because of his overweight size by age 10. He said he started dealing drugs when he was around the age of 12. His mother, often away at work, did not know of his drug dealing until he was an adult. Wallace began rapping as a teenager, entertaining people on the streets and performed with local groups the Old Gold Brothers and the Techniques
At his request, Wallace transferred from Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School to George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School, where future rappers DMX, Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes were also attending. According to his mother, Wallace was still a good student but developed a "smart-ass" attitude at the new school At seventeen, Wallace dropped out of school and became more 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. A year later, Wallace was arrested in North Carolina for dealing crack cocaine. He spent nine months in jail before making bail.
After being released from jail, Wallace made a demo tape called "Microphone Murderer", under the name Biggie Smalls, a reference to a character in the 1975 film Let's Do It Again as well as his stature; he stood at 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m) and weighed 300 to 380 lb (140–170 kg) according to differing accounts. The tape was reportedly made with no serious intent of getting a recording deal. However, it was promoted by New York-based DJ Mister Cee, who had previously worked with Big Daddy Kane, and in 1992 it was heard by the editor of The Source.
In March 1992, Wallace was featured in The Source's Unsigned Hype column, 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 label mates Heavy D & the Boyz's "A Buncha Niggas" (from the album Blue Funk). Soon after Wallace signed his recording contract, Combs was fired from Uptown and started a new label, Bad Boy Records. Wallace followed and signed to the label in mid-1992.
On August 8, 1993, Wallace's longtime girlfriend gave birth to his first child, T'yanna. Wallace had split with the girlfriend some time before T'yanna's birth. Despite having dropped out of high school himself, Wallace wanted his daughter to complete her education. He promised her "everything she wanted", saying that if his mother had promised him the same he would have graduated at the top of his class. He continued selling drugs after the birth to support his daughter financially. Once Combs discovered this, he forced Wallace to quit.
Later in the year, Wallace, recording as the Notorious B.I.G., gained exposure after featuring on a remix to Mary J. Blige's single "Real Love". He recorded under this name for the remainder of his career, after finding the original moniker "Biggie Smalls" was already in use. "Real Love" peaked at No. 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. 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", which reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.
On August 4, 1994, Wallace married R&B singer Faith Evans after they met at a Bad Boy photoshoot. Five days later, Wallace had his first pop chart success as a solo artist with double A-side, "Juicy / Unbelievable", which reached number 27 as the lead single to his debut album.
Ready to Die was released on September 13, 1994. It reached number 13 on the Billboard 200 chart and was eventually certified four times Platinum. The album shifted attention back to East Coast hip hop at a time when West Coast hip hop dominated US charts. It gained 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 No. 1 on the U.S. rap chart, and "One More Chance", which sold 1.1 million copies in 1995. Busta Rhymes claimed to have seen Wallace giving out free copies of Ready to Die from his home, which Rhymes reasoned as "his way of marketing himself".
Around the time of the album's release, Wallace became friends with a fellow rapper named Tupac Shakur. Cousin Lil' Cease recalled the pair as close, often traveling together whenever they were not working. According to him, Wallace was a frequent guest at Shakur's home and they spent time together when Shakur was in California or Washington, D.C. Yukmouth, an Oakland emcee, claimed that Wallace's style was inspired by Shakur. Wallace also befriended basketball player Shaquille O'Neal. O'Neal said they were introduced during a listening session for "Gimme the Loot"; Wallace mentioned him in the lyrics and thereby attracted O'Neal to his music. O'Neal requested a collaboration with Wallace, which resulted in the song "You Can't Stop the Reign". According to Combs, Wallace would not collaborate with "anybody he didn't really respect" and that Wallace paid O'Neal his respect by "shouting him out". In 2015, Daz Dillinger, a frequent Shakur collaborator, said that he and Wallace were "cool", with Wallace traveling to meet him to smoke cannabis and record two songs.
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 consisted of his friends from childhood and included rappers such as Lil' Kim and Lil' Cease, who went on to have solo careers. 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 R&B 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. 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, he 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 Rap Artist of the Year.
In his year of success, Wallace became involved in a rivalry between the East and West Coast hip hop scenes with Shakur, now his former friend. 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 five times 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 shooting, they denied the accusation. Wallace said: "It just happened to be a coincidence that he [Shakur] 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." In 2012, a man named Dexter Isaac, serving a life sentence for unrelated crimes, claimed that he attacked Shakur that night and that the robbery was orchestrated by entertainment industry executive and former drug trafficker, James Rosemond.
Following his release from prison, Shakur signed to Death Row Records on October 15, 1995. This made Bad Boy Records and Death Row business rivals, and thus intensified the quarrel.
Wallace began recording his second studio album in September 1995 over 18 months in New York City, Trinidad, and Los Angeles. The recording was interrupted by injury, legal disputes, and a highly publicized hip hop dispute. During this time, Wallace also worked with pop singer Michael Jackson on the album HIStory. Lil' Cease later claimed that Wallace refused requests to meet Jackson, citing that he did not "trust Michael with kids" following the 1993 child sexual abuse allegations against Jackson.
On March 23, 1996, Wallace was arrested outside a Manhattan nightclub for chasing and threatening to kill two fans seeking autographs, smashing the windows of their taxicab, and punching one of 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, New Jersey, 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 from Wallace at the time, and that Wallace had copied his style and image. Wallace referenced the first claim on Jay-Z's "Brooklyn's Finest", in which he raps: "If Faye have twins, she'd probably have two 'Pacs. Get it? 2Pac's?" However, he did not directly respond to the track, stating in a 1997 radio interview that it was "not [his] style" to respond.
Shakur was shot multiple times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on September 7, 1996, and died six days later. Rumors of Wallace's involvement with Shakur's murder spread. In a 2002 Los Angeles Times series titled "Who Killed Tupac Shakur?", based on police reports and multiple sources, Chuck Philips reported that the shooting was carried out by a Compton gang, the Southside Crips, to avenge a beating by Shakur hours earlier, and that Wallace had paid for the gun.
Evans remembered her husband calling her on the night of Shakur's death and crying from shock. She said: "I think it's fair to say he was probably afraid, given everything that was going on at that time and all the hype that was put on this so-called beef that he didn't really have in his heart against anyone." Wayne Barrow, Wallace's co-manager at the time, said Wallace was recording the track "Nasty Girl" the night Shakur was shot. Shortly after Shakur's death, he met with Snoop Dogg, who claimed that Wallace played the song "Somebody Gotta Die" for him, in which Snoop Dogg was mentioned, and declared he never hated Shakur.
On October 29, 1996, Evans gave birth to Wallace's son, Christopher "C.J." Wallace, Jr. 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 having a "love affair". Lil' Kim recalled being Wallace's "biggest fan" and "his pride and joy". In a 2012 interview, Lil' Kim said Wallace had prevented her from making a remix of the Jodeci single "Love U 4 Life" by locking her in a room. According to her, Wallace said that she was not "gonna go do no song with them," likely because of the group's affiliation with Tupac and Death Row Records.
During the recording for his second album, Life After Death, Wallace and Lil' Cease were arrested for smoking marijuana in public and had their car repossessed. Wallace chose a Chevrolet Lumina rental car as a substitute, despite Lil' Cease's objections. The car had brake problems but Wallace dismissed them. The car collided with a rail, shattering Wallace's left leg and Lil' Cease's jaw. Wallace spent months in a hospital following the accident; he was temporarily confined to a wheelchair, forced to use a cane, and had to complete therapy. Despite his hospitalization, he continued to work on the album. The accident was referred to in the lyrics of "Long Kiss Goodnight": "Ya still tickle me, I used to be as strong as Ripple be / Til Lil' Cease crippled me."
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 following a dispute in May 1995. He faced criminal assault charges for the incident, which remains unresolved, but all robbery charges were dropped. Following the events, Wallace spoke of a desire to focus on his "peace of mind" and his family and friends.
In February 1997, Wallace traveled to California to promote Life After Death 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 a security detail, since he feared for his safety; this was because he was a celebrity figure in general, not because he was a rapper.
On March 8, 1997, Wallace 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. After the ceremony, he attended an afterparty hosted by Vibe and Qwest Records at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Guests included Evans, Aaliyah, Combs, and members of the Crips and Bloods gangs.
On March 9, 1997, at 12:30 a.m. (PST), after the fire department closed the party early due to overcrowding, Wallace left with his entourage in two GMC Suburbans to return to his hotel. He traveled in the front passenger seat alongside his associates, Damion "D-Roc" Butler, 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, Paul Offord.
By 12:45 a.m. (PST), the streets were crowded with people leaving the party. Wallace's truck stopped at a red light 50 yards (46 m) from the museum. A black Chevy Impala 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. His entourage rushed him to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, but he was pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m. (PST).
Wallace's funeral was held on March 18, 1997, at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel in Manhattan. There were among 350 mourners at the funeral, including Queen Latifah, Flava Flav, Mary J. Blige, Lil' Kim, Lil' Cease, Run–D.M.C., DJ Kool Herc, Treach from Naughty by Nature, Busta Rhymes, Salt-N-Pepa, DJ Spinderella, Foxy Brown, Sister Souljah and others. After the funeral, his body was cremated and the ashes were given to his family