Notorious B.I.G. Biography

 

Almost exactly six months after the fatal drive-by shooting of one of "gangsta" rap's biggest stars, another prominent rap star -- the Notorious B.I.G., or Biggie Smalls -- was killed in Los Angeles early yesterday morning in a shooting that bore similarities to the earlier incident.

>The 24-year-old rapper, whose real name was Christopher Wallace, was shot just after midnight by unknown assailants in a vehicle as he sat in the passenger seat of a GMC Suburban at a stoplight in downtown Los Angeles, according to a police statement. He was hit several times, including at least once in the head, and died shortly afterward at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

The Notorious B.I.G. was the East Coast's biggest response to the West Coast-born genre of gangsta rap. Bursting onto the scene in 1994 with his million-selling album "Ready to Die," he put a New York stamp on gangsta rap, relying on his street credentials as a former drug dealer and street hustler in the rough Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

Police detectives acknowledged that the shooting raises serious concerns about an ongoing war between East Coast and West Coast rappers. While hard-core rappers have often been accused of glorifying a violent lifestyle in their lyrics, recent incidents indicate that many rappers live close to violence themselves.

Detectives said they were seeking to interview more than 30 potential witnesses to the slaying today, many of them staying at area hotels while attending Friday night's Soul Train Music Awards, but noted that they had no leads and that there is no indication of a tie between Wallace's killing and that of Tupac Shakur. "We don't have any evidence to show that there's a connection," said Detective Raymond Futami. He told the Los Angeles Times that he suspects witnesses in the Wallace case are afraid to talk.

Another detective, William Scott, said police had not even identified the driver of the car in which Wallace was shot.

Last Sept. 7, the 25-year-old Shakur was mortally wounded as he sat in the passenger seat of a car stopped at a Las Vegas intersection. Shakur, shot several times, died of his wounds six days later in a hospital trauma ward.

The resemblance between the two killings is noteworthy because the two rappers were rivals, with Shakur representing West Coast gangsta rap and the Brooklyn-born Wallace a leader of the East Coast hip-hop scene. Wallace was in Los Angeles as a presenter at the Soul Train awards and attended a private party Saturday night at the Petersen Automotive Museum just before he was shot.

Wallace took pride in his identity as a street-hardened rapper. As the Notorious B.I.G., he was honored as rap artist of the year at the Billboard Music Awards in 1995; his single "One More Chance/Stay With Me" was named best rap single that year.

He had had several recent run-ins with the law. Last summer he was arrested after police found marijuana and firearms at his Teaneck, N.J., home. A few months earlier the rapper had pleaded guilty to criminal mischief after assaulting a pair of fans with a baseball bat. He was sentenced to 100 hours of community service.

"If I wasn't in the rap game/ I'd probably have a key [kilogram] knee-deep in the crack game," he rapped. "Because the streets is a short stop/ Either you're slingin' rock or you got a wicked jump shot/ It's hard being from the slums/ Eating five-cent gums/ Not knowing where your next meal is coming from."

The Notorious B.I.G.'s delivery was deep-voiced, husky and hefty, resonating from his 6-foot-3, 380-pound frame. Wallace intensified the emphasis on machismo in New York rap into a focus on criminal life, rapping about robbing and killing, and about how much conditions had deteriorated in his neighborhood during his lifetime -- a period, he said, when fistfights were replaced with semiautomatic gunfire.

In his music, he sometimes spoke of menacing his own community: "Lock your windows, close your doors," he rapped. "I rob and steal because money's got that whip-appeal."

He gave this warning to his enemies: "C-4 [explosives] to your door/ No beef no more."

The albums of the Notorious B.I.G. contributed their share of misogynist lyrics, referring to women as "bitches" and " 'hos" and perpetuating the image of women as sex-for-sale gold diggers. More recently, collaborating with other rappers from his Bad Boy Entertainment label, including Junior Mafia and Lil' Kim, he had switched his emphasis from violence to the luxury cars, expensive women, mansions, designer clothes and premium liquors that a celebrity lifestyle could afford.

The West Coast rap contingent has also had trouble with the law. Shakur served time in a maximum-security prison for his role in the gang rape of a female fan by his entourage. Marion "Suge" Knight, the owner of Death Row Records, which released Shakur's last album, was sent to jail for nine years just over a week ago for violating the terms of his probation for a 1992 double assault with a firearm.

The East-West tensions have centered on the more hard-core elements in rap, with most of the venom directed eastward by members of California's gangsta cliques, and most consistently by people associated with Knight. The majority of the hip-hop community has been calling for a decrease in the rhetoric in an attempt to defuse tensions.

Both Knight and the head of Bad Boy Entertainment, Sean "Puffy" Combs, have denied an East Coast-West Coast rift in the rap world. But Wallace was conspicuously absent from a high-profile "rap summit" in Harlem last fall that was called after Shakur's still-unsolved slaying.

Other issues hung between the two slain rappers. Shakur had accused Wallace of setting him up in 1994, when Shakur was shot several times and robbed of $40,000 in jewelry in the lobby of a New York recording studio. Last year Shakur taunted Wallace in one of his songs, saying he had slept with the New York rapper's ex-wife, Faith Evans: "I ..... your bitch, you fat ............"

On the night of the shooting, Wallace had left a party that had been broken up by fire marshals because of overcrowding at the Petersen Automotive Museum. At 12:35 a.m., as he sat in the Suburban at the intersection of Wilshire and Fairfax boulevards, Wallace was shot repeatedly.

Ex-wife Evans, a singer, and witness Kevin Kim were in the museum parking lot when they heard gunshots and commotion. "Someone just rolled by and started shooting," Kim told news agencies.

Dozens of friends and fans gathered outside Cedars-Sinai hospital to mourn Wallace's death. Police cordoned off the utility vehicle in the hospital parking lot to inspect the bullet holes in the passenger-side front door before impounding it. Wallace's body was identified early yesterday afternoon at the Los Angeles Coroner's Office by Evans and the rapper's mother, who flew in from New York, officials told the Los Angeles Times.

Bad Boy Entertainment issued a statement in New York saying, "We are overwhelmed with grief by the death of a great artist, a family member and our friend, the Notorious B.I.G."

His new album was scheduled to come out March 25. The title: "Life After Death . . . 'Til Death Do Us Part."

 

Notorious B.I.G.- Biography and Discography

"I was a full time 100 percent hustler. Sellin' drugs, waking up early in the morning, hitting the set selling my shit 'til the crack of dawn. My mother goin' to work would see me out there in the morning. Thats' how I was on it."

-The Notorious B.I.G.

Twenty-year-old, Brooklyn born and bred, B.I.G., also known as Biggie Smalls, also known as Chris Wallace, used to be a hustler, but now he has other things occupying his time. Over the last two years, he has rapped on Mary J. Blige's remixes of "Real Love" and "What's The 411," appeared in Supercat's "Dolly My Baby" video, had his own single, "Party and Bullshit," from the Who's The Man? soundtrack, and performed at shows all over the country. With '94 comes B.I.G.'s debut album, Ready To Die.

B.I.G.'s minimal exposure to the public has been more than enough to have the underground hip-hop heads finding for more of his crystal-clear, captivating rhymes. His lyrical style could also be described as listener-friendly, because every single word is decipherable and the details that he weaves together will paint the entire picture for you. At the end of a B.I.G. rhyme, you can visualize what happened just as clearly as if you were watching a movie.

B.I.G. is considered the mayor of his Bed-Stuy neighborhood. Everyone knows his big, black, towering presence as barks out like an army general. Everybody speaks to him, from old ladies to little kids, and he has something to say right back to all of them. "Hey, Ms. Price! How's your on doing?...Damn, boy. When are you gonna cut that box off your head?"

Back in the day (not really the day, more like '90-'91) when his "business" was in full swing, he rapped a little bit too. He had a rep in the neighborhood, "cause everyone knew I had skills or whatever." But he was just having fun, the rap stuff was secondary.

"I used to hang out with the OGB Crew, the Old Gold Brothers, over on Bedford Ave," B.I.G. explains. That's where he got his start. They weren't a rap crew, but one of them had turntables in his basement, so they would go over and make tapes. Tapes started to circulate around their Bed-Stuy neighborhood, but for B.I.G., "It was fun just hearin' myself on tape over the beats."

Still with no real intentions of making a record or getting a deal, his tape was passed on to Big Daddy Kane's DJ, Mister Cee, who lived in the neighborhood and made tapes. Cee thought it was o dope that he took it to Matty C up at The Source to get in their "Unsigned Hype" column. The Source liked it so much that they asked him to appear on a compilation album of their best "Unsigned Hype" winners. The album never came out but Common Sense, Back II Back, Mobb Deep and B.I.G., all scheduled to be on the album, ended up with record deals.

Everything sort of took B.I.G. by surprise. He had never thought of getting a record deal, yet within a couple of weeks he was in The Source on the compilation album and penning a deal with Uptown Records. Sean "Puffy" Combs, Uptown's National Director of A&R at the time, saw something in B.I.G. and took him in as family. Riding on his success with Mary J. Blige and Jodeci, it was not a matter of "will this album be dope," but "how dope is it going to be?"

"Puffy helped a lot with the A&R," says B.I.G. "It was a lot of stuff he made me do over. He wasn't trying to rush nothing. He treated my album like an R&B album. As far as pitch, breath control all that shit, he was making sure my shit was right."

They finished the album, but then Puffy left Uptown and started his own label, Bad Boy Records. without Puffy, Uptown decided they didn't want to handle B.I.G., so they dropped him. But Bad Boy was right there to pick up where Uptown left off. "This is what we always wanted," insists B.I.G. "I wanted to go to Puff's shit because I knew if I went to that nigga's shit it'd be 100 percent correct."

Ready To Die, produced mostly by Easy Mo Bee, with additional cuts by The Bluez Bruthas, Trak Masters and Lord Finesse, is a heavily R&B-flavored, cut and dry mixture of "gangsta" subject matter and East Coast rhyme skills. Example? On "Everyday Struggle" Big sets up a scenario where he and his man are driving down South to take over a drug spot. "I had the master plan/I'm in the Caravan/On my way to Maryland/With my man Two Techs to take over these projects/They call his 'Two Techs' he totes two techs/ And when he starts to bust he likes to ask, 'Who's next?"

Now, be careful and don't let the titles fool you. "Friend of Mine" is a cut with B.I.G. talking about pimping: "When I'm fuckin' off gin, I'm invincible/Don't love those ho's that's my principle." And "Me and My Bitch" is actually a love story where his girlfriend ends up dying in the end.

He mentions his mother several times throughout the album, clearly because she was a big part of his life even through his eyes, it wasn't always the best. "When I was little, my mom used to shit on me," he says. During the trip across Ready To Die, you'll see his relationship with his mother comes full circle. First, he's little and his mom ain't giving him shit, then he's making money as a rapper and she's sporting minks on her back, and finally, she develops breast cancer and B.I.G. shows his first signs of emotion.

On "Gimme The Loot," Biggie, along with his alter-ego, plan a no-shorts-taken robbery spree. Wu Tang Clan's Method Man contributes to "The What," and reggae diva Diana King shows up on "Respect," a song about Biggie coming up.

The Notorious B.I.G. has come up. And after riding along with Mary J. Blige for a minute, it's time for him to come out. Nevermind the title, he's not "ready to die." This is only the beginning.

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