Throughout the early nineties, it was the West Coast scene that dominated mainstream hip-hop, thanks to the rise of Death Row Records and the undeniable grip that Dr Dre had on the world thanks to the invention of G-Funk, but there was one rapper on the East Coast that was destined to help shift the spotlight back in the favour of hip-hop’s birthing ground. Along with the lyrical acrobatics of Nas, New York was proud to give us the deep-toned grumbles of none other than The Notorious B.I.G., and it was his mafioso swagger that forever changed the future of rap music and the hip-hop culture.
Despite the constant controversy that surrounded his exploits, his unique style kept him at the top of everyone’s list up until his tragic death in 1997, which only added to the grief felt by hip-hop fans after the untimely passing of West Coast rap legend, Tupac Shakur. A true titan of the lyrical arts, Biggie Smalls has influenced generations of fans all around the world and continues to inspire with the memory that lives on through his music.
There’s never been a better time to admire a career that seemed to end as gloriously as it began, one that left an entire populous wondering what-could’ve-been if the King of New York had stuck around to continue his reign. There was no persona that cast a bigger shadow and few artists that have left such a respectable legacy. This is hip-hop of the nineties.
The Notorious B.I.G.
Christopher George Latore Wallace (a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G.) grew up in Brooklyn, New York and was raised primarily by his mother. She was often away from home working two jobs which gave Christopher just enough freedom to start selling drugs at a very young age. All the while he attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School along with future success stories, Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes but he eventually dropped out once he got more involved in crime.
Christopher was arrested in 1989, 1990 and 1991, for different crimes, including weapons charges and dealing crack cocaine. Once he finally made bail, he decided to put his rhyming skills to good use and recorded a demo tape under the alias ‘Biggie Smalls’, a name which he borrowed from the drug dealer in the 1975 movie, Let’s Do It Again. It was also a reference to Christopher’s overall physique. He was about 6 foot 3 inches tall and weighed between 300-400 lbs!
Even though the demo tape wasn’t made with any real intent, it was eventually heard by the editor of The Source (legendary hip-hop magazine) and they featured the young rapper in their Unsigned Hype Column. That kind of exposure had to result in a deal and it was up and coming A&R, Sean Combs, that signed The Notorious B.I.G. to his fledgeling label, Bad Boy Records.
Combs immediately set Christopher to work appearing on remixes for various artists, including Mary J. Blige, Craig Mack and reggae artist Super Cat, and it wasn’t long before the ‘The Notorious B.I.G.’ was a name being mentioned on the Billboard Charts. He seemed to only go from strength to strength throughout 1993 and it set Biggie up to make an epic debut the following year, but not before he met and fell for future R&B superstar, Faith Evans. After crossing paths at a Bad Boy Photoshoot, they wed in 1994.
Nearly a month later, The Notorious B.I.G. released his first full-length album entitled Ready To Die to critical acclaim and received praise from all circles of music. It helped to draw the attention back from the West Coast and keep listeners glued to a new sound that hit harder but still kept the party vibe going. The first single was a track called Juicy, which described Biggie’s epic hustle from the grimy streets of Brooklyn to being a Multi-Million Dollar Entertainer.
Although it reached Gold status, Juicy‘s success would soon be eclipsed by the smash hit Big Poppa. It dominated nearly every chart it could climb and its success helped the young rapper earn the distinguished title of ‘King Of New York’ (according to The Source).
Christopher was eager to share in his success and soon recruited a few of his childhood friends to form the rap group Junior M.A.F.I.A. (Junior Masters At Finding Intelligent Attitudes). Their first album Conspiracy was released in 1995 and received notable success with a few of them going on to have solo careers of their own. He also contributed a verse and collaborated with various R&B acts, like 112, and was the top-selling male solo artist in hip-hop by the end of the year.
It was all sunshine though. Tupac Shakur was attacked and shot in the lobby of Quad Recording Studios, the same studio where B.I.G. and Sean Combs happened to be working at the same time. He was quick to assign blame to Biggie, Sean and Bad Boy, and made the feud official when he signed to Death Row Records. The next year, Tupac released a scathing diss track aimed at The Notorious B.I.G. but Christopher refused to make a direct retaliation.
Where Is He Now?
B.I.G. began recording his second album late 1996, amidst a whirlwind of personal drama after the birth of his son and the constant speculation surrounding the death of his hip-hop rival. Nevertheless, Life After Death was recorded, completed and scheduled for release on March 25, 1997. Sixteen days before the album hit stores, The Notorious B.I.G. was killed in a drive-by shooting while leaving an after party in Los Angeles, California.
Life After Death was released and immediately shot to the top of the charts. The double full-length album did everything it was supposed to and more and is looked at fondly by many fans around the world. This definitive album is the epitome of one man’s epic quest to hip-hop glory.
Are you a fan of The Notorious B.I.G.? Wanna tell us about your love for Biggie Smalls? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.
Ryan C. Voller, Recording Artist – Producer – Lead Contributor for HowToMakeHip-Hop.com