Artist Profile: The Notorious B.I.G.


(Image via Highsnobiety)

Joselyn Gonzalez, Writer

It has almost been 24 years since the passing of The Notorious B.I.G. Born in Brooklyn New York on May 21st, 1972, he grew up to have a massive impact in the hip-hop/rap industry. Christopher George Latore Wallace, also known as The Notorious B.I.G, Biggie, or Biggie Smalls grew up in Brooklyn’s Bedford neighborhood, where crime rates were relatively high. Throughout his career, Biggie became no stranger to crime and government punishment, yet he successfully continued his music career. 

Biggie’s childhood was far from perfect. At the age of 2, his father walked out on him and his mom. This led Biggie’s mother, Voletta, to take on the parental role as a single mother. She started to work two jobs for the sole purpose of providing a better education for her only child. In school, Biggie received many awards for his fantastic work in English class, but the absence of guidance led him to get involved with drugs. By the age of 12, Biggie became a drug dealer and moved schools where his classmates gave him the nickname “Big” (hence the nickname Biggie.) He, along with Jay Z, Busta, and DMX attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School in downtown Brooklyn. By 17 Biggie had dropped out of school and began to find interest in music. He began to rap and entertain people in the streets for some years until he created a demo tape that caught the attention of Sean “Puffy” Combs. As his manager helped him grow larger in the hip-hop/rap industry, he was able to collaborate and meet new people, including the legendary rapper Tupac Shakur. Their friendship did quickly end as Biggie and his manager were accused of trying to assassinate Tupac on November 30th, 1994

Sadly, on March 9th, 1997, Biggie’s life came to an end due to a drive-by shooting. He arrived in Los Angeles because he was promoting his 2nd upcoming album, Life after Death. At 12:45 am, he and his bodyguards were leaving a nearby party in their Chevy Suburban. They stopped at a red light in the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and South Fairfax Avenue when a Chevrolet Impala arrived next to them. The shooter quickly opened fire and four bullets punctured the rapper. He was quickly ushered to a nearby hospital but was pronounced dead at 1:15 am. His death was highly unusual as the rapper, Tupac, had also been killed in a drive-by shooting a couple of months prior. Both their deaths hurt the music industry since their music was admired by many rap fans. Nas (commonly known rapper) stated their deaths were “nearly the end of rap.” To this day their cases remain unsolved but progress has been made. 

Although Biggie lived a short life, he managed to produce music that would be played for many years to come. While he was alive, he released his first studio album titled, Ready to Die, on September 13, 1994. A couple of days after his death, his second studio album Life After Death was released to the public. His management team released three phosphorus albums, Born again (1997), Duet’s: The Final Chapter (2005), and The King and I featuring Faith Evans (2017). 

As the years pass without the influential Notorious B.I.G, we are still fortunate that we are able to listen and enjoy all the music he has left behind. His encounter with jail and crime might not have been a great front for him but that doesn’t stop the fact his music is a core foundation to hip-hop/rap. Biggie’s music will continue to strive in the music industry, as well as inspire new upcoming rappers. In the end, Biggie is set to be the face of East Coast rap which for obvious reasons is a deserved title.