Christopher Wallace (May 21, 1972 - March 9, 1997), also known as Biggie Smalls (after a stylish gangster in the 1975 comedy, Let's Do it Again) and Frank White , but best known as The Notorious B.I.G. (Books Instead of Guns)., was a popular Brooklyn-born rapper of the mid-1990s. In his lyrics, Biggie also referred to himself under the alias Frank White (taken from the 1990 movie King of New York starring Christopher Walken).
The 6'3", 300 pound rapper was raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York City. B.I.G.'s mother Voleta Wallace was a preschool teacher who claimed that Christopher had lived a comfortable life (he claimed otherwise). Even as a young honor-roll student, he believed it would be best for him to drop out of high school at age seventeen to sell crack to live a comfortable life. He believed that selling drugs was nothing major and it was just the way of life for a young African American growing up in the ghetto. Because of his infatuation with selling drugs he began to take major risks in day-to-day life. He began trafficking drugs from New York to North Carolina. In the process of doing so he was caught and forced to complete a nine-month jail term. This was the turning point in his life which led him to believe that drugs were not the way to go and he wanted to pursue a career in rap.
He first gained notice for working with Mary J. Blige on What's the 411?, then released Ready to Die, his debut album, in 1994. Ready to Die is regarded as one of hip-hop's all-time classic albums. The album features one of rap's most famous "playa anthems", the song "Big Poppa." Biggie's album drew critical acclaim for its vivid story-telling and razor-sharp lyricism, such as "They don't know about the stress filled day/Baby on the way, mad bills to pay/That's why you drink tanqueray/So you can reminisce and wish/You wasn't living so devilish." Another standout track is "Warning," another song in which Biggie displays his story-telling ability. The album is considered by many to be one of the best and most hardcore hip-hop albums of all time.
In 1995, Biggie's new group Junior M.A.F.I.A. (Junior Masters At Finding Intelligent Attitudes) released the album Conspiracy. That same year saw the mainstream introduction of Biggie's labelmates Lil' Kim and Lil' Caesar by the rap star. That same year, B.I.G.'s single "One More Chance" debuted at #5 on the Pop Charts, tying Scream/Childhood as the highest debut single in music history. "One More Chance," which sampled the R&B song "Stay With Me," was a remix of the song by the same name that originally appeared on Ready to Die.
Although Ready to Die brought massive fame to Biggie, he is most famed for his somewhat overplayed and ultimately tragic involvement in rap's most infamous feud between the East and West Coast scenes. This rivalry existed between Biggie and Death Row rap superstar Tupac Shakur, a New York City native, who relocated to Los Angeles and Death Row Records because of the feud. This feud hung over a period of highly publicized rap violence that began with two shootings in which Shakur was the victim. The second of these shootings was fatal, taking place in Las Vegas, where Tupac had been watching a boxing match. Rumors of Biggie's possible involvement in the murder cropped up almost immediately. On March 9, 1997, the horrific events came full circle when Biggie was shot and killed in Los Angeles, where he had been attending a party by VIBE Magazine at the Peterson Automotive Museum. Neither murder has been conclusively solved, though theories abound as to the motives and identities of the murderers. Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight and the Mob Piru Bloods gang with whom he associates are among the prime suspects for involvement. In his book, LAbyrinth, LAPD officer Randall Sullivan probes the circumstances and figures involved in the shootings. Additionally, Director Nick Broomfield has released an investigative documentary called Biggie and Tupac which implicates the LAPD and Suge Knight, and the Los Angeles Times ran an article entitled "Who Shot Tupac Shakur?" by reporter Chuck Phillips, which concludes that Biggie Smalls was ultimately behind the Las Vegas shooting of Tupac. Life After Death, Biggie's second album, debuted at #1 on the charts. The album was released only two weeks after Biggie's murder. Its lead single was "Hypnotize", which was also the last video Biggie would take part in. Life After Death hit number one on the Billboard charts and spawned several hit singles in the United States. The album sold 10 million copies, and it is still the biggest selling hip-hop album of all time. Biggie's biggest chart hit was with the song "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems," an upbeat number featuring rappers Mase and Puff Daddy, and sampling the disco song "I'm Coming Out" by Diana Ross for the beat. The last single from Life After Death was "Sky's The Limit" featuring 112. The video for this song was noted for the use of children portraying a day in the life of Biggie.
At the end of 1997, Puff Daddy released his debut album "No Way Out," which featured Biggie on a number of songs, notably in the chorus of the single "Been Around the World" over David Bowie's sample ("Let's Dance"). However, the single that carried this album to the top was "I'll Be Missing You", a tribute and a massively successful single dedicated to Biggie. The song featured Puff Daddy, Wallace's widow Faith Evans and R&B group 112. The song sampled the melody of The Police's hit song "Every Breath You Take." All these artists performed the song with (former Police vocalist) Sting during the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards.
The year 1999 saw another release of a posthumous Notorious B.I.G. album. Puff Daddy released Biggie's third album, Born Again. It had two hit singles called "N.O.T.O.R.I.O.U.S." featuring Puff Daddy and Lil' Kim (interpolation to the Duran Duran's song of the same name), and "Dead Wrong" a single that later was remixed with a verse from Eminem. The video for "N.O.T.O.R.I.O.U.S." also featured appearances by 98 Degrees and Fat Joe.
In 2002, Puff Daddy gave 50 Cent rights to sample Biggie's verses from "Niggas" (a song from the Born Again album) into a song called "The Realest Niggas". It got out as a single and hit New York radio stations as a big hit. It was also released on some Rocafella Records B-sides and some street "mixtapes" by Eminem's "Shady Records" and other mixtapes made by street DJs. The song was also featured on "Bad Boys II OST". Since then, Eminem has made a remix of this song, he sings the end of the song, but changes his lyrics to say 'the realist label!'.
Ready to Die (Bad Boy Records, 1994)
Life After Death (Bad Boy Records, 1997)
Born Again (Bad Boy Records, 1999)