Christopher George Latore Wallace, better known as The Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie Smalls, was born to Jamaican immigrants at St. Mary’s Hospital on May 21, 1972 in Brooklyn, New York.
Growing up in the rough and impoverished neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Biggie had a difficult childhood marked by poverty and violence. His mother, Voletta Wallace, was a preschool teacher, while his father, Selwyn George Latore, was a welder and politician. His father left the family when Wallace was two years old, and his mother worked two jobs while raising him.
Despite this, he excelled academically and showed a talent for music from a young age. As a teenager, Biggie began selling drugs to make ends meet, but he also continued to hone his skills as a rapper. He gained a reputation for his impressive freestyling abilities, and in 1992, he was discovered by Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, who signed him to his newly formed record label, Bad Boy Records.
Biggie’s debut album, “Ready to Die,” was released in 1994 to critical acclaim. It showcased his unique storytelling ability and gritty, vivid imagery, and featured hit singles like “Juicy” and “Big Poppa.” The album went on to become a massive commercial success, selling over 6 million copies in the United States alone.
However, Biggie’s success was not without controversy. The Brooklyn rapper’s rise to fame coincided with a period of intense competition between East Coast and West Coast rappers. The feud between The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur, in particular, became emblematic of this rivalry. While the root causes of the beef are complex, it’s widely believed to have started when Tupac accused Biggie of being involved in a 1994 robbery that left him shot and injured. Biggie denied the allegations, but the tension between the two rappers continued to escalate through a series of diss tracks and verbal jabs.
The feud came to a tragic end in September 1996 when Tupac was shot and killed in Las Vegas. Although no one has ever been convicted of Tupac’s murder, many people believe that it was connected to the ongoing East Coast-West Coast rivalry. Just six months later, Biggie was gunned down in Los Angeles under similar circumstances. His murder remains unsolved to this day, though there are many theories about who was behind it.
Despite his relatively short career, Biggie’s impact on hip-hop cannot be overstated. He is widely considered one of the greatest rappers of all time and is credited with popularizing the East Coast rap scene. His influence can be heard in the work of countless artists who came after him, including Jay-Z, Nas, and Eminem.
In addition to his music, Biggie’s larger-than-life personality and flashy style made him a pop culture icon. He was known for his love of luxury cars, expensive jewelry, and flashy clothes, and he remains a symbol of 1990s hip-hop culture to this day.
Biggie’s legacy has been celebrated in numerous ways since his death. He has been posthumously honored with numerous awards, including a Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame induction in 2020. His life has also been the subject of several documentaries and biopics, including the 2009 film “Notorious,” which chronicled his rise to fame and tragic death.
Decades after his tragic death, Biggie remains a beloved figure in hip-hop culture and a symbol of the genre’s golden era.
The Notorious B.I.G.’ Best Songs
The Notorious B.I.G. had numerous hit songs during his career, and his impact on the world of hip-hop is undeniable. Some of his most popular and influential tracks include:
Released in 1994, this song is considered one of Biggie’s signature tracks. It tells the story of his rise from poverty to fame and features a memorable sample of Mtume’s “Juicy Fruit.”
Another hit from “Ready to Die,” this song is a smooth, laid-back track that showcases Biggie’s storytelling ability and smooth flow.
Released in 1997, just a few months before his death, this song is one of Biggie’s most upbeat and celebratory tracks. It features a catchy sample of Herb Alpert’s “Rise” and a memorable video featuring Biggie and his crew on a yacht.
“One More Chance”
This song was originally released as a remix to an earlier track of the same name and features a sample of DeBarge’s “Stay with Me.” It became a massive hit and is considered one of Biggie’s most iconic songs.
“Mo Money Mo Problems”
This track, which features Puff Daddy and Mase, was released in 1997 and became one of Biggie’s most commercially successful songs. It features a sample of Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out” and a memorable video featuring Biggie and his crew in a glittering, disco-era setting.
Other notable tracks by Biggie include “Warning,” “Ten Crack Commandments,” “The What,” and “Sky’s the Limit.”