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About The Notorious B.I.G.
At the height of his success, The Notorious B.I.G. dubbed himself the King of New York after the Christopher Walken-portrayed antihero from the film of the same name. The title was fitting and limiting: His swagger was unmistakably Brooklyn, but his talent and charisma made him a world-renowned superstar. Born Christopher Wallace in 1972, B.I.G. was raised by a Jamaican immigrant mother, writing raps and freestyling on street corners as a preteen. After dropping out of high school and serving jail time for drug charges, he recorded a demo tape that eventually landed him at Bad Boy Records, founded by Sean "Diddy" Combs. B.I.G.'s explosive 1994 debut album, Ready to Die, chronicled his survivalism and sexploits with charm, menace, and urgency. His vivid stories featured unflinching details ("I wouldn't give a f*ck if you're pregnant / Give me the baby rings and the No. 1 Mom pendant," he demands on "Gimme the Loot"), made digestible by his distinctive flow and recognizable '80s R&B samples courtesy of The Hitmen. The "ashy-to-classy" aspirations of Biggie's hit "Juicy" became a reality: He elevated his Junior M.A.F.I.A. crew, godfathered an empire of hitmakers, and became one of the biggest rap stars in the world. Sadly, his meteoric rise came with a media-exacerbated beef with L.A. rapper 2Pac that culminated in both stars' murders six months apart, crippling the culture as it reeled from the luminaries’ absence. The ominously titled Life After Death—released weeks after Biggie's demise in March 1997—showed further refinement of his already elite skills, with mafioso raps and taunts aimed at other regions. Since, Bad Boy has released posthumous projects while new generations of East Coast rappers have worked to live up to his legacy. But try as they might, no one can dethrone the king.
- Brooklyn, NY, United States of America
- May 21, 1972