The Notorious B.I.G. was an iconic East Coast rapper who released only one album during his lifetime, but rose to fame after his untimely death in a shooting incident. He was born Christopher George Latore Wallace on May 21, 1972 to Voletta Wallace and George Latore and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He was raised in the tough environment of the ghettos, and the family’s situation was worsened by the fact that his father left the family when Wallace was just two years old. He was raised by his mother who worked two jobs to support the two of them. Wallace was an intelligent child who excelled at his studies, particularly English.
By the time he was 12, he became involved in selling illegal drugs on the street. At the age of 17, he dropped out of school and was later arrested for possession of weapons. He was sentenced to five years on probation and was later arrested on parole violation for which he did a nine month stint in jail. He had been interested in rap music from a young age, and made a demo tape which was discovered by the rapper/ producer Sean Combs (better known as Puff Daddy) who signed him to his label “Bad Boy Records”.
Around this time, he adopted the stage name The Notorious B.I.G. (due to his large stature and weight) and was featured on a Mary J. Blige song “Real Love” which reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, followed by collaboration on another song “What’s the 411?”. His own song “Party and Bullshit” appeared in the the movie “Who’s the Man?” and the same year he collaborated with rappers LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes on the song “Flava in Ya Ear” which reached No. 9 on the Hot Billboard Hot 100. He also mentored a band called Junior M.A.F.I.A. which featured future R&B/ rap solo artist Lil’ Kim. The band released its debut album “Conspiracy” in 1995.
In 1994, Notorious B.I.G. released his first and only album during his lifetime, titled “Ready to Die”. It reached No. 13 on the Billboard 200 chart and was certified four times Platinum which included hit singles such as “Juicy/ Unbelievable”, “Big Poppa” and “One More Chance”. The same year he married R&B singer Faith Evans. B.I.G. was involved in a famous East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry with rapper and former friend Tupac Shakur. Shakur blames B.I.G. for being involved in an armed robbery in which Shakur was shot five times. Shakur survived the attack but the rivalry between him and B.I.G. became really intense with Shakur verbally assaulting B.I.G. at every turn, even claiming to have an affair with his friend’s wife Faith Evans. In 1996, Shakur was shot and killed in an anonymous shooting incident in Las Vegas. That same year, B.I.G. and Faith Evans had a son named Christopher Wallace, Jr.
B.I.G. had been working on his second studio album titled “Life After Death” but in the meantime his personal and professional life were both troubled. He was suspected of being involved in Shakur’s death and he also faced criminal assault charges for beating up a concert promoter for which he was fined US$41,000. In February 1997, while touring to promote his upcoming album, B.I.G. presented an award to Toni Braxton at the Soul Train Music Awards in Los Angeles. He attended a party after the award ceremony and while leaving that, he was shot four times by an unknown assailant. His friends rushed him to the hospital but he could not be resuscitated. His second album was released posthumously, soon after his death; it reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and was certified Diamond, the highest rating achieved by a solo hip hope album. The Notorious B.I.G. is still remembered as one of the best hip hop/ rap artists and was named the greatest rapper of all time by the Source Magazine in its 150th issue. Several artists drew influence from his music and lyrics, including Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Alicia Keys, Nelly, Ja Rule, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Michael Jackson and Usher.