The Legacy of The Notorious B.I.G

Intro + Thesis

The Notorious B.I.G, also known as Biggie Smalls is a legendary and iconic New York rapper as he became the face of East Coast gangsta rap. Biggie’s voice doesn’t sound like anybody else’s. It’s plummy, wheezy, humid. It sounds like it comes from deeper in his chest than other people’s voices. He is one of the most commercially successful and impactful rappers in the 90’s, and his death in 1997 is one of hip-hops greatest unsolved mysteries. He was only murdered when he was 24 years old. Yet to this day he’s one of the most revered, emulated, and biggest selling rappers in the game.

Rise to Fame

Christopher George Latore Wallace was born on May 21, 1972, in Brooklyn, New York.His mother Voletta Wallace was a Jamaican pre-school teacher. His father Selwyn Latore was a welder and a politician. Although Wallace was a good student, by the age of twelve he was dealing drugs and as a teen fell into a life of crime. He would be arrested numerous times during his short life. Eventually Wallace attended Brooklyn’s George Westinghouse High School, and after school he played with jazz saxophonist Donald Harrison. Wallace dropped out of high school at seventeen with aspirations of becoming a rap superstar following his idols Run-DMC and Big Daddy Kane. Biggie began rapping as a teenager to entertain people in his neighborhood. After he got out of jail, he made a demo tape as Biggie Smalls — named after a gang leader from the 1975 movie Let’s Do It Again; also a nod to his childhood nickname. Due to legal issues with the name, he later adopted a second stage name “The Notorious B.I.G.” In the 1990s, Sean Combs, also known as “P. Diddy,” heard Biggie Smalls’ demo tape and quickly signed him with Uptown Records. In 1992, Combs put Smalls on the remix of Mary J. Blige’s song “Real Love,” giving the rapper his first national exposure.


The Notorious B.I.G.’s debut album came out on Bad Boy in September 1994, a month after “Juicy,” his first single for the label. The album, Ready to Die, was certified gold within two months, double-platinum the following year, and eventually quadruple-platinum. “Big Poppa,” the second of the album’s four singles, was nominated for a Grammy for best rap solo performance. Ready to Die marked a resurgence in East Coast hip hop, and Biggie was widely acclaimed for the narrative ability he displayed on the album’s semi-autobiographical tales from his wayward youth. Biggie did not sugar-coat the drug-dealer lifestyle. His success fueled the coastal rivalry with other prominent rappers, and when Tupac Shakur was murdered in 1996. On March 25, 1997, Notorious B.I.G.’s second album, Life After Death, was released posthumously. In 2000, the album was certified Diamond in sales, meaning that it sold more than 10,000,000 copies. Life After Death was one of the few albums in any genre to hold this distinction, making it one of the highest selling hip-hop albums of all time.

Death + Legacy

On the night of March 8, 1997, Notorious B.I.G. attended a large party in Los Angeles promoting his new single “Hypnotize” and his new album. In the early morning hours on March 9, he and his entourage were fired upon by unknown assailants as they were returning to the hotel after the party. Notorious B.I.G. was killed; he was twenty-four years old.Like that of Tupac, the killing of Biggie Smalls would never be solved. There would be no closure. Also like Tupac, Biggie would release a double album posthumously, in Biggie’s case a mere fortnight after his demise.But this wasn’t the last that the world had heard from Biggie Smalls. He was featured on no fewer than five songs on Puff Daddy’s 1997 album, No Way Out. A single from that album, “I’ll Be Missing You,” dedicated to Biggie’s memory, won the Grammy for best rap performance by a duo or group in 1998 — ironically beating Biggie himself, whose “Mo Money Mo Problems” was nominated in the same category. There were two more posthumous albums using previously unreleased material: Born Again in 1999 and Duets: the Final Chapter in 2005 — featuring a host of guests including Eminem, Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige and, bizarrely, Bob Marley — also from beyond the grave — and the metal band Korn.


The Source Music Hip Hop Awards (1995)

New Artist of the Year, Solo

Lyricist of the Year

Live Performer of the Year

Album of the Year

Bilboard Music Awards (1995)

Rap Artist of the Year

Rap Single of the Year

Bilboard Music Awards (1997)

R&B Album

MTV Video Music Awards (1998)

Best Rap Video

Soul Train Music Awards (1996)

R&B/Soul or Rap Song of the Year

Soul Train Music Awards (1998)

Best R&B/Soul Album – Male


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