Christopher Wallace Also Known as the Notorious BIG , Biggie Smalls Or Simply Biggie was born May 21, 1972 to Voletta Wallace and Selwyn George Latore at St. Mary’s Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. He would be the only child born to his Jamaican immigrant parents. His mother Voletta, was a preschool teacher while his father, Selwyn was a welder and politician. At the age of two, Wallace’s father would leave him and his mother to be a single parent household. This caused his mother into working multiple jobs to provide for their family. Wallace grew up living at 226 St. James Place in Brooklyn on the boarder of Bedford-Stuyvesant or Bed-Stuy.
Wallace was raised to be catholic and attended Queen of All Saints Middle School where he excelled and was an honors English Student. The nickname “BIG” was given to him at the age of 10 as he was overweight. With his mother struggling to keep food on the table and pay the bills, Wallace felt the need to step up into his roll as the man of the house. He would begin selling drugs behind his mother’s back at the age of 12.
When on the streets, Wallace found a love for rapping, often entertaining people on the streets, performing with local groups like the Old Gold Brothers and the Techniques. Before becoming Biggie/The Notorious BIG/Biggie Smalls his first stage name was MC CWest. Attending Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School, Wallace would transfer to George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School in Downtown Brooklyn.
Though Wallace was always a good student and often top of his class, he began to develop a since of arrogance or as his mother would say, a “Smart Ass” attitude. Wallace would drop out at the age of 17 and turn his focus more to life on the streets. That same year, 1989, Wallace was arrested on a weapons charge and sentenced to five years probation. Two years later he would be arrested on a violation of his probation. A year later, Wallace would then again be arrested in North Carolina on drug charges. He would spend 9 months in jail before making bail.
ONE MORE CHANCE
After being released from jail Wallace being recording music under the name Biggie Smalls. He first made a demo tape titled Microphone Murder. Wallace was soon discovered by local DJ Mister Cee who promoted the demo. With the Help of Mister Cee, the demo was heard by famous rap Magazine The Source in 1992. That Spring BIG was featured in a section of The Source titled “unsigned hype”.
Sean “Diddy” Combs got a hold of the demo and instantly fell in love, he would sign BIG to Uptown Records. A year after Wallace’s appearance on “A Buncha Niggas” with Heavy D and the Boyz’s, Diddy would be fired from Uptown records only to launch Bad Boy Records a week later.
In August of 1993, Wallace’s high school girlfriend, Jan Jackson, would give birth to their daughter and his first child, T’yanna. With the absence of his father Wallace promised his daughter everything that she wanted. Whilst recording for Bad Boy Records, Wallace would continue to sell drugs but with the help of Combs, would soon stop. Later that year he would find himself changing his stage name from Biggie Smalls to The Notorious BIG as Biggie Smalls was already taken.
During these early years of his career BIG became very close and acquainted with the late, Tupac Shakur, one of the most famous West Cost Rappers. The two would spend much time together and travel when not working. Sources say that Shakur’s style of Rap influenced Wallace’s. Wallace would record remixes of songs by his Bad Boy Counter parts like “Real Love” by Mary J. Blige “What’s the 411?” and Neneh Cherry’s “Buddy X”. In 1993 Wallace would release his first solo track “Party and Bullshit”. In 1994 he would appear on Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear” remix. It reached number nine on the billboard Hot 100.
In 1994, Wallace met famous singer, Faith Evans at a Bad Boys photoshoot. The two instantly fell in love and were married eight days later. A week later Wallace would reach number 27 on the charts for his songs Juicy and Unbelievable the lead songs to his debut album. Ready to die was released September 13 1994 and reached number 13 on the billboard 200 chart and overtime certified four times as platinum.
BIG’s “Ready to Die” album was a huge pivot for East Coast rap as West Coast Rap was in the lime light. “Ready to Die” would produce several hits like Big-Poppa, which was number one on the US rap charts, and One More Chance selling 1.1 million copies in 1995. Wallace was also found collaborating with basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal on song “You Can’t Stop the Reign” after a listening session for BIG’s “Gimme the Loot” where Wallace mentions O’Neal.
Working with an Array of artist, Wallace worked with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. One of Wallace’s closest friends mentee’s, Lil’ Cease recalled that Wallace would not allow him to join him on his trip to meet Jackson as Wallace “Did not trust Michael With Kids”. Other sources say Wallace was elated and nearly burst into tears upon meeting Jackson. In 1995 BIG’s group Junior Mafia, a group of up and coming east coast rappers discovered by Wallace, released their first album “Conspiracy”. The group included rappers like Lil’ Kim and Lil’ Cease. The album was gold with singles “Get Money” and “Player’s Anthem” going gold and platinum, both featuring Wallace. Wallace would collaborate with other R&B artist like Total and 112 with songs both reaching the top 20 of the Hot 100. By the end of 1995, BIG would be the top-selling male solo artist and Rapper in the U.S. With being a hot commodity, BIG would go on to win Best New Artist at The Source Awards in 1995.
During his year of Success the West Coast vs East Coast Beef circulated with Shakur, his former friend. In an interview with Vibe in April of 1995, Shakur accused members if Uptown records setting him up to get robbed resulting in him being shot five times on November 30 1994. Following Tupac’s release from prison, Shakur would join Death Row Records Making Bad Boy and Death Row business rivals. In 1995 BIG was set to perform a show in Sacramento, upon arriving their was a small crowd who threw coins at them and upon departure they were held at gunpoint by E40’s, a famous west coast rapper, goons. The E40 squad was upset over an interview Wallace did giving an E40 a zero ranking artist 1-10.
SKY’S THE LIMIT
In March of 1996, Wallace was arrested for assaulting fans who were seeking an autograph. He pleaded guilty to second degree harassment and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service. Towards the middle of 1996, Wallace was arrested again at his home in Teaneck, New Jersey, for drug and weapons possession. In June of 1996 Tupac released “Hit Em Up” a diss track towards Wallace also claiming to have had slept with his now Ex Wife, Faith Evans. BIG claimed that diss tracks were not his style and did not respond to the track. On September 7, 1996 Shakur was shot multiple times in a drive by shooting resulting in his death. Rumors circulated that Wallace was the source of Tupac’s death stating that Wallace purchased the gun for a Compton gang to take out Shakur. The Wallace family denied all accusations and shared evidence of him being on the East coast the time of Pac’s death.
Two days after Tupac’s death Wallace and Lil’ Cease were arrested for smoking weed in Downtown Brooklyn, resulting in his car being repossessed. In replacement, Wallace chose a Chevrolet Lumina rental SUV. The SUV had several brake problems which Wallace dismissed causing the car to collied with a rail on the New Jersey turnpike. The accident shattered Wallace’s left leg, Lil’ Cease’s jaw and resulted in several injuries for Charli Baltimore, one of Wallace’s love interest. The accident forced Wallace to use a cane and complete therapy. Despite his hospitalization, he continued to work on Albums.
On October 29, 1996, Faith Evans gave birth to their son Christopher “C.J” Wallace Jr.
LIFE AFTER DEATH
In February 1997, Wallace went out to California to promote his newest album “Life After Death” and record a music video for one of his hit singles “Hypnotize”. A month later, Wallace attended a Soul Train awards after party.
Leaving the party the next day at 12:30 am, Wallace and his entourage piled into two GMC Suburbans to return to their hotel. Wallace traveling in the front passenger seat. Around 12:45 am the streets filled with party goers. Wallace’s truck stopped at a red light as a Black Chevy Impala pulled up alongside. An African-American man driving the impala in a blue tux rolled down the window and drew a 9mm blue steel pistol, firing shots at Wallace’s SUV. Wallace was hit four times and rushed to the hospital. He was pronounced dead at 1:15 am at the age of 24. Only the final shot was fatal.
Though passing at a young age, The Notorious BIG has touched generations of people and music. His legacy lives on through Junior Mafia, His children, Mother and millions of fans who stream his music daily. The Notorious BIG is the epitome of turning something into nothing going from a prison bound crack dealer to one of the greatest rappers of all time.
- “The Notorious B.I.G.” Hip Hop Wiki, https://hip-hop-music.fandom.com/wiki/The_Notorious_B.I.G.
- Caramanica, Jon. “Biggie Smalls, the Human behind the Legend.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Mar. 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/01/arts/music/biggie-smalls-i-got-a-story-to-tell.html.
- “Biggie Smalls: A Voice That Influenced A Generation https://www.npr.org/2010/08/02/128916682/biggie-smalls-the-voice-that-influenced-a-generation
- “Notorious BIG Biography”https://www.hiphopscriptures.com/notorious-big
- “Notorious B.I.G.’s legacy still hypnotizes 20 years after his death” https://www.cnn.com/2017/03/09/entertainment/notorious-big-20-year-anniversary/index.html
- “Christopher G. “The Notorious BIG” Wallace” https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/wallace-christopher-g-aka-biggie-smalls-and-notorious-b-i-g-1972-1997/