It has been 25 years since the passing of Christopher Wallace better known to the world as The Notorious B.I.G.
Nearly a quarter century following the passing of the hip hop legend, we have seen many changes to the hip hop landscape. Some of the biggest artists today were not yet born that infamous day in 1997. Throughout all of the changes in hip hop during its time, one thing has stayed consistent. Whether it is a party, a movie, a passing car, or even on the radio on HOT 97, the sounds of Biggie Smalls’ music blaring through the speakers is just as impactful now as it was when were first introduced to him in 1994.
His words, rhyme pattern, and overall legend status still relates to a new generation of artists and fans during a time lyricism is not as celebrated as it was during the golden era of the mid-to-late 1990’s.
It was DJ Mister Cee that helped introduce the world to Biggie. Back in 1992, a demo tape was recorded, and ended up in the hands of Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs who at the time was looking for an artist as an A&R for Uptown Records, and came across The Notorious B.I.G. The rest you can say is history.
Here is what The Source had to say about that very demo tape back in 1992.
“If you’re an aspiring rapper and you know you have the flavor and potential to make dope records, you don’t need to go into the studio and spend crazy cash to make a fly demo. You don’t even need a 4-track; just two turntables and a microphone, press record on the tape deck and you’re good to go.
B-I-G is living proof of this fact. His DJ, Hitman 50 Grand, threw a couple classic breaks and instrumentals and let B-I-G do what he had to do: he ripped shit. Straight outta Brooklyn, New York, the heavy-set brother B-I-G has mad skills. His rhymes are fatter then he is.
All four of his jams were basically a freestyle exhibition. Obviously, to come out as an MC takes a lot more than hype rhymes, but rhyme skills are the main ingredient to true success in hip-hop, and when it comes to those, B-I-G’s got plenty.”
“Look up in the sky it’s a bird it’s a plane!” It was the remix to Mary J. Blige’s single “Real Love” that allowed mainstream fans to learn about the rapper for the first time with his catchy line. Before releasing his successful debut album, Ready To Die, he built up the hype with classic features such as “Dolly My Baby,” “What’s the 411?” and “Flava In Ya Ear.”
After the success of his single “Party & Bulls***” in 1993, it was time for fans to get a full project from the Brooklyn MC. It was released on September 13, 1994. In 19 tracks, Biggie helped bring the balance of power in hip hop back to the east coast following the dominance of the west brought by the success of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Death Row Records.
It is Biggie’s strength of storytelling mixed with great production, and with the help of Puff Daddy, exploded onto the scene with a unique blend of street raps with the melodic sounds of classic rhythm and blues. “Big Poppa,” “One More Chance,” and the timeless classic “Juicy” which sampled Mtume’s classic hit “Juicy Fruit,” helped carry the album to popular success.
At the time, Rolling Stone wrote “Ready to Die is the strongest solo rap debut since Ice Cube’s Amerikkka’s Most Wanted. From the breathtakingly visual moments of his birth to his Cobainesque end in “Suicidal Thoughts.”
Going Back To Cali!
Ready to Die was a huge success. He single-handedly brought the East Coast back to its dominance in hip hop. Yet he wasn’t going to slow down. While he went three years between albums, Biggie was still busy. On August 25, 1995, he helped his childhood friends turned rappers, Junior M.A.F.I.A. release their debut album Conspiracy which held classics such as “Players Anthem” and “Get Money.” It was soon after that he began work on his sophomore album. Little did we know the controversy that would surround him.
It was during that time, Biggie got caught up in the infamous beef with himself and his former friend 2Pac. At one time Pac was a mentor to the Brooklyn native, allowing him to stay in his apartment while he began his journey through hip hop. By 1996, following 2Pac’s signing to Death Row Records, the two had become bitter enemies entrenched in a growing media narrative that became the East vs West beef.
On the way of recording his sophomore album, Life After Death, Biggie was involved in a car accident which shattered his left leg, where he was forced to stay in a hospital for three months. He wasn’t going to let the injuries keep him down though. It was time to finish the album.
After recovering, The Notorious B.I.G. left to go to Los Angeles where he began promotion of his sophomore album. Big and Puff had released their first single “Hypnotize,” a song which sampled Herb Alpert’s late 70’s hit “Rise.” The song was gaining success quickly.
Donned in an all-black tuxedo, Biggie’s presence dominated the stage as he performed at the 11th annual Soul Train Awards where he performed “One More Chance” then “Get Money.”
The next day he attended a Vibe Magazine party. It would end up being the last time anyone would see him alive as Biggie’s GMC Suburban was shot up minutes after leaving the party. Much in the way of his biggest foe 2Pac. At 4:15 a.m. EST on March 9, 1997, Christopher Wallace was pronounced dead.
One can only wonder what The Notorious B.I.G. would have done if he were alive today.
Would we have ever heard The Commission with Jay Z and Charli Baltimore? How about that secret project between himself and Fat Joe? Will he still be the king of hip hop? I guess we’ll never know.
Remember the life of The Notorious B.I.G. below.