The Notorious Big Ready To Die

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Ready to Die is the debut album of American rapper The Notorious B.I.G., released September 13, 1994 on Bad Boy Records. The first release on the label, it features production by record producer and Bad Boy founder Sean 'Puffy' Combs, Easy Mo Bee, Chucky Thompson, DJ Premier, and Lord Finesse, among others. Recording sessions for the album took place during 1993 to 1994 at The Hit Factory and D&D Studios in New York City. The partly autobiographical album… read more


Track numberPlayLovedTrack nameBuyOptionsDurationListeners
1 Intro 3:24 98,703 listeners
2 Things Done Changed 3:57 261,965 listeners
3 Gimme the Loot 5:04 326,975 listeners
4 Machine Gun Funk 4:16 271,875 listeners
5 Warning 3:40 360,885 listeners
6 Ready to Die 4:24 160,554 listeners
7 One More Chance 4:43 236,938 listeners
8 Fuck Me (Interlude) 1:31 30,492 listeners
9 The WhatThe Notorious B.I.G. feat. Method Man 3:57 677 listeners
10 Juicy 5:03 778,974 listeners
11 Everyday Struggle 5:19 219,053 listeners
12 Me & My Bitch 4:00 122,544 listeners
13 Big Poppa 4:13 551,732 listeners
14 Respect 5:22 171,376 listeners
15 Friend of Mine 3:28 146,262 listeners
16 Unbelievable 3:43 236,246 listeners
17 Suicidal Thoughts 2:54 241,648 listeners

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Wallace in 1995
May 21, 1972
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedMarch 9, 1997 (aged 24)
Cause of deathGunshot wounds
Years active1992–1997
Faith Evans
(m. 1994; wid.1997)
Children2, including C. J.
Musical career
Associated acts

Christopher George Latore Wallace (May 21, 1972 – March 9, 1997), known professionally as The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls, or Biggie,[1] was an American rapper. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest rappers of all time.[2]

Wallace was born and raised in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. His debut album Ready to Die (1994) made him a central figure in East Coast hip hop and increased New York City's visibility in the genre at a time when West Coast hip hop dominated the mainstream.[3] The following year, he led Junior M.A.F.I.A.—a protégé group composed of his childhood friends—to chart success. In 1996, while recording his second album, Wallace was heavily involved in the growing East Coast–West Coast hip hop feud. On March 9, 1997, he was murdered by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. His second album, Life After Death (1997), released two weeks later, rose to No. 1 on the U.S. album charts. In 2000, it became one of the few hip-hop albums to be certified Diamond.[4]

Wallace was noted for his 'loose, easy flow';[5] dark, semi-autobiographical lyrics; and storytelling abilities, which focused on crime and hardship. Three more albums have been released since his death, and he has certified sales of over 17 million records in the United States,[6] including 13.4 million albums.[7]

  • 1Life and career
  • 4Musical style
  • 5Legacy
  • 6Discography
  • 7Media

Life and career

1972–1991: Early life and arrests

Wallace was born at St. Mary's Hospital in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on May 21, 1972, the only child of Jamaican immigrant parents. His mother, Voletta Wallace, was a preschool teacher, while his father, Selwyn George Latore, was a welder and politician.[8][9] His father left the family when Wallace was two years old, and his mother worked two jobs while raising him. Wallace grew up at 226 St. James Place in Brooklyn's Clinton Hill,[10] near the border with Bedford-Stuyvesant.[8][11] Wallace excelled at Queen of All Saints Middle School winning several awards as an English student. He was nicknamed 'Big' because he was overweight by the age of 10.[12] Wallace said he started dealing drugs when he was around the age of 12. His mother, often away at work, did not know of his drug dealing until he was an adult.[13] He began rapping as a teenager, entertaining people on the streets, and performed with local groups the Old Gold Brothers and the Techniques.[3] At his request, Wallace transferred from Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School to George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School, where future rappers DMX, Jay-Z, and Busta Rhymes were also attending. According to his mother, Wallace was still a good student but developed a 'smart-ass' attitude at the new school.[9] At age 17, Wallace dropped out of school and became more involved in crime. In 1989, he was arrested on weapons charges in Brooklyn and sentenced to five years' probation. In 1990, he was arrested on a violation of his probation.[14] A year later, Wallace was arrested in North Carolina for dealing crack cocaine. He spent nine months in jail before making bail.[13]

1991–1994: Early career and first child

After being released from jail, Wallace made a demo tape called 'Microphone Murderer', under the name Biggie Smalls, a reference to a character in the 1975 film Let's Do It Again as well as his stature; he stood at 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m) and weighed 300 to 380 lb (140–170 kg) according to differing accounts.[15] The tape was reportedly made with no serious intent of getting a recording deal. However, it was promoted by New York-based DJ Mister Cee, who had previously worked with Big Daddy Kane, and in 1992 it was heard by the editor of The Source.[14] In March 1992, Wallace was featured in The Source's Unsigned Hype column, dedicated to aspiring rappers, and made a recording off the back of this success.[16] The demo tape was heard by Uptown RecordsA&R and record producer Sean Combs, who arranged for a meeting with Wallace. He was signed to Uptown immediately and made an appearance on label mates Heavy D & the Boyz's 'A Buncha Niggas' (from the album Blue Funk).[3][17] Soon after Wallace signed his recording contract, Combs was fired from Uptown and started a new label, Bad Boy Records.[18] Wallace followed and signed to the label in mid-1992.[19]

On August 8, 1993, Wallace's longtime girlfriend gave birth to his first child, T'yanna.[19] Wallace had split with the girlfriend some time before T'yanna's birth.[20] Despite having dropped out of high school himself, Wallace wanted his daughter to complete her education. He promised her 'everything she wanted', saying that if his mother had promised him the same he would have graduated at the top of his class.[21] He continued selling drugs after the birth to support his daughter financially. Once Combs discovered this, he forced Wallace to quit.[3] Later in the year, Wallace, recording as the Notorious B.I.G., gained exposure after featuring on a remix to Mary J. Blige's single 'Real Love'. He recorded under this name for the remainder of his career, after finding the original moniker 'Biggie Smalls' was already in use.[22] 'Real Love' peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was followed by a remix of Blige's 'What's the 411?'. He continued this success, to a lesser extent, on remixes with Neneh Cherry ('Buddy X') and reggae artist Super Cat ('Dolly My Baby', also featuring Combs) in 1993. In April 1993, his solo track, 'Party and Bullshit', appeared on the Who's the Man? soundtrack.[23] In July 1994, he appeared alongside LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes on a remix to label mate Craig Mack's 'Flava in Ya Ear', which reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.[24]

1994: Ready to Die and marriage to Faith Evans

On August 4, 1994, Wallace married R&B singer Faith Evans after they met at a Bad Boy photoshoot.[25] Five days later, Wallace had his first pop chart success as a solo artist with double A-side, 'Juicy / Unbelievable', which reached No. 27 as the lead single to his debut album.[26]

Ready to Die was released on September 13, 1994. It reached No. 13 on the Billboard 200 chart[27] and was eventually certified four times Platinum.[28] The album shifted attention back to East Coast hip hop at a time when West Coast hip hop dominated US charts.[29] It gained strong reviews and has received much praise in retrospect.[29][30] In addition to 'Juicy', the record produced two hit singles: the Platinum-selling 'Big Poppa', which reached No. 1 on the U.S. rap chart,[5] and 'One More Chance', which sold 1.1 million copies in 1995.[31][32]Busta Rhymes claimed to have seen Wallace giving out free copies of Ready to Die from his home, which Rhymes reasoned as 'his way of marketing himself'.[33]

Around the time of the album's release, Wallace became friends with a fellow rapper named Tupac Shakur. Cousin Lil' Cease recalled the pair as close, often traveling together whenever they were not working. According to him, Wallace was a frequent guest at Shakur's home and they spent time together when Shakur was in California or Washington, D.C.[34]Yukmouth, an Oakland emcee, claimed that Wallace's style was inspired by Shakur.[35] Wallace also befriended basketball player Shaquille O'Neal. O'Neal said they were introduced during a listening session for 'Gimme the Loot'; Wallace mentioned him in the lyrics and thereby attracted O'Neal to his music. O'Neal requested a collaboration with Wallace, which resulted in the song 'You Can't Stop the Reign'. According to Combs, Wallace would not collaborate with 'anybody he didn't really respect' and that Wallace paid O'Neal his respect by 'shouting him out'.[36] In 2015, Daz Dillinger, a frequent Shakur collaborator, said that he and Wallace were 'cool', with Wallace traveling to meet him to smoke cannabis and record two songs.[37]

1995: Junior M.A.F.I.A., Conspiracy and coastal feud

In August 1995, Wallace's protégé group, Junior M.A.F.I.A. ('Junior Masters At Finding Intelligent Attitudes'), released their debut album Conspiracy. The group consisted of his friends from childhood and included rappers such as Lil' Kim and Lil' Cease, who went on to have solo careers.[38] The record went Gold and its singles, 'Player's Anthem' and 'Get Money', both featuring Wallace, went Gold and Platinum. Wallace continued to work with R&B artists, collaborating with R&B groups 112 (on 'Only You') and Total (on 'Can't You See'), with both reaching the top 20 of the Hot 100. By the end of the year, Wallace was the top-selling male solo artist and rapper on the U.S. pop and R&B charts.[3] In July 1995, he appeared on the cover of The Source with the caption 'The King of New York Takes Over', a reference to his Frank White alias from the 1990 film King of New York. At the Source Awards in August 1995, he was named Best New Artist (Solo), Lyricist of the Year, Live Performer of the Year, and his debut Album of the Year.[39] At the Billboard Awards, he was Rap Artist of the Year.[14]

In his year of success, Wallace became involved in a rivalry between the East and West Coast hip hop scenes with Shakur, now his former friend. In an interview with Vibe in April 1995, while serving time in Clinton Correctional Facility, Shakur accused Uptown Records' founder Andre Harrell, Sean Combs, and Wallace of having prior knowledge of a robbery that resulted in him being shot five times and losing thousands of dollars worth of jewelry on the night of November 30, 1994. Though Wallace and his entourage were in the same Manhattan-based recording studio at the time of the shooting, they denied the accusation.[40] Wallace said: 'It just happened to be a coincidence that he [Shakur] was in the studio. He just, he couldn't really say who really had something to do with it at the time. So he just kinda' leaned the blame on me.'[41] In 2012, a man named Dexter Isaac, serving a life sentence for unrelated crimes, claimed that he attacked Shakur that night and that the robbery was orchestrated by entertainment industry executive and former drug trafficker, James Rosemond.[42]

Following his release from prison, Shakur signed to Death Row Records on October 15, 1995. This made Bad Boy Records and Death Row business rivals, and thus intensified the quarrel.[43]

1996: Collaboration with Michael Jackson, more arrests, accusations regarding Shakur's death, and second child

Wallace began recording his second studio album in September 1995 over 18 months in New York City, Trinidad, and Los Angeles. The recording was interrupted by injury, legal disputes, and a highly publicized hip hop dispute.[44] During this time, Wallace also worked with pop singer Michael Jackson on the album HIStory.[45]Lil' Cease later claimed that Wallace refused requests to meet Jackson, citing that he did not 'trust Michael with kids' following the 1993 child sexual abuse allegations against Jackson.[46]

On March 23, 1996, Wallace was arrested outside a Manhattan nightclub for chasing and threatening to kill two fans seeking autographs, smashing the windows of their taxicab, and punching one of them.[14] He pleaded guilty to second-degree harassment and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service. In mid-1996, he was arrested at his home in Teaneck, New Jersey, for drug and weapons possession charges.[14]

In June 1996, Shakur released 'Hit 'Em Up', a diss track in which he claimed to have had sex with Faith Evans, who was estranged from Wallace at the time, and that Wallace had copied his style and image. Wallace referenced the first claim on Jay-Z's 'Brooklyn's Finest', in which he raps: 'If Faye have twins, she'd probably have two 'Pacs. Get it? 2Pac's?' However, he did not directly respond to the track, stating in a 1997 radio interview that it was 'not [his] style' to respond.[41]

Shakur was shot multiple times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on September 7, 1996, and died six days later. Rumors of Wallace's involvement with Shakur's murder spread. In a 2002 Los Angeles Times series titled 'Who Killed Tupac Shakur?', based on police reports and multiple sources, Chuck Philips reported that the shooting was carried out by a Compton gang, the Southside Crips, to avenge a beating by Shakur hours earlier, and that Wallace had paid for the gun.[47][48]Los Angeles Times editor Mark Duvoisin wrote that 'Philips' story has withstood all challenges to its accuracy, ... [and] remains the definitive account of the Shakur slaying.'[49] Wallace's family denied the report,[50] producing documents purporting to show that he was in New York and New Jersey at the time. However, The New York Times called the documents inconclusive, stating:

The pages purport to be three computer printouts from Daddy's House, indicating that Wallace was in the studio recording a song called Nasty Boy on the night Shakur was shot. They indicate that Wallace wrote half the session, was in and out/sat around and laid down a ref, shorthand for a reference vocal, the equivalent of a first take. But nothing indicates when the documents were created. And Louis Alfred, the recording engineer listed on the sheets, said in an interview that he remembered recording the song with Wallace in a late-night session, not during the day. He could not recall the date of the session but said it was likely not the night Shakur was shot. We would have heard about it, Mr. Alfred said.'[51]

Evans remembered her husband calling her on the night of Shakur's death and crying from shock. She said: 'I think it's fair to say he was probably afraid, given everything that was going on at that time and all the hype that was put on this so-called beef that he didn't really have in his heart against anyone.' Wayne Barrow, Wallace's co-manager at the time, said Wallace was recording the track 'Nasty Girl' the night Shakur was shot.[52] Shortly after Shakur's death, he met with Snoop Dogg, who claimed that Wallace played the song 'Somebody Gotta Die' for him, in which Snoop Dogg was mentioned, and declared he never hated Shakur.[53]

On October 29, 1996, Evans gave birth to Wallace's son, Christopher 'C.J.' Wallace, Jr.[19] The following month, Junior M.A.F.I.A. member Lil' Kim released her debut album, Hard Core, under Wallace's direction while the two were having a 'love affair'.[3] Lil' Kim recalled being Wallace's 'biggest fan' and 'his pride and joy'.[54] In a 2012 interview, Lil' Kim said Wallace had prevented her from making a remix of the Jodeci single 'Love U 4 Life' by locking her in a room. According to her, Wallace said that she was not 'gonna go do no song with them,'[55] likely because of the group's affiliation with Tupac and Death Row Records.

1997: Life After Death and car accident

During the recording for his second album, Life After Death, Wallace and Lil' Cease were arrested for smoking marijuana in public and had their car repossessed. Wallace chose a Chevrolet Lumina rental car as a substitute, despite Lil' Cease's objections. The car had brake problems but Wallace dismissed them.[56] The car collided with a rail, shattering Wallace's left leg and Lil' Cease's jaw. Wallace spent months in a hospital following the accident; he was temporarily confined to a wheelchair,[3] forced to use a cane,[40] and had to complete therapy. Despite his hospitalization, he continued to work on the album. The accident was referred to in the lyrics of 'Long Kiss Goodnight': 'Ya still tickle me, I used to be as strong as Ripple be / Til Lil' Cease crippled me.'[57]

In January 1997, Wallace was ordered to pay US$41,000 in damages following an incident involving a friend of a concert promoter who claimed Wallace and his entourage beat him following a dispute in May 1995.[58] He faced criminal assault charges for the incident, which remains unresolved, but all robbery charges were dropped.[14] Following the events, Wallace spoke of a desire to focus on his 'peace of mind' and his family and friends.[59]


In February 1997, Wallace traveled to California to promote Life After Death and record a music video for its lead single, 'Hypnotize'. On March 5, 1997, he gave a radio interview with The Dog House on KYLD in San Francisco. In the interview he stated that he had hired a security detail since he feared for his safety; but that this was due to being a celebrity figure in general, not specifically because he was a rapper.[60]

On March 8, 1997, Wallace presented an award to Toni Braxton at the 11th Annual Soul Train Music Awards in Los Angeles and was booed by some of the audience.[40] After the ceremony, he attended an afterparty hosted by Vibe and Qwest Records at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.[40] Guests included Evans, Aaliyah, Combs, and members of the Crips and Bloods gangs.[12]

On March 9, 1997, at 12:30 a.m. (PST), after the fire department closed the party early due to overcrowding, Wallace left with his entourage in two GMC Suburbans to return to his hotel.[61] He traveled in the front passenger seat alongside his associates, Damion 'D-Roc' Butler, Lil' Cease and driver Gregory 'G-Money' Young. Combs traveled in the other vehicle with three bodyguards. The two trucks were trailed by a Chevrolet Blazer carrying Bad Boy's director of security,[12] Paul Offord.[62]

By 12:45 a.m. (PST), the streets were crowded with people leaving the party. Wallace's truck stopped at a red light 50 yards (46 m) from the museum. A black Chevy Impala pulled up alongside Wallace's truck. The driver of the Impala, an African-American male dressed in a blue suit and bow tie, rolled down his window, drew a 9 mm blue-steel pistol and fired at the GMC Suburban. Four bullets hit Wallace. His entourage rushed him to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, but he was pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m. (PST).[12]

Wallace's funeral was held on March 18, 1997, at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel in Manhattan. There were among 350 mourners at the funeral, including Queen Latifah, Flava Flav, Mary J. Blige, Lil' Kim, Lil' Cease, Run–D.M.C., DJ Kool Herc, Treach from Naughty by Nature, Busta Rhymes, Salt-N-Pepa, DJ Spinderella, Foxy Brown, Sister Souljah and others. After the funeral, his body was cremated and the ashes were given to his family.[63]

Posthumous releases

Sixteen days after his death, Wallace's double-disc second album was released as planned with the shortened title of Life After Death and hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts, after making a premature appearance at No. 176 due to street-date violations. The record album featured a much wider range of guests and producers than its predecessor.[64] It gained strong reviews and in 2000 was certified Diamond, the highest RIAA certification awarded to a solo hip hop album.

Its lead single, 'Hypnotize', was the last music video recording in which Wallace would participate. His biggest chart success was with its follow-up 'Mo Money Mo Problems', featuring Sean Combs (under the rap alias 'Puff Daddy') and Mase. Both singles reached No. 1 in the Hot 100, making Wallace the first artist to achieve this feat posthumously.[3] The third single, 'Sky's The Limit', featuring the band 112, was noted for its use of children in the music video, directed by Spike Jonze, who were used to portray Wallace and his contemporaries, including Combs, Lil' Kim, and Busta Rhymes. Wallace was named Artist of the Year and 'Hypnotize' Single of the Year by Spin magazine in December 1997.[65]

In mid-1997, Combs released his debut album, No Way Out, which featured Wallace on five songs, notably on the third single 'Victory'. The most prominent single from the record album was 'I'll Be Missing You', featuring Combs, Faith Evans and 112, which was dedicated to Wallace's memory. At the 1998 Grammy Awards, Life After Death and its first two singles received nominations in the rap category. The album award was won by Combs's No Way Out and 'I'll Be Missing You' won the award in the category of Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group in which 'Mo Money Mo Problems' was nominated.[66]

In 1996, Wallace started putting together a hip hop supergroup, the Commission, which consisted himself, Jay-Z, Lil' Cease, Combs, and Charli Baltimore. The Commission was mentioned by Wallace in the lyrics of 'What's Beef' on Life After Death and 'Victory' from No Way Out, but a Commission album was never completed. A track on Duets: The Final Chapter, 'Whatchu Want (The Commission)', featuring Jay-Z, was based on the group.

In December 1999, Bad Boy released Born Again. The album consisted of previously unreleased material mixed with new guest appearances, including many artists Wallace had never collaborated with in his lifetime. It gained some positive reviews, but received criticism for its unlikely pairings; The Source describing it as 'compiling some of the most awkward collaborations of his career'.[67] Nevertheless, the album sold 2 million copies. Wallace appeared on Michael Jackson's 2001 album, Invincible. Over the course of time, his vocals were heard on hit songs such as 'Foolish' and 'Realest Niggas' by Ashanti in 2002, and the song 'Runnin' (Dying to Live)' with Shakur the following year. In 2005, Duets: The Final Chapter continued the pattern started on Born Again, which was criticized for the lack of significant vocals by Wallace on some of its songs.[68][69] Its lead single 'Nasty Girl' became Wallace's first UK No. 1 single. Combs and Voletta Wallace have stated the album will be the last release primarily featuring new material.[70]

A duet album, The King & I, featuring Evans and Notorious B.I.G., was released on May 19, 2017, which largely contained previously unreleased music.[71]

Musical style

Wallace, accompanied by ad libs from Sean 'Puff Daddy' Combs, uses onomatopoeicvocables and multi-syllabic rhymes on his 1995 collaboration with R&B group, 112.
Wallace tells vivid stories about his everyday life as a criminal in Brooklyn (from Life After Death).
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Wallace mostly rapped on his songs in a deep tone described by Rolling Stone as a 'thick, jaunty grumble',[72] which went deeper on Life After Death.[73] He was often accompanied on songs with ad libs from Sean 'Puffy' Combs. In The Source's Unsigned Hype column, his style was described as 'cool, nasal, and filtered, to bless his own material'.[74]

AllMusic describe Wallace as having 'a talent for piling multiple rhymes on top of one another in quick succession'.[5]Time magazine wrote Wallace rapped with an ability to 'make multi-syllabic rhymes sound... smooth',[30] while Krims describes Wallace's rhythmic style as 'effusive.'[75] Before starting a verse, Wallace sometimes used onomatopoeicvocables to 'warm up' (for example 'uhhh' at the beginning of 'Hypnotize' and 'Big Poppa', and 'whaat' after certain rhymes in songs such as 'My Downfall').[76]

Lateef of Latyrx notes that Wallace had, 'intense and complex flows',[77]Fredro Starr of Onyx says, 'Biggie was a master of the flow',[78] and Bishop Lamont states that Wallace mastered 'all the hemispheres of the music'.[79] He also often used the single-line rhyme scheme to add variety and interest to his flow.[77]Big Daddy Kane suggests that Wallace didn't need a large vocabulary to impress listeners – 'he just put his words together a slick way and it worked real good for him'.[80] Wallace was known to compose lyrics in his head, rather than write them down on paper, in a similar way to Jay-Z.[81][82]

Wallace would occasionally vary from his usual style. On 'Playa Hater' from his second album, he sang in a slow-falsetto.[83] On his collaboration with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, 'Notorious Thugs', he modified his style to match the rapid rhyme flow of the group.

Themes and lyrics

Wallace's lyrical topics and themes included mafioso tales ('Niggas Bleed'), his drug-dealing past ('10 Crack Commandments'), materialistic bragging ('Hypnotize'), as well as humor ('Just Playing (Dreams)'),[84] and romance ('Me & My Bitch').[84]Rolling Stone named Wallace in 2004 as 'one of the few young male songwriters in any pop style writing credible love songs'.[73]

Guerilla Black, in the book How to Rap, describes how Wallace was able to both 'glorify the upper echelon'[85] and '[make] you feel his struggle'.[86] According to Touré of The New York Times in 1994, Wallace's lyrics '[mixed] autobiographical details about crime and violence with emotional honesty'.[13] Marriott of The New York Times (in 1997) believed his lyrics were not strictly autobiographical and wrote he 'had a knack for exaggeration that increased sales'.[14] Wallace described his debut as 'a big pie, with each slice indicating a different point in my life involving bitches and niggaz... from the beginning to the end'.[87]

Ready to Die is described by Rolling Stone as a contrast of 'bleak' street visions and being 'full of high-spirited fun, bringing the pleasure principle back to hip-hop'.[73]AllMusic write of 'a sense of doom' in some of his songs and the NY Times note some being 'laced with paranoia';[5][88] Wallace described himself as feeling 'broke and depressed' when he made his debut.[88] The final song on the album, 'Suicidal Thoughts', featured Wallace contemplating suicide and concluded with him committing the act.

On Life After Death, Wallace's lyrics went 'deeper'.[73] Krims explains how upbeat, dance-oriented tracks (which featured less heavily on his debut) alternate with 'reality rap' songs on the record and suggests that he was 'going pimp' through some of the lyrical topics of the former.[75]XXL magazine wrote that Wallace 'revamped his image' through the portrayal of himself between the albums, going from 'midlevel hustler' on his debut to 'drug lord'.[89]

AllMusic wrote that the success of Ready to Die is 'mostly due to Wallace's skill as a storyteller';[5] in 1994, Rolling Stone described Wallace's ability in this technique as painting 'a sonic picture so vibrant that you're transported right to the scene'.[29] On Life After Death, Wallace notably demonstrated this skill on 'I Got a Story to Tell', creating a story as a rap for the first half of the song and then retelling the same story 'for his boys' in conversation form.[83]


Mural of the Notorious B.I.G at 5 Pointz
Mural of the Notorious B.I.G in Little Haiti
A stencil of the Notorious B.I.G. in Asakusa, Tokyo (2006)

Considered one of the best rappers of all time, Wallace was described by AllMusic as 'the savior of East Coast hip-hop'.[3]The Source magazine named Wallace the greatest rapper of all time in its 150th issue in 2002.[90][91] In 2003, when XXL magazine asked several hip hop artists to list their five favorite MCs, Wallace's name appeared on more rappers' lists than anyone else. In 2006, MTV ranked him at No. 3 on their list of The Greatest MCs of All Time, calling him possibly 'the most skillful ever on the mic'.[92] Editors of ranked him No. 3 on their list of the Top 50 MCs of Our Time (1987–2007).[93] In 2012, The Source ranked him No. 3 on their list of the Top 50 Lyrical Leaders of all time.[94]Rolling Stone has referred to him as the 'greatest rapper that ever lived'.[95] In 2015, Billboard named Wallace as the greatest rapper of all time.[2]

Since his death, Wallace's lyrics have been sampled and quoted by a variety of hip hop, R&B and pop artists including Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Alicia Keys, Fat Joe, Nelly, Ja Rule, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Game, Clinton Sparks, Michael Jackson and Usher. On August 28, 2005, at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards, Sean Combs (then using the rap alias 'P. Diddy') and Snoop Dogg paid tribute to Wallace: an orchestra played while the vocals from 'Juicy' and 'Warning' played on the arena speakers.[96] In September 2005, VH1 held its second annual 'Hip Hop Honors', with a tribute to Wallace headlining the show.[97]

Wallace had begun to promote a clothing line called Brooklyn Mint, which was to produce plus-sized clothing but fell dormant after he died. In 2004, his managers, Mark Pitts and Wayne Barrow, launched the clothing line, with help from Jay-Z, selling T-shirts with images of Wallace on them. A portion of the proceeds go to the Christopher Wallace Foundation and to Jay-Z's Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation.[98] In 2005, Voletta Wallace hired branding and licensing agency Wicked Cow Entertainment to guide the estate's licensing efforts.[99] Wallace-branded products on the market include action figures, blankets, and cell phone content.[100]

The Christopher Wallace Memorial Foundation holds an annual black-tie dinner ('B.I.G. Night Out') to raise funds for children's school equipment and to honor Wallace's memory. For this particular event, because it is a children's schools' charity, 'B.I.G.' is also said to stand for 'Books Instead of Guns'.[101]

There is a large portrait mural of Wallace as Mao Zedong on Fulton Street in Brooklyn a half-mile west from Wallace's old block.[102] A fan petitioned to have the corner of Fulton Street and St. James Place, near Wallace's childhood home renamed in his honor, garnering support from local businesses and attracting more than 560 signatures.[102]

A large portrait of Wallace features prominently in the Netflix series Luke Cage, due to the fact that he served as muse for the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's version of Marvel Comics character Cornell 'Cottonmouth' Stokes.


Notorious is a 2009 biographical film about Wallace and his life that stars rapper Jamal Woolard as Wallace. The film was directed by George Tillman Jr. and distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Producers included Sean Combs, Wallace's former managers Wayne Barrow and Mark Pitts, as well as Voletta Wallace.[103] On January 16, 2009, the movie's debut at the Grand 18 theater in Greensboro, North Carolina was postponed after a man was shot in the parking lot before the show.[104] The film received mixed reviews and grossed over $44 million worldwide.[105][106]

In early October 2007, open casting calls for the role of Wallace began.[107] Actors, rappers and unknowns all tried out. Beanie Sigel auditioned[108] for the role, but was not picked. Sean Kingston claimed that he would play the role of Wallace, but producers denied it.[109] Eventually, it was announced that rapper Jamal Woolard was chosen to play Wallace[110] while Wallace's son, Christopher Wallace Jr. was cast to play Wallace as a child.[111] Other cast members include Angela Bassett as Voletta Wallace, Derek Luke as Sean Combs, Antonique Smith as Faith Evans, Naturi Naughton as Lil' Kim, and Anthony Mackie as Tupac Shakur.[112] Bad Boy also released a soundtrack album to the film on January 13, 2009; the album contains many of Wallace's hit singles, including 'Hypnotize' and 'Juicy', as well as rarities.[113]


Studio albums

  • Ready to Die (1994)
  • Life After Death (1997)

Collaboration albums

  • Conspiracywith Junior M.A.F.I.A. (1995)

Posthumous studio albums

  • Born Again (1999)
  • Duets: The Final Chapter (2005)

Posthumous collaboration albums

  • The King & Iwith Faith Evans (2017)



  • The Show (1995) as himself
  • Rhyme & Reason (1997 documentary) as himself
  • Biggie & Tupac (2002 documentary) archive footage
  • Tupac Resurrection (2004) archive footage
  • Notorious B.I.G. Bigger Than Life (2007 documentary) archive footage
  • Notorious (2009) archive footage
  • All Eyez on Me (2017) archive footage

Television appearances

  • New York Undercover (1995) as himself
  • Martin (1995) as himself
  • Who Shot Biggie & Tupac? (2017)
  • Unsolved (2018)

Awards and nominations

AwardYear of ceremonyNominee/workCategoryResult
Billboard Music Awards1995The Notorious B.I.G.Rap Artist of the YearWon
'One More Chance'Rap Single of the YearWon
Grammy Awards1996'Big Poppa'Best Rap Solo PerformanceNominated
1998'Hypnotize'Best Rap Solo PerformanceNominated
'Mo Money Mo Problems' (with Mase and Puff Daddy)Best Rap Performance by a Duo or GroupNominated
Life After DeathBest Rap AlbumNominated
MTV Video Music Awards1997'Hypnotize'Best Rap VideoWon
1998'Mo Money Mo Problems' (with Mase and Puff Daddy)Best Rap VideoNominated
Soul Train Music Awards1998Life After DeathBest R&B/Soul Album, MaleWon
'Mo Money Mo Problems' (with Mase and Puff Daddy)Best R&B/Soul AlbumNominated
Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music VideoNominated


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Further reading

  • Coker, Cheo Hodari (2004). Unbelievable: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of the Notorious B.I.G. New York: Three Rivers Press. ISBN978-0-609-80835-1.
  • Wallace, Voletta; McKenzie, Tremell; Evans, Faith (foreword) (2005). Biggie: Voletta Wallace Remembers Her Son, Christopher Wallace, aka Notorious B.I.G. Atria. ISBN978-0-7434-7020-9.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Notorious B.I.G..
Wikiquote has quotations related to: The Notorious B.I.G.
  • The Notorious B.I.G. at MTV
  • 'The Notorious B.I.G. collected news and commentary'. The New York Times.
  • The Notorious B.I.G. on IMDb
  • The Notorious B.I.G. at Find a Grave
  • FBI Records: The Vault – Christopher (Biggie Smalls) Wallace at
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