Notorious B.I.G. Biography
In the case of the Brooklyn boy who the world simply called Big, that change came much too soon. The fatal bullet that killed the Notorious B.I.G. on March 9th 1997, transformed the lives of those who loved him - family, friends and fans.
A dark-skinned Buddha belly baby born to a twenty-five-year old schoolteacher on May 21st 1972, young Christopher Wallace, an only child, from his bedroom window witnessed the ills of a city in decline. It was on the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant, that the future B.I.G. first witnessed the depressing lives and laughing eyes that would later lace his street-hardened lyrics.
Going from a happy baby to a sullen teenager to a badass man, two things came along that would change his life forever: rap and crack. Rap would turn out to be the ultimate fuel for his witty imagination.
On the two studio albums, READY TO DIE (1994) and LIFE AFTER DEATH (1997) that the Notorious B.I.G. recorded before his death, he crafted brutally honest lyrics that depicted his city just as he saw it, speaking of both the good and the bad. Still, unlike the tales of 'gangsta rap' coming from the West Coast, Biggie's lyrics were simultaneously laced with laughter and tears.
The do or die world of Bed-Stuy ('the place where my head rest'), that B.I.G. observed while snapping and squatting on the stoop of his St. James Place apartment, would soon become world renown. With his deep voice gritty as broken glass and urgent as a siren, B.I.G.'s streetwise poetics and cinematic eye put East Coast rap back in the spotlight, having temporarily lost its shine to the new West Coast MCs dominating the airwaves.
Following in the giant steps of '80s icons Rakim and Big Daddy Kane, two of his favorite rappers, B.I.G. was determined to stay true to his block and become famous at the same time. After winning the Unsigned Hype (March, 1992) competition in the pages of the hip hop magazine, The Source, rapping over an old Kane beat courtesy of his homeboy Mister Cee, a tape of the massive rapper was sent to A&R rebel and chief conceptualist Sean 'Puffy' Combs at Uptown Records.
Having shaped the style and grooves of early '90s new jacks Mary J. Blige and Jodeci while he was still an intern at Uptown, Puffy dug the dangerous visions on the demo of the 6'3', 200-plus-pound wordsmith. Taking Biggie from Brooklyn rock slinger to worldwide rock star would be no easy task, but Puffy was anxious. Whetting the public's appetite with the club banger 'Party & Bulls**t' from the 'Who's The Man' soundtrack, in 1992, Biggie and Puff's shared vision of bringing Big's music to the masses, seemed to be taking shape. But that dream would damn near collapse the following year when Uptown Records CEO Andre Harrell fired Puffy.
Puffy, seeing the set back as an opportunity to take their dream to the higher level, next teamed-up with veteran music legend Clive Davis and his Arista Records. There the prophetic Puff Daddy officially launched Bad Boy Records, a label that would come to mean as much to hip-hop in the '90s as Def Jam, Tommy Boy or Cold Chillin' had meant the decade before. Though folks on the street would laugh that the lanky man with the master plan had not signed the most attractive MCs in history, as usual, Puff would have the last laugh with the signing of Craig Mack and B.I.G.
Released on September 1, 1994, the Notorious B.I.G.'s revolutionary record READY TO DIE would become a milestone in hip-hop history. Biggie and his producers (which included Puffy, Easy Moe Bee, DJ Premier, among others) crafted an unforgettable brave soul record that was as important to its time as Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and Curtis Mayfield's Super Fly had been to their time.
With an Afro'ed baby on the cover that many fans still believe came from his mom's photo album, READY TO DIE opened with crazy intro of Big's birth and ended with the madness of 'Suicidal Thoughts.' Separating the game from the truth everything in between was pure butter.
In the minds of many, listening to READY TO DIE was like roaring through the streets of Bed-Stuy with Biggie giving us a guided tour. Told with a crazy sense of humor and a sharp eye for detail, we follow in Big Poppa's footsteps.
With champagne flowing through his veins, the 'style and grace' of Hype Williams directed videos, magazines covers, music award trophies, and a steady rise from streets to suites, envy bubbled in the bitter hearts of haters.
In 1995, heated words on records and in interviews became labeled by the mainstream media as an 'East Coast/West Coast Rap War.' There was enough gasoline thrown on a small flame to start a bonfire and before it was over, a talented urban poet was dead. The Notorious B.I.G. was slain only weeks before the release of his album, entitled LIFE AFTER DEATH.
Eight years later, this great MC is still a part of our consciousness. He is an artist so ahead of his time that his rhymes still sound as though they were written yesterday.
With new grooves, fierce production and all-star collaborators like Faith Evans, Jay Z, Bob Marley, Tupac, Mary J. Blige, Eminem, T.I., Mobb Deep, R. Kelly, Charlie Wilson, Big Pun and Fat Joe, to name a few, the release of The Notorious B.I.G. Duets: The Final Chapter, answers the prayers of many who long to hear Brooklyn's finest roar through their stereo speakers once again.
Blending sampled vocals with fresh tracks, The Notorious B.I.G. Duets is a welcome addition to the rap charts. From the first note of the sorrow-filled 'Hold Ya Head' featuring the soothing voice of Bob Marley, we realize that this set is special.
Produced by Jazze Pha and with the all-star line-up of Jagged Edge, Nelly and Diddy, the first single 'Nasty Girl,' is a party anthem paying tribute to the ladies and borrowing from the B.I.G. classic, 'Nasty Boy.' Reminiscent of 'Last Day,' the Havoc-produced track from Big's LIFE AFTER DEATH, Havoc once again assimilates the Queensbridge sound with Big's vocals, creating an illmatic track which speaks in the voice of the streets.
The Eminem produced 'It Has Been Said,' featuring Diddy and Obie Trice, is a moving tribute to a Brooklyn born warrior prematurely lost. 'Ultimate Rush,' the sizzling offering from Scott Storch, features fiery vocalist Missy Elliott, and 'Just a Memory,' featuring The Clipse, masterfully mixes B.I.G. with Diana Ross' melancholy 'Theme from Mahogany.' Another standout, 'Whatchu Want,' produced by newcomer Nate Hill, finds Jay Z boasting as hard as the concrete sidewalks of Jay and Big's old Crooklyn blocks.
With B.I.G.'s pimped out vocals, and rhymes from lyricists from all around the world of rap, The Notorious B.I.G. Duets: The Final Chapter, pulls hip hop, from East and West, to the center of B.I.G.'s universe, the streets of Brooklyn, USA.
On these 22 tracks, the Notorious B.I.G. lives on, taking us on a ride through Bed-Stuy, one more time.