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date: 20 February 2020

Notorious B.I.G., the [Wallace, Christopher; Biggie Smalls; Biggie]free

  • Justin A. Williams

(b New York, NY, May 21, 1972; d Los Angeles, CA, March 9, 1997). American rapper. Also known as Biggie Smalls or simply Biggie, The Notorious B.I.G. grew up in Brooklyn, spending much of his youth on the street as a small-time drug dealer and aspiring rapper who quickly became known for his smooth, swinging delivery and sharp wit. He was signed to a recording contract by Sean Combs, a former A&R man for Uptown Records who had recently started his own label, Bad Boy Records. His debut album, Ready to Die, was produced by Combs and released 13 September 1994. The album mixed B.I.G.’s streetwise lyrics with radio-friendly dance beats. Driven by hit singles including “Juicy,” “One More Chance,” and “Big Poppa,” the album quickly sold over four million copies.

His success brought attention to Bad Boy Entertainment and its founder Combs. The focus and attention on an emerging East Coast label at a time when the West Coast had dominated the rap scene for two years (most notably the acts on Dr. Dre and Suge Knight’s Death Row Records) was striking and led to a media-hyped rivalry between Death Row Records and Bad Boy Entertainment. Some maintain that the East Coast/West Coast feud led directly to the unsolved killings of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. who were gunned down within six months of one another. B.I.G.’s second album, Life After Death, was released only a few weeks after his death and has sold over ten million copies. A string of posthumous releases continue to be released and remixed (as is the case with Tupac Shakur), and Notorious B.I.G. continues to make the top of a variety of top-ten lists for his skills as MC.

Bibliography

  • C. Scott: The Murder of Biggie Smalls (New York, 2000)
  • C.H. Coker: Unbelievable: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of the Notorious B.I.G. (New York, 2003)
  • J. Brown: Ready to Die (Phoenix, AZ, 2004)