Whether we call him, The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie, Biggie Smalls, or Frank White, the Brooklyn born Christopher George Latore Wallace, was without a doubt, one of the most prolific rappers of all time.
Wallace began rapping when he was a teenager. He entertained people on the streets and became known in his local Bed-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Wallace then made a demo tape under the name Biggie Smalls. The tape was promoted by New York-based DJ Mister Cee, who had previously worked with Big Daddy Kane, and was heard by the editor of The Source.
The demo tape was eventually heard by Sean “Diddy" Combs, who was then an Uptown Records A&R and record producer. Combs then arranged for a meeting with Wallace. He was signed to Uptown immediately.
In March 1992, Wallace was featured in the Source's Unsigned Hype column, dedicated to aspiring rappers, and was invited to produce a recording with other unsigned artists.
Soon after signing his recording contract, Combs was fired from Uptown and started a new label, Bad Boy Records, which Wallace was signed to in mid-1992.
Later in the year, stardom was on the rise. Wallace gained exposure on a remix to Mary J.Blige's 1992 hit "Real Love", from her debut album, What’s the 411 under his other name The Notorious B.I.G. He recorded under this name for the remainder of his career, after finding the original moniker "Biggie Smalls" was already in use referring to a character in the 1975 film, Let's Do It Again.
He continued performing on other songs including label mate Craig Mack’s hit “Flava in Ya Ear” along with hip hop superstars LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes. The song reached No. 9 on the Hot 100.
In On August 4 of the same year, Wallace married R&B singer Faith Evans after they met at a Bad Boy photo shoot.
Wallace's debut album, Ready to Die was released on September 13, 1994, and was the first release for the then newly formed Bad Boy Records. The semi autobiographical album reached No. 13 on the Billboard 200 chart, eventually being certified four times Platinum. Ready to Die was also released at a time when West Coast hip hop was prominent in the U.S. charts. In addition to "Juicy", Ready to Die produced two hit singles: the Platinum-selling and Grammy nominated "Big Poppa", which reached No. 1 on the U.S., rap chart, and "One More Chance" featuring Faith Evans, which was the album's best selling single.
With production by Sean Combs, Easy Mo Bee, Chucky Thompson, DJ Premier, and Lord Finesse, among others, Ready to Die has been regarded by many as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time.
In 2003, the album was ranked number 133 on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of all time
In 1995, Wallace led his childhood friends to success through his protégé group, Junior M.A.F.I.A. Junior M.A.F.I.A. released their debut album Conspiracy. The group included rappers Lil' Kim and Lil' Cease, who went on to have successful solo careers. 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 ( "Only You") and Total ("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.
1995 seemed like the year of Biggie as he won top honors at that year’s Source Awards. He was named Best New Artist , Lyricist of the Year, Live Performer of the Year,
Debut Album of the Year. At the 1995 Billboard Awards, he was Rap Artist of the Year.
Despite his year of success, the turning point in Wallace's career occurred when he became involved in an unexpected rivalry between the East and West Coast hip hop scenes with another prolific rapper and former friend, the late Tupac Shakur.
Everything came to a head when Wallace traveled to Los Angeles, California in February 1997. Wallace was there to promote his upcoming second album Life After Death and a music video for its lead single, "Hypnotize".
On March 8, 1997, he attended and presented an award at the 1997 Soul Train Music Awards, which was also held in Los Angeles. He attended an after party hosted by Vibe Magazine and Qwest Records at the Petersen Automotive Museum after the ceremony.
After the party was shut down due to over crowding, everyone exited the building unbeknownst of what would happen next.
By 12:45 a.m., the streets were crowded with people leaving the event. Once inside his SUV with a few friends, Wallace was killed by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting. After being rushed to a nearby hospital, Wallace was pronounced dead on March 9, 1997 at 1:15 a.m. He was 24.
His double-disc set Life After Death released 16 days later, on March 25, the album rose to No. 1 on the U.S. Album charts and was certified Diamond in 2000, one of the few hip hop albums to receive this certification.
On the anniversary of his passing, the Notorious B.I.G. left the void that has yet be filled.
We miss you Big Poppa!