One of the most important factors surrounding B.I.G.’s ascension was the general dominance of the
West Coast at the time. Similar to the South’s prominence throughout much of the 2000s’, most popular
rap acts were based out of California. Between Ice T, NWA, Cyprus Hill and later Tupac to name a few,
New York rappers could scarcely get a word in edgewise.
Few were checking for the East Coast when B.I.G. appeared in The Source Magazine’s Unsigned Hype
column back around 1992 (for which the ad can be viewed in the gallery above).
Obviously, things changed the next year with Wu Tang’s debut and more still in ’94 with the legendary
Illmatic and B.I.G.’s own Ready to Die.
Before any of this though, Biggie was rapping in the streets of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.
While many praise Tupac for his skill in narrative, B.I.G. is lauded more for the essentials. With a smooth, deliberate flow and steady delivery, Biggie’s nasally voice is among the most recognizable in rap. Few emcees can complement a beat the way B.I.G. could.
Biggie was also one of the gifted emcees that can legitimately rap about anything with consistent skill and finesse, even Pepsi. His work does, however, speak for itself.
Ready To Die
It’s a rare thing to find someone who would dispute Ready to Die’s classic status. It was a phenomenal
debut and a regional game changer for the East coast. Ready to Die represents a time when commercial
success and artistic integrity weren’t so divorced as they are now. Biggie’s dark, suicidal lyrics and
Mafioso themes weave a twisted narrative over some of the ‘90s most iconic beats.
The best part, B.I.G. was a massive commercial success. He had major radio and video play and sold
more than 4 million copies; making him the most successful hip-hop artist since Dr. Dre.
Unfortunately, conflict and tragedy followed this acclaimed release.
Life After Death
Things took a bad turn following the wave from Ready to Die, but not immediately.
Biggie married singer Faith Evans shortly before Ready to Die’s release and was the front man of Junior
M.A.F.I.A. following the group’s inception after. Junior M.A.F.I.A. released several chart topping singles
and grew to be one of the most successful rap acts of the year with some of its members spinning off to
lead successful solo careers, Lil’ Kim in particular.
Then came the beef with Tupac; a media inflated feud that pitted the East and West Coast against each
other, famously culminating in the deaths of both emcees.
Weeks after his passing, Life after Death was released. The album was showered in accolades, including
three Grammy nods and RIAA certified Diamond (10 million units sold) status a few years after release.
Let’s not forget Hypnotize.
Biggie’s music manages to maintain its appeal nearing on two decades since it was considered contemporary. It’s not at all rare to hear B.I.G.’s now iconic records in the streets and B.I.G.’s fan base transcends racial and social boundaries.
One of the primary motivators in hip-hop culture is to make a name for yourself; be it as a bboy, DJ, graffiti writer or emcee. B.I.G. is one of the few to not only do this, but to be respected and consistently considered among the greatest of all time.
On the 16th anniversary of his untimely passing, HNHH revisits the work and legacy of The Notorious B.I.G.
Exactly 16 years ago, the rap game changed forever. Christopher George Latore Wallace, more commonly known as The Notorious B.I.G. was shot and killed during a drive by shooting in Los Angeles. This after the equally devastating murder of Tupac Shakur several months earlier. All on the coat tails of one of the most intense, violent and publicized feuds in music history, but that’s not what today is about.
Biggie’s story is as complicated as it is human. He had faults, he had famous run-ins with the law and he was in no way a politically or socially conscious rapper. But, he was a good rapper and an equally adept entertainer.
Though B.I.G. passed 16 years ago, this article is celebrating the career of a great emcee. One of the greatest emcees.