Today we take a look back on the life of Christopher George Latore Wallace aka Biggie Smalls, on what would have been his 42nd birthday.
It's pretty common knowledge that the Notorious B.I.G came from humble beginnings and had his fair share of struggles. His undeniable talent enabled him to quickly make a name for himself in the hip-hop world. Wallace soon left the world of drug-dealing behind for a better life in music.
For this rapper, success came fast as he captured the attention of many simply off his demo tape. But success for Biggie was later plagued by paranoia that people were out to see him fail. His time in hip-hop became embroiled by the infamous East-West Coast rivalry, which would ultimately lead to his downfall. B.I.G. had only released one album when he was shot and killed at the young age of 24.
Take a look back at the story of Notorious B.I.G. on the day of his birth. Click through the galleries above to find out more detailed information featured on the timeline infographic below.
RIP Christopher George Latore Wallace - Notorious B.I.G. (1972 - 1997)
May 21, 1972: A Hip Hop Legend Is Born
On the 21st of May, 1972, Christopher George Latore Wallace, known to the world as Notorious B.I.G. was born in Brooklyn, New York. His mother Voletta Wallace, a Jamaican immigrant, was a pre-school teacher. His father George Latore, a welder and Jamacain politician, left the family when Wallace was only 2 years old. The late rapper grew up in seven room apartment at 226 St. James Place in Clinton Hill, bordering the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant.
1982 – 1991: Wallace’s Childhood
1982 - Wallace gains the nickname “Big” from his classmates at the age of 10 due to his size
1984 - Aged only 12, Biggie starts selling drugs.
1989 - Wallace drops out of school, and run-ins with the law commence, including an arrest on a weapons charge
1991 - Biggie is arrested for selling crack cocaine, and spends 9 months in prison.
Whilst at Queen of All Saints Middle School, Wallace was said to be a studious individual who excelled in his education. At the age of 10, he gained the nickname “Big”, as he was already overweight.
Biggie began running into trouble at a young age, when he started selling drugs at only 12-years old. His mother Voletta Wallace, claims that despite references to poverty in his music, their lives were never that bad, and Biggie never really needed to make money from drugs. Wallace himself stated that, “Crack dealers were my role models.”
The rapper later transferred to George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School which, aged 17, Wallace eventually dropped out of. A few years later he was arrested for selling crack, forcing him to spend 9 months in prison before he was able to make bail.
1990 – 1993: The Start of Biggie’s Music Career
1992 - Biggie makes his first demo under the name of "Biggie Smalls" and gets featured in The Source magazine
1992 - B.I.G. gets noticed by Sean Combs and gets signed to Uptown Records
1992 - Puff Daddy creates his own label, Bad Boy Records and brings in Biggie
1993 - Biggie’s girlfriend gives birth to their child, T-yanna
1993 - The rapper gains exposure for his remix on Mary J Blige’s “Real Love”
April 1993 - Biggie releases his first single "Party and Bullshit"
Biggie's interest in rap began at a very young age. He would often perform with groups from his neighbourhood such as the Old Gold Brothers. After being released from prison, Wallace put more energy into music and recorded a demo, borrowing his friend’s tape recorder. He made the demo under the name of “Biggie Smalls.” Part of the name was adopted from his childhood, and also referenced the fact that Wallace was far from a small man at 6 feet 3 inches tall, weighing between 300-380 pounds. His rapper name also was influenced by the film “Let’s Do It Again.”
The demo tape grabbed much attention and fell into the hands of Mister Cee, now a popular a Hot 97 DJ. The DJ then handed it to hip hop magazine The Source who featured Biggie in their Unsigned Hype column.
Sean Combs, known to us as Puff Daddy heard about Wallace and his demo. Liking what he heard, he signed him to Uptown Records as A&R of the label and Producer. When Puffy, left Uptown to create Bad Boy Records in 1992, Biggie joined him.
In 1993, Biggie’s girlfriend at the time, gave birth to his first child. Wallace continued to sell drugs, until Puffy persuaded him to stop. In the same year, under the name of The Notorious BIG, he gained exposure for his remix of Mary J Blige’s “Real Love”. Later he released his first single, “Party and Bullshit”, appearing on the film soundtrack for “Who’s The Man?”
1994 - Wallace releases “Juicy” as a single from his debut album
1994 - Biggie drops his first record Ready To Die which would eventually go four times Platinum
Sept 1994 - 2Pac is wounded from being shot, Wallace and Puffy are blamed
Feb 1995 - Biggie releases the track “Big Poppa”
June 1995 - Biggie releases the single “One More Chance/Stay With Me (remix)” featuring Faith Evans
1995 - B.I.G. appears on Michael Jackson’s “This Time Around”, and is a frequent featured guest on tracks
1995 - Starts his own label Undeas, signs Junior M.A.F.I.A.
1994 was a huge year for Biggie. In August he married Faith Evans and after gaining much exposure and success, Notorious BIG, released his debut album Ready To Die. Prior to dropping the record, “Juicy”, one of his biggest tracks of all time was released to promote the album. This was followed by a few other hit singles, in the following year such as “Big Poppa” and “Once More Chance”.
But in September 1994, the East-West Coast rivalry increasingly intensified when Tupac Shakur was shot and wounded. Puffy's involvement in the rivalry slowly became greater. After his accident, 2Pac was very quick to publicly pin the blame on his one- time friends, Biggie and Puffy.
Despite this, B.I.G. remained in demand, appearing on Michael Jackson’s track “This Time and Around.” He also started his own label in 1995, Undeas, signing Junior M.A.F.I.A.
1996 - 1997: Leading Up To Biggie’s Death
June 1996 - 2Pac claims to have slept with Faith Evans in his track “Hit Em Up”
Sept 1996 - Pac is shot and killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada
October 1996 – Faith Evans gives birth to Biggie’s child whilst rumors surround his affair with Lil Kim
1997 - Biggie is involved in a car crash shattering his leg
March 1997 – Wallace is shot at the age of 24, whilst coming back from the Soul Train Awards
March 1997 - Biggie’s Life After Death album is released less than a month after his death and goes straight to No. 1 in the charts, selling 690,000 in its first week.
April 1997 - “Hypnotize” is released
July 1997 – "Mo Money Mo Problems" drops featuring Diana Ross, Puff Daddy, Ma$e and Kelly Price
1997 - Puffy releases "I’ll Be Missing You" feat. Faith Evans
Biggie’s success grew as he took home numerous awards for his work. Alongside this, his beef with 2Pac cotinued to brew. There were subsequent disses throughout each rapper's music and in interviews.
In June 1996, 2Pac released his track “Hit Em Up” where he claimed to have slept with Biggie’s wife, Faith Evans, and he also attacked B.I.G. for stealing his style. It was well-known that Wallace’s marriage with Evans was tumultuous.
Later that year, Shakur died six days after being shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. Rumors intensified about Biggie’s involvement in the shooting, as the hip-hop world remained shocked at what the rivalry had turned into.
A month after, Faith Evans gave birth to Biggie’s child, amidst claims that Wallace was having an affair with fellow New York rapper Lil Kim. Things took another bad turn when the rapper was involved in a car crash, shattering his leg. He was frequently seen walking around with a cane at the time.
No one was prepared for the day of March 9th 1997, when Wallace was shot on his return from the Soul Train Awards. Despite attempts to perform emergency surgery, the rapper was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
Biggie had been planning to release a new single, ”Hypnotize” and eventually a new album, cryptically called, Life After Death. Less than a month after his death the record was released and went straight in at no. 1. Later that year, Puffy released “I’ll Be Missing You”, featuring Evans as dedication to Wallace.
Despite investigations, very few answers were provided about those involved in the shooting of Biggie. Till today, no killer has been found despite many links and conspiracy theories.
Life After The Death Of Biggie Smalls
1999 – Bad Boy Records releases Born Again with unreleased mix material from Wallace and collaborations
2000 – Life After Death gains Platinum certification
2007 – Right before the 10th anniversary of his death, Biggie’s Greatest Hits (The Notorious B.I.G. Album) is released
2009 – "Notorious", the biopic about Wallace is released produced by Puffy and Biggie’s former managers.
Following B.I.G.’s death, some of his previously-planned singles were released by Bad Boy Records. In 1999, an album titled Born Again featuring unreleased material as well collaborations was also made available.
It remains clear to this day that Wallace’s name and music has lived on years after his death. In 2000, his Life After Death album was certified Platinum. Seven years later, his greatest hits was also released, The Notorious B.I.G. Album. A biopic was also later released titled “Notorious” covering the rapper’s life, which starred the late rapper's son Christopher Wallace Jr.