Few names garner the respect in the hip hop community as Christopher Wallace, better known as the Notorious BIG. Considered one of the best rappers of all time, Biggie became a central figure in the nineties hip hop movement. Along with his counterpart 2Pac, Notorious BIG grew to superstardom to only then see a tragic end to a life filled with highs and lows but, undoubtedly, leaving a legacy of hit records and a mark in American culture.
Born in St. Mary's Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, he was the only child of Voletta Wallace, a Jamaican teacher. After his father left the family when Wallace was only two years old, his mother took on two jobs to support her only child. An excellent student early on, he won several awards as an english student, he always had a way with words. By age 10 he was nicknamed Big because he was overweight. At the tender age of 12 he began dealing drugs in the neighborhood.
As a teenager, st his request, Big transferred out of Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School to attend George Westinghouse Career and Tecn High School, where other future superstars attended including DMX, Jay-Z, and Busta Rhymes. Always a good student, Big still dropped out of school at the age of 17 and was further involved in crime, being arrested in 1989 for weapons charges and sentenced to five years probation. A year later he was arrested in North Carolina for dealing crack cocaine, spending nine months in jail before making bail.
Biggie began rapping when he was a teenager. He would entertain people on street corners, and collaborate with local groups, but never thought he would pursue a music career. After being released from jail, he made a demo tape under the name Biggie Smalls. DJ Mister Cee heard the tape and sent it to the editor of The Source. In March of 1992, Biggie was featured in The Source's Unsigned Hype column. The tape was heard by A&R and record producer Sean Combs who arranged a meeting with Biggie. Sean Combs signed him to Uptown Records and after starting Bad Boy Records, Biggie followed him to the new label.
On August 4, 1994, Biggie married R&B star Faith Evans after they met at a Bad Boy photoshoot. Only five days later he saw pop chart success, as "Juicy" hit the list pushing the single to number 27 on the Billboard 200 list. Ready to Die, his debut album was released on September 13, 1994 reaching number 13 on the Billboard 200, eventually reaching Platinum.
As his success, he became a target of jealousy and hatred between the east and west coast rivalries. Once a close friend to 2Pac, their relationship soured after 2Pac alleged he was robbed and shot by the orders of Biggie. Always trying to defuse the situation, Biggie would not acknowledge the attacks even though everyone in his inner circle encouraged retaliation. Biggie traveled to California on February of 1997 to promote his upcoming album, Life After Death. After attending a party hosted by Vibe magazine, on March 9, 1997, Biggie was shot outside of the venue in Los Angeles. He was pronounced dead 30 minutes later at Cedar Sinai Medical Center.
Considered one of the best artists in hip hop, The Source magazine named him the greatest rapper of all time in it's 150th issue in 2002. He left a legacy filled with hit records and charitable endeavors. The Christopher Wallace Foundation holds an annual black-tie dinner to raise funds for children's school equipment and supplies and to honor the memory of the late rapper. He left a mark in American culture and propelled the hip hop genre to levels never seen before.