Forty years ago today, Christopher George Latore Wallace was born in the storied Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. And 24 years later, he was shot to death in Los Angeles in one of the most controversial celebrity murder cases of all time. But what happened in his mere 24 years of existence was nothing short of remarkable. While his mother Voletta, a good-natured preschool teacher, famously only referred to him as “Christopher,” we all know him as something else: The Notorious B.I.G.
The hip-hop pioneer burst onto the scene in the mid-1990s, spitting rhymes about drug dealing, guns, women and fashion. While these themes were prevalent in rap music prior to Biggie Smalls’ rise to the top, his modern take on gritty issues resonated enormously. His flashy lifestyle became aspirational for many, and even current greats like Jay-Z (a fellow Brooklyn boy) frequently make allusions to Biggie’s penchant for Coogi sweaters, Versace shades and diamonds.
One of my favorite aspects of Notorious B.I.G.’s life that didn’t come to light until after his death was his tumultuous and passionate relationship with Lil’ Kim, a member of his rap crew Junior M.A.F.I.A. On paper, Kim was his mistress — as he was married to R&B songbird Faith Evans. But she was obviously more than that. From my perspective, Kim and B.I.G. were a hip-hop version of Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick. They were muses to each other, and in a screwed up, drug-addled, lying, cheating kind of way (I guess that’s actually sort of the same thing actually…).
It’s obvious that there’s no way to do justice to Notorious B.I.G. and his influence on the world (and not just the hip-hop world). His popularity completely triumphs over race, gender and class differences, as proven by the number of white girls driving around Westchester in BMWs singing along to “Juicy.” In honor of this absolute legend’s birthday, take a minute today and celebrate by listening to his iconic album “Ready to Die” or throwing on a Coogi and pretending you’re a boss.