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Style & Culture

Trip Down Memory Lane: Post-prison demo kickstarts Biggie Smalls

Christopher George Latore Wallace is known by many names, the most common of which is probably The Notorious B.I.G. Also known as “Biggie Smalls,” or simply “Big,” he is probably most famous for his well-known feud with fellow rapper Tupac Shakur. The feud aside, Big was an extremely talented rapper.

Big got his start by creating an amateur demo tape after being released from jail. The tape was eventually heard by the editor of the popular, hip-hop dedicated magazine, “The Source.” He liked the demo so much that he had Big contribute to a column in “The Source” that was committed to unsigned rappers.

Eventually, his demo tape made its way to Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs who was a producer for Uptown Records. Soon after, Big was signed to Uptown Records. Eventually, the two would leave Uptown Records and Big would sign with Combs’ newly formed record label, Bad Boy Records.

Big began to gain some attention after appearing on numerous remixes in the years to follow including a remix of “Real Love” by Mary J. Blige. This would lead to the release of his debut record, “Ready to Die,” Sept. 13, 1994. The album produced three singles including the Grammy Award-nominated song for Best Rap Performance, “Big Poppa.” The album is unusual for rap records in general as it only features one guest appearance — Method Man appears on the ninth track of the album, “The What.”

A group by the name of Junior M.A.F.I.A — Masters at Finding Intelligent Attitudes — was formed around the success of The Notorious B.I.G in the same way that D12 earned their success through Eminem. The group consisted of Big’s friends, including female rapper Lil’ Kim. After the release of “Ready to Die,” the group released their debut record titled “Conspiracy.” The record contains four songs that feature The Notorious B.I.G.

Soon after Big’s newfound success, he became involved in the East Coast-West Coast hip-hop feud of the 1990s. In late 1994, fellow rapper Tupac was shot and robbed at a recording studio in Manhattan. Tupac went on to accuse Big of having involvement in the incident, which unfortunately dragged him into an intense feud that would follow him until his death in 1997.

As the feud continued, the hip-hop world faced an enormous tragedy in 1996 with the death of Tupac. While this was a blow to the industry, Big continued to work on his second record, “Life After Death.” The album was released posthumously, March 25, 1997, and spawned three singles. Among these three would be Big’s most famous song, “Mo Money Mo Problems,” which featured fellow rappers Mase and Puff Daddy.

On March 9, 1997, after leaving a party in Los Angeles, The Notorious B.I.G was fatally shot through the door of his GMC Suburban by the driver of a Chevrolet Impala. Big was shot four times. He was rushed to a nearby hospital for emergency surgery where he passed away. The autopsy, documenting the injuries, was released in December of 2012 to the public. To this day the murder remains unsolved.

Many believe it was a retaliation for the murder of Tupac, months earlier. Marion “Suge” Knight, a founder of Tupac’s record label, was accused of the murder, but charges were never raised.

Since his death, two more albums have been released under The Notorious B.I.G.’s name, and a biopic by the name of “Notorious” was released in 2009 with rapper Jamal “Gravy” Woolard starring as Big.