Christopher George Latore Wallace (May 21, 1972 – March 9, 1997), better known by his stage names The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie or Biggie Smalls presented an award to Toni Braxton at the 1997 Soul Train Music Awards in Los Angeles and was booed by some of the audience. After the ceremony, Wallace attended an after party hosted by Vibe magazine and Qwest Records at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Other guests included Faith Evans, Aaliyah, Sean Combs, and members of the Bloods and Crips gangs.
On March 9, 1997, at around 12:30 a.m. (PST), Wallace left with his entourage in two GMC Suburbans to return to his hotel after the Fire Department closed the party early because of overcrowding. Wallace traveled in the front passenger seat alongside his associates, Damion "D-Roc" Butler, Junior M.A.F.I.A. member Lil' Cease and driver, Gregory "G-Money" Young. Combs traveled in the other vehicle with three bodyguards. The two trucks were trailed by a Chevrolet Blazer carrying Bad Boy's director of security.
By 12:45 a.m. (PST), the streets were crowded with people leaving the event. Wallace's SUV stopped at a red light at the corner of Wilshire Blvd & South Fairfax Ave 50 yards from the museum. A dark colored Chevrolet Impala SS pulled up alongside Wallace's SUV. The driver of the Impala, a black male dressed in a blue suit and bow tie, rolled down his window, drew a 9 mm blue-steel pistol and fired at the GMC Suburban; four bullets hit Wallace. Wallace's entourage rushed him to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where doctors performed an emergency thoracotomy, but he was pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m. (PST).
His autopsy was released to the public in December 2012, over a decade after his death. According to the report, three of the four shots were not fatal. The first bullet hit in his left forearm and traveled down to his wrist; the second hit him in the back, missing all vital organs, and exited through his left shoulder; and the third hit his outer left thigh and left through his inner thigh. The report said that the third bullet struck "the left side of the scrotum, causing a very shallow, 3⁄8 inch linear laceration." The fourth bullet was fatal, entering through his right hip and striking several vital organs, before stopping in his left shoulder area. That bullet struck his colon, liver, heart and upper lobe of his left lung.
Born in St. Mary's Hospital on May 21, 1972, Wallace grew up in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, New York City on 226 St. James Place near the border of Bedford-Stuyvesant, considered at the time to be within the latter neighborhood's boundaries. He was the only child of Voletta Wallace, a Jamaican preschool teacher, and George Latore, a welder and small-time Jamaican politician. His father left the family when Wallace was two years old, and his mother worked two jobs while raising him. At the Queen of All Saints Middle School, Wallace excelled in class, winning several awards as an English student. He was nicknamed "Big" because of his overweight size by age 10. At the age of 12, he began selling illegal drugs. His mother, often away at work, did not know of her son's drug sales until Wallace was an adult.
At his request, Wallace transferred out of the Roman Catholic Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School to attend the state-funded George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School, which future rappers Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes also attended at the time. According to his mother, Wallace was still a good student, but he developed a "smart-ass" attitude at the new school. At seventeen, Wallace dropped out of school and became further involved in crime. In 1989, he was arrested on weapons charges in Brooklyn and sentenced to five years' probation. In 1990, he was arrested on a violation of his probation. A year later, Wallace was arrested in North Carolina for dealing crack cocaine. He spent nine months in jail before making bail.
Wallace began rapping when he was a teenager. He entertained people on the streets and performed with local groups the Old Gold Brothers and the Techniques. After being released from jail, Wallace made a demo tape under the name Biggie Smalls, a reference to a character in the 1975 film Let's Do It Again as well as his stature; he stood at 6 feet 3 inches and weighed as much as 300 to 380 pounds according to differing accounts. The tape was reportedly made with no serious intent of getting a recording deal, but was promoted by New York-based DJ Mister Cee, who had previously worked with Big Daddy Kane, and was heard by the editor of The Source.
In March 1992, Wallace was featured in The Source 's Unsigned Hype column, dedicated to aspiring rappers, and was invited to produce a recording with other unsigned artists in a move that was reportedly uncommon at the time. The demo tape was heard by Uptown Records A&R and record producer Sean Combs, who arranged for a meeting with Wallace. He was signed to Uptown immediately and made an appearance on label mates, Heavy D & the Boyz' "A Buncha Niggas" (from the album Blue Funk). Soon after signing his recording contract, Combs was fired from Uptown and started a new label. Wallace followed and in mid-1992, signed to Combs' new imprint label, Bad Boy Records. On August 8, 1993, Wallace's longtime girlfriend gave birth to his first child, T'yanna. Wallace wanted his daughter to complete her education, despite being a high school dropout himself. Wallace said that if his mother had promised him what he promised his daughter, everything she wanted, Wallace would have been not only a graduate but also at the top of his class. He continued selling drugs after the birth to support his daughter financially. Once Combs discovered this, he forced Wallace to quit.
Later in the year, Wallace gained exposure on a remix to Mary J. Blige's single "Real Love", under the pseudonym The Notorious B.I.G. He recorded under this name for the remainder of his career, after finding the original moniker "Biggie Smalls" was already in use. "Real Love" peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was followed by a remix of Blige's "What's the 411?". He continued this success, to a lesser extent, on remixes with Neneh Cherry ("Buddy X") and reggae artist Super Cat ("Dolly My Baby", also featuring Combs) in 1993. In April 1993, his solo track, "Party and Bullshit", appeared on the Who's the Man? soundtrack. In July 1994, he appeared alongside LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes on a remix to label mate Craig Mack's "Flava in Ya Ear", reaching No. 9 on the Hot 100.
On August 4, 1994, Wallace married R&B singer Faith Evans after they met at a Bad Boy photoshoot. Four days later, Wallace had his first pop chart success as a solo artist with double A-side, "Juicy/Unbelievable", which reached No. 27 as the lead single to his debut album.
Ready to Die was released on September 13, 1994, and reached No. 13 on the Billboard 200 chart, eventually being certified four times Platinum. The album, released at a time when West Coast hip hop was prominent in the U.S. charts, according to Rolling Stone, "almost single-handedly... shifted the focus back to East Coast rap". It immediately gained strong reviews and has received much praise in retrospect. In addition to "Juicy", the record produced two hit singles: the Platinum-selling "Big Poppa", which reached No. 1 on the U.S. rap chart, and "One More Chance" featuring Faith Evans, a loosely related remix of an album track and its best selling single.
In August 1995, Wallace's protégé group, Junior M.A.F.I.A. ("Junior Masters At Finding Intelligent Attitudes"), released their debut album Conspiracy. The group consisted of his friends from childhood and included rappers such as Lil' Kim and Lil' Cease, who went on to have solo careers. The record went Gold and its singles, "Player's Anthem" and "Get Money" both featuring Wallace, went Gold and Platinum. Wallace continued to work with R&B artists, collaborating with R&B groups 112 (on "Only You") and Total (on "Can't You See"), with both reaching the top 20 of the Hot 100. By the end of the year, Wallace was the top-selling male solo artist and rapper on the U.S. pop and R&B charts. In July 1995, he appeared on the cover of The Source with the caption "The King of New York Takes Over", a reference to his Frank White alias from the 1990 film King of New York. At the Source Awards in August 1995, he was named Best New Artist (Solo), Lyricist of the Year, Live Performer of the Year, and his debut Album of the Year. At the Billboard Awards, he was Rap Artist of the Year.
In his year of success, Wallace became involved in a rivalry between the East and West Coast hip hop scenes with Tupac Shakur, his former friend and associate. In an interview with Vibe in April 1995, while serving time in Clinton Correctional Facility, Shakur accused Uptown Records' founder Andre Harrell, Sean Combs, and Wallace of having prior knowledge of a robbery that resulted in him being shot five times and losing thousands of dollars worth of jewelry on the night of November 30, 1994. Though Wallace and his entourage were in the same Manhattan-based recording studio at the time of the shooting, they denied the accusation. Wallace said: "It just happened to be a coincidence that he [Shakur] was in the studio. He just, he couldn't really say who really had something to do with it at the time. So he just kinda' leaned the blame on me." In 2012, a man named Dexter Isaac, serving a life sentence for unrelated crimes, claimed that he attacked Shakur that night and that the robbery was orchestrated by James Rosemond aka Jimmy Henchman.
Following his release from prison, Shakur signed to Death Row Records on October 15, 1995. Bad Boy Records and Death Row, now business rivals, became involved in an intense quarrel.
Wallace began recording his second studio album in September 1995. The album, recorded in New York, Trinidad and Los Angeles, was interrupted during its 18 months of creation by injury, legal wranglings and the highly publicized hip hop dispute in which he was involved. During this time, he also worked with R&B/pop singer,songwriter and producer Michael Jackson for the HIStory album. Lil' Cease claimed in 2013 that Wallace denied his wishes to meet Jackson, citing that he did not "trust Michael with kids".
On March 23, 1996, Wallace was arrested outside a Manhattan nightclub for chasing and threatening to kill two autograph seekers, smashing the windows of their taxicab and then pulling one of the fans out and punching them. He pleaded guilty to second-degree harassment and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service. In mid-1996, he was arrested at his home in Teaneck, New Jersey, for drug and weapons possession charges.
In June 1996, Shakur released "Hit 'Em Up", a diss song in which he claimed to have had sex with Wallace's wife (at the time estranged) and that Wallace copied his style and image. Wallace referred to the first claim about his wife's pregnancy on Jay-Z's "Brooklyn's Finest" where he raps: "If Faye (Faith Evans, his wife at the time) have twins, she'd probably have two 'Pacs. Get it? 2Pac's?". However, Wallace did not directly respond to the record during his lifetime, stating in a 1997 radio interview that it was "not [his] style" to respond.
Shakur was shot multiple times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on September 7, 1996, and died six days later on September 13, 1996 of complications from the gunshot wounds. Rumors of Wallace's involvement with Shakur's murder were reported almost immediately. A two-part series Chuck Philips wrote for the Los Angeles Times in 2002, "Who Killed Tupac Shakur?", based on police reports and multiple sources reported that "the shooting was carried out by a Compton gang called the Southside Crips to avenge the beating of one of its members by Shakur a few hours earlier" and that Wallace paid for the gun. His family publicly denied the report, producing documents purporting to show that the rapper was in New York and New Jersey at the time. The New York Times called the documents inconclusive, stating:
The pages purport to be three computer printouts from Daddy's House, indicating that Wallace was in the studio recording a song called Nasty Boy on the afternoon Shakur was shot. They indicate that Wallace wrote half the session, was In and out/sat around and laid down a ref, shorthand for a reference vocal, the equivalent of a first take. But nothing indicates when the documents were created. And Louis Alfred, the recording engineer listed on the sheets, said in an interview that he remembered recording the song with Wallace in a late-night session, not during the day. He could not recall the date of the session but said it was likely not the night Shakur was shot. We would have heard about it, Mr. Alfred said."
Moreover, Philips' article was based on multiple sources. As the Assistant Managing Editor of the LA Times Mark Duvoisin wrote: "Philips' story has withstood all challenges to its accuracy, ...[and] remains the definitive account of the Shakur slaying." Faith Evans remembered her husband calling her the night of Shakur's death and crying due to him being in shock. Evans added, "I think it’s fair to say he was probably afraid, given everything that was going on at that time and all the hype that was put on this so-called beef that he didn’t really have in his heart against anyone." Wayne Barrow, Wallace's co-manager at the time, said Wallace was recording the song "Nasty Girl" the night Shakur was shot.
On October 29, 1996, Faith Evans gave birth to Wallace's son, Christopher "C.J." Wallace, Jr. The following month, Junior M.A.F.I.A. member Lil' Kim released her debut album, Hard Core, under Wallace's direction while the two were having a "love affair". Lil' Kim recalled being Wallace's "biggest fan" and her being "his pride and joy." In a 2012 interview, Lil' Kim said Wallace prevented her from doing a remix of the Jodeci single "Love U 4 Life" by locking her in a room and according to her, Wallace stated that she was not "gonna go do no song with them."
During the recording sessions for his second album, tentatively named "Life After Death... 'Til Death Do Us Part", later shortened to Life After Death, Wallace was involved in a car accident that shattered his left leg and temporarily confined him to a wheelchair. The injury forced him to use a cane.
In January 1997, Wallace was ordered to pay US$41,000 in damages following an incident involving a friend of a concert promoter who claimed Wallace and his entourage beat him up following a dispute in May 1995. He faced criminal assault charges for the incident which remains unresolved, but all robbery charges were dropped. Following the events of the previous year, Wallace spoke of a desire to focus on his "peace of mind". "My mom... my son... my daughter... my family... my friends are what matters to me now".