The Notorious B.I.G.
The late Christopher Wallace, known to the world as The Notorious B.I.G.
and Biggie/Biggie Smalls, is often touted as one of the greatest rappers of all time. B.I.G. was involved in the streets as a teen in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. At 17, a brief stint in jail for selling drugs would push him to change his course, and he soon began his attempt at turning rapping into a career. With his unique wordplay, charismatic wit and laidback flow, he quickly garnered a local buzz, and his demo tape landed in the hands of popular DJ Mister Cee. Cee was so impressed with the then 19-year-old, that he secured Big a feature in The Source magazine's Unsigned Hype, sparking the interest of Uptown Entertainment A&R Sean Puffy Combs. Puffy brought Big in and signed him to Uptown, but it wasn't long after that Puffy lost his job there. Undeterred, Puff launched Bad Boy Entertainment, and was able to convince Big to sign with him. Biggie would appear on two Mary J. Blige
singles that year, before releasing his own, Party and Bullshit. In 1994, his award-winning debut album Ready to Die was released, selling over one million units and solidifying his place within hip-hop's elite. He'd later lend his star power to launch his group, Junior M.A.F.I.A.
, sparking the solo careers of Lil Kim and Lil Cease. By 1997, the East Coast-West Coast feud was at its height, and Biggie was killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles on March 9. Just 16 days later, his sophomore effort, Life After Death, was released as a double-disc, immediately hitting number one on the Billboard 200. Today, B.I.G.'s US sales exceed 17 million, and his unsolved murder remains one of hip-hop's darkest mysteries.