Notorious B.I.G.

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Christopher George Latore Wallace was born in New York City in 1972, coming of age during the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980's. Though he was a good student and excelled (especially in English) in elementary school, he began dealing drugs at the age of 12. He continued to be a decent student throughout high school, but lost interest and dropped out at age 17 only to become more involved in street crime, accumulating three arrests in New York and North Carolina.

Wallace had been interested in rap from a young age, and half-jokingly produced a demo upon his release from prison under the name Biggie Smalls - in reality, he towered well over six feet and weighed above 350 pounds. The demo received a large volume of unsolicited airplay in New York City, and a mention in The Source magazine eventually led Biggie to a recording contract with Sean Combs (P. Diddy) under his Bad Boy label in 1992.

Wallace released his first album Ready To Die in late 1994, under the moniker The Notorious B.I.G. . At the time popular rap was dominated by the East Coast sound; though the rap movement can trace its roots to New York's projects and ghettos during the 1970's, the California-based West Coast rap scene - fueled by gangster rap acts like N.W.A., Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg - was the dominant genre of rap throughout he late 1980's and early 1990's. Ready To Die was one of few hits the East coast scene had produced in some time, sparking a rivalry now known as the East Coast/West Coast hip hop feud. Praised for his heavy, expressive flow and macabre, realistic lyricism, Ready To Die went on to sell over 4 million copies based on the popularity of songs like "Machine Gun Funk" and "Juicy".

With the East Coast/West Coast hip-hop rivalry in mid swing during the 1990's, tempers flaring on both sides eventually led to the death of West Coast legend Tupac Shakur in a Las Vegas drive-by shooting in late 1996. Some months later, The Notorious B.I.G. was killed in a similar fashion in March 1997 when a gunman opened fire on his ride in California, killing the rapper. Both killings remain unsolved mysteries today; neither Tupac's nor Biggie's shooter have been identified, and a number of conspiracy theories concerning their deaths have surfaced in the years since.

The Notorious B.I.G.'s second album - ironically titled Life After Death - was released posthumously, just two weeks after his death. The critically acclaimed double-length (two CD) album sold over 5 million copies, earning the RIAA's coveted Diamond certification. Featuring singles "Hypnotize" and "Sky's The Limit", Biggie's album certainly granted the rapper life after death in the hearts and minds of rap aficionados worldwide. Bad Boy Records has since released two more records after the rapper's death - Born Again in 1999 and Duets: The Final Chapter in 2005 - both of which make use of living artists rapping alongside Biggie's unused and unreleased material. Hits from these albums include "Spit Ya Game", "Nasty Girl", and "Hold Ya Head".

From Discogs:

Notorious 'Christopher George Letore Wallace' B.I.G. (Business Instead of Game) was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY on May 21, 1972. During his life he moved many crowds with his conversational style in Hip Hop. He released two studio CD's both garnering critical and public acclaim: 'Ready To Die' and 'Life After Death'. Notorious B.I.G. was shot to death from a drive-by in Los Angeles, CA on March 9, 1997.As a youth he was an honor-roll student, but dropped out of school at the age of 17 and began working for a small-time crack cocaine dealer in Virginia. As a teen he would freestyle rap on the streets of Brooklyn. After making a demo tape with neighborhood friends and connections, this demo was eventually received DJ Mister Cee (from Big Daddy Kane). From there he got notice in Hip-Hop magazine, The Source, in the Unsigned Hype section. Sean "Puffy" Combs got a hold of the demo tape and after meeting signed Biggie to Uptown Records. Puffy eventually started his own music label, Bad Boy Records, bringing Biggie with him. Soon after Bad Boy's premiere he released the classic CD, Ready To Die, eventually selling over 4 million copies. To this day B.I.G. is regarded as one of the best lyricist ever in Hip-Hop along with his one time friend and eventual adversary, Tupac Shakur.

From Lastfm:

Christopher George Latore Wallace (May 21, 1972 - March 9, 1997), also known as Biggie Smalls (after a stylish gangster in 1975's Let's Do it Again) and Frank White (from the film King of New York), but best known as The Notorious B.I.G. (Business Instead of Game and, since his death, Books Instead of Guns), was a popular Brooklyn-born rapper of the mid-1990s. His career was overshadowed by the Bad Boy/Death Row Records feud during his life, but following his untimely death in 1997, The Notorious B.

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