The Notorious B.I.G., an American rapper whose real name was Christopher Wallace, was killed during a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles, California on March 9, 1997, when he was just 24 years old. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed in 2006 by Wallace’s mother, Voletta Wallace, his widow, Faith Evans, and his children T’yanna Jackson and Christopher Jordan “CJ” Wallace, against the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). The lawsuit accused corrupt officers of being responsible for Wallace’s death and sought $400 million in damages. Retired LAPD Officer Greg Kading claimed that the head of Death Row Records, Marion “Suge” Knight, had planned the murder as retaliation for the death of Tupac Shakur in a similar drive-by shooting in September 1996.
The Notorious B.I.G., born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City, left an indelible mark on hip-hop culture that has endured for decades after his untimely death. Wallace, who signed to Sean “Puffy” Combs’ label Bad Boy Records at its launch in 1993, quickly gained exposure through features on several other artists’ singles that year. But it was his debut album Ready to Die in 1994 that propelled him to the forefront of East Coast hip-hop, with its signature songs “Juicy” and “Big Poppa” garnering critical acclaim.
Wallace’s music was a reflection of his life, and his lyrics dealt with the harsh realities of growing up in Brooklyn’s tough streets. His success helped restore New York’s visibility in the hip-hop scene, which had been dominated by the West Coast at the time. He was awarded the 1995 Billboard Music Awards’ Rapper of the Year and the following year, he led his protégé group Junior M.A.F.I.A. to chart success.
However, the East Coast–West Coast hip-hop feud, which had been brewing for some time, came to a head in 1996, while Wallace was recording his second album. Following Tupac Shakur’s murder in Las Vegas in September 1996, speculation of involvement in Shakur’s murder by criminal elements orbiting the Bad Boy circle circulated as a result of Wallace’s public feud with Shakur. Tragically, six months after Shakur’s death, on March 9, 1997, Wallace was murdered by an unidentified assailant in a drive-by shooting while visiting Los Angeles. Wallace’s second album Life After Death, a double album, was released two weeks later, and reached number one on the Billboard 200, eventually achieving a diamond certification in the United States.
Despite his death, Wallace’s music continued to resonate with fans and earn critical acclaim. With two more posthumous albums released, he has certified sales of over 28 million copies in the United States, including 21 million albums. Rolling Stone has called him the “greatest rapper that ever lived”, and Billboard named him the greatest rapper of all time. In 2006, MTV ranked him at No. 3 on their list of The Greatest MCs of All Time, calling him possibly “the most skillful ever on the mic”. And in 2020, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, cementing his place as a legendary figure in music history.
The Notorious B.I.G.’s music continues to inspire and influence new generations of artists, and his legacy as one of the greatest rappers of all time remains secure. His unique blend of gritty realism and lyrical prowess, coupled with his undeniable talent, helped him become a cultural icon whose influence can still be felt in hip-hop and beyond.