Monday, March 28, 2011

Remembering Notorious B.I.G.

"My son's albums, to me, are a celebration of his life." Voletta Wallace, a couple of years after her son's murder on March 9, 1997, said those words in a telephone interview about the murder of Biggie Smalls. She's proud of what her son accomplished in his short life but frustrated that his murder remains unsolved.

Fourteen years after the slaying, the music of Biggie Smalls–a k a Christopher Wallace–is as big as ever. But his murder doesn't appear any closer to being solved than it was shortly after his murder following a VIBE magazine party outside the Petersen Automotive Museum, in Los Angeles, on the eve of the release of Biggie's double-disc album, ironically titled "Life After Death."

No one knows what else Biggie, a New York-based rapper who performed as The Notorious B.I.G., would have accomplished had he not been cut down that fateful March night. He was embraced by his Brooklyn community and rap fans worldwide. What we do know is that Biggie's music, after his death, topped the charts and sold millions of CDs. Like Tupac Shakur before him, Smalls is bigger in death than in life. Biggie was known for his semi-autobiographical lyrics and storytelling and his easy style of rap.

Shakur was killed in Las Vegas six months before Smalls in what some have called eerily similar drive-by shootings. Biggie and Tupac unfortunately became tragic victims of the culture of violence depicted in their lyrics.

Smalls, who died at 24 years old, had been mentoring younger rappers, including hip-hop singer Lil' Kim. On the 14th anniversary of the shooting, Lil' Kim posted her sentiments on Twitter: "On this very day a great soul was laid to rest. Now on this very day we celebrate the rebirth of a beautiful Life! R.I.P Biggie Baby."

Smalls' record producer, Sean "P Diddy" Combs, also took to the pages of Twitter to remember his friend: "Today is #BIGGIEDAY–send me all your videos, links, photos, exclusive content. ALL things BIGGIE so I can tell the world!!"

Spreading the word about her son is music to Mrs. Wallace's ears, to keep her son's legacy alive. But, while Biggie's music keeps his memory on the forefront, his mother, a single mom who worked as a pre-school teacher to support her son, holds out hope his killer (composite sketch, right) will one day be found and brought to justice. Despite the length of time without a named suspect (although a task force in L.A. has been, for several months, looking into the cold case), she keeps the faith.

"I'm not only hoping," Mrs. Wallace told me, "but I am praying that they catch the dog who killed my son. I can't wait. I know that's a trip [to Los Angeles] I'm waiting to take ... to look the murderer in the face."

Cathy Scott's book, The Murder of Biggie Smalls, is a biographical and true crime account of his life and death.

Reprinted from Women in Crime Ink

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