On Monday, news outlets in New York City and elsewhere laced their reportage about the newly named “Christopher “Notorious BIG” Wallace Way” with lines from the rapper’s music. Maybe it was a dream, but it has come true. An intersection near where the famed rapper used to live at 226 St. James in Brooklyn, has an additional name, “Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace Way.”
Grammy Award-winning rapper and Biggie protégé, Lil Kim, as well as Wallace’s mother, Voletta Wallace, community leaders and an enthusiastic crowd of fans were on hand at the slightly rainy ceremony in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn near the newly named corner where St. James Place meets Fulton Street.
Even in speeches, community leaders used phrases like “It was all a dream.” Those in attendance seemed to brim with an energy that underscored a longtime battle won.
The New York Post quotes Lil Kim as saying “I always knew this day was gonna come…I used to dream about a street being named after Biggie, because it was only right.”
Audiences who have seen “Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G.” are familiar with the scene in which Wallace’s mother rides in a limo in a caravan with the hearse carrying her son. Someone in the neighborhood begins blasting “Hypnotize” and through their grief, the thousands of fans who lined the street began cheering and rapping along. The scene was poignant for Biggie’s mother, who, despite all the money her son had made, had not realized the impact he’d had on so many people. His music moved them, and the scene touched his mother.
The relevance of Biggie Smalls
For those audiences who were not privy to Smalls’ rise, the best example of what the rapper could do in a battle before he was famous, was captured in a home video clip included in “Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G.” The scene has been replicated in movies. It shows his off-the-cuff, brutal delivery that allowed him to easily best his opponents.
Once his records became part of the hip-hop canon, his songs gave new life to phrases like “it was all a dream,” “Baby, baby” and “You don’t know, now you know.”
His signature vocal quality has yet to be replicated. In addition, his professional and personal relationships with other legends helps to cement Biggie’s legacy. His friendship-turned-frenemyship with the late Tupac Shakur was the basis for the alleged East Coast-West Coast rap rivalry.
But musically, Biggie was an original. Fans responded to his work by becoming devoted to him, hence the scene in which even in grief, his music could cheer them.
So the street name is well-earned. However, the process for re-naming was not without controversy. The New York Post reports that the “co-naming” was first suggested in 2013, “but members of the local community board who argued that the heavy-set, foul-mouthed lyricist was a bad role model for area youth.”
The board’s sentiments seem judgmental at best. There is no proof that any of the people who have earned co-named streets have never used so-called bad words. And, the rapper’s weight seems beyond the point. And, the board who rejected the rapper is probably not the audience for Biggie’s music. Speakers in attendance at the ceremony pointed out that it was the fans who made the neighborhood what it was, not the board. The board’s sentiments seem out-of-touch with what fans want, even more than 20 years after Biggie’s death.
In an eerie move, Biggie had a famous song “You’re Nobody” that declared, “You’re nobody/’til somebody kills you.”
Biggie Smalls, aka Notorious B.I.G., was murdered in 1997 in Los Angeles. His killer has not been apprehended.