This Day in Black History: May 21, 1972

Christopher "Biggie Smalls" Wallace was born in Brooklyn, New York.

Posted: 05/21/2014 12:00 AM EDT
This Day in Black History: May 21, 1972

He loved it when they called him Big Poppa. Rapper Christopher "Biggie Smalls" Wallace, born on May 21, 1972, in Brooklyn, New York's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, also was known as the Notorious B.I.G. But before he became a superstar, Wallace was a drug dealer who served nine months in a North Carolina prison.

Like many rappers back in the day, he made music on his own, building a reputation in his neighborhood. His tenacity landed him a feature in The Source, which caught the attention of Uptown producer Sean Combs.

In 1993, Wallace appeared on the Mary J. Blige remixes "Real Love" and "What's the 411?" In addition his own single, "Party and Bulls**t" was featured on the soundtrack to the film Who's the Man?

The following year, Biggie released his first album, Ready to Die, in 1994, to great acclaim. It went platinum and The Source named him Best New Artist, Best Live Performer and Lyricist of the year.

But as the young rapper soon learned, fame and fortune do not always add up to happiness. In addition to being afraid that others might try to hurt him, Biggie became embroiled in an East Coast-West Coast battle with Tupac Shakur and Marion "Suge" Knight that did not end well.

Just as he was about to release a second album, Wallace was gunned down after attending the Soul Train Music Awards. He was just 24 when he died on March 9, 1997.

Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.

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