Black History Month Week Two: Seven Facts Related to the Notorius B.I.G.
Over the last week, I was trying to figure out which elements of Black History I was going to write about next. There are just so many options, it's really difficult to choose without feeling like I'm failing some aspect of the Culture. So when I had a dream a couple of days ago, I couldn't help but think that someone was trying to help me: Christopher George Latore Wallace, a.k.a. Biggie Smalls, a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G.
Now, I never knew Christopher Wallace in person (IRL for you younger folks). I knew him through his music, the news, and interviews he gave during his way-too-short career. So, why would I think that Biggie Smalls was trying to help me? Simple: I had a dream about him. Now, bear with me: I do believe that dreams can have significance. And this one was amazingly specific. In the dream, Biggie was trying to meet with me. He had set aside time in his busy schedule to speak with me, but other people kept trying to distract me and take my spot. Biggie was patient, allowing for other time slots. Unfortunately, I woke up after about the fifth time this happened, having never actually gotten the chance to speak with him. I don't know what Biggie would have told me if he had met with me, but as I mentioned I think it was about Black History Month. In order to honor one of the greatest rappers ever, I have chosen to make this Black History blog post about things which connect in some way to who he was.
1) Christopher Wallace's parents were born in Jamaica, an island in the Caribbean (1). The name Jamaica is remarkably close to the indigenous, pre-Columbian name of the island, Xaymaca (2). Most current inhabitants of Jamaica are descended from the African continent, having been captured and enslaved several hundred years ago. The Taino natives had been killed due to the European colonization. The country was most recently a British colony, though it is now independent. Most people in Jamaica speak English, though there is also a Jamaican Creole language which is regularly spoken as well.
2) Biggie himself was born in Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn was a city unto itself prior to becoming a borough of New York City (3). Brooklyn is also known as Kings County, and it was the original home of the Brooklyn (now Los Angeles) Dodgers, and the place where Jackie Robinson played major league baseball (4). It also happens to be where my grandfather was born, so I'm a bit partial!
3) Christopher Wallace was married to singer Faith Evans, and the two had a son together, named after his father (5). The two had a tumultuous relationship, and were separated at the time of Biggie's death. Faith was able to channel the pain of losing her husband so soon into some of her songs, and has had a successful career beyond the tragedy.
4) Biggie made some poignant and sometimes heartbreaking music (1). The song Suicidal Thoughts has a haunting soundtrack, and the story of the song is a phone call between Biggie and Sean Combs, in which B.I.G. speaks about all of the things he feels are wrong with his life. Throughout the song, his friend attempts to speak, to break through, to understand what's going on. The song ends with Biggie saying, "... I'm sick of talkin'," followed by a gunshot and his now-frantic friend on the other line trying unsuccessfully to get through to him. I remember the first time I heard the song. The profanity aside, I felt what was being said in a deep, familial way. I thought, wow, that was a lot of pain. Then I thought, no one could have written those words with such sincerity and had they not actually experienced suicidal ideation. One of the things I admire about Christopher Wallace was his ability to speak of topics, such as depression and suicidality, which rappers were supposed to avoid.
5) Like me, Christopher Wallace was a Gemini. He was born on May 21, 1972. The sign of the Twins is known for a few things which, perhaps, can help people understand him a bit more. The Gemini is known for having a dual personality, for being able to communicate quite well, and for ability to adapt well to different situations (6). It seems to me that these characteristics might have suited him well in his line of work.
6) Biggie had a daughter named T'yanna. T'yanna has made a name for herself as a fashion designer, and has recently been quoted as saying that she wants to be known for her own accomplishments rather than as her father's daughter (7). T'yanna was born in 1993, and was therefore only a few years old when her father passed.
7) B.I.G. did quite a bit in his short career to reach back and help other talent to rise to stardom. The group Junior MAFIA was formed by Biggie so that he could mentor others (1). Not everyone who makes it big does that, and it is admirable that Christopher Wallace made it a point to bring others with him.
I recognize that Christopher Wallace was no saint. But it seems to me that he did a lot in his short career that many others never had the opportunity or the bravery to do. And for that I honor him during the second week of Black History Month 2021. Rest in Peace, Big. I hope I've made you proud with this piece.
1) Biography.com. (2017). Biggie Smalls Biography. https://www.biography.com/musician/biggie-smalls
2) Britannica.com. (n.d.). Jamaica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Jamaica/The-arts-and-cultural-institutions
3) u-s-history.com. (n.d.). History of Brooklyn, New York. https://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h2139.html
4) mlb.com. (n.d.) Dodgers: Franchise Timeline. https://www.mlb.com/dodgers/history/timeline-1890s
5) Biography.com. (2020). Faith Evans Biography. https://www.biography.com/musician/faith-evans
6) Roberts, D. (n.d.). A Brief History of the Gemini Zodiac Sign. https://www.sunsigns.org/history-gemini-sign/.
7) Vibe Staff. (2020). T'yanna Wallace Says She Wants to Be Known as More Than "Biggie's Daughter." https://www.vibe.com/2020/03/tyanna-wallace-more-than-biggies-daughter
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