By: Ian Wixted
The Notorious B.I.G. went to California in February 1997 to promote his upcoming album Life After Death. This was a risky move for Biggie because the tension of the West Coast/East Coast rap war was at an all-time high. Tupac Shakur, a rapper from California and former friend of Biggie’s, was murder on September 13, 1996. These two men were the chosen leaders for this coastal rap war, so after Tupac’s death, Biggie wanted the hatred to stop and make amends with the West Coast, especially California. This trip for Biggie turned out to be a successful one as he was able to film a music video for his song “Hypnotize”, a single off of Life After Death.
The next time The Notorious B.I.G. would touch down on California soil was March 8th 1997 in Los Angeles, to be a presenter at the 11th Annual Soul Train Music Awards. The West Coast crowd was not happy to see Biggie there and most of the crowd booed him when he was on stage presenting Toni Braxton her award for Best R&B/Soul Single-Female. Not being fazed by this, Biggie did his job and just rolled with the punches. After the show was over, Biggie, Puffy and some of their close friends went to an after party at the Petersen Automotive Museum hosted by Vibe magazine.
Biggie was leaving the museum due to the Fire Department shutting down the party because the place was too crowded, and this was the last time anyone would see The Notorious B.I.G. alive. Biggie was traveling in the front passenger seat of a GMC Suburban, as the truck stopped at a red light, a black Chevrolet Impala SS pulled up next to them on Biggie’s side. Shots rang out and four of them hit Biggie directly, with one bullet being the fatal shot. The driver of the Suburban rushed Biggie to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, but it was too late and Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace was pronounced dead at 1:15 AM March 9th 1997. Witnesses later said the shooter was an African American male wearing a blue suit and bow tie, but he was never found and the case of Christopher Wallace’s death is still unsolved and open to this day.
The impact of The Notorious B.I.G.’s death was felt all through hip-hop. It ended an era of rap music and put an end to the infamous West Coast/East Coast rap war. Biggie was considered by many to be “the savior of East Coast hip-hop”, and without him many thought that East Coast hip-hop lost its voice and would never be the same again. This was a tale of how beef on records could lead to violence in real life and when it was all said and done this “war” took the life of arguably the two best hip-hop rappers of all time.
This tragedy laid the blueprint for future rappers to keep their beef’s on wax and not take it to the extreme because it’s just not worth it. The Notorious B.I.G.’s music has inspired so many rappers in the rap world today, so much that rapper’s try to clone and imitate his style and try to pass it as their own. Wale said in his song The Vacation From Ourselves: “ Pay attention if you should listen to his shit and they shit it’s too convincing, as well as Chris-to-pher we miss him, but every March 9th another twenty is with us. Clones imitators known for imitating the off switch like I’m on top of my own, and they copy what’s on, and copy what’s hot until that goes cold.”
The life and death of The Notorious B.I.G. was very important to hip-hop and his music is still being listened to and his impact on the game of hip-hop is still being felt today. Canibus, a rapper from The Bronx, said it best in his song Second Round K.O.: “The greatest rapper of all time died on March 9th.”