Happy Birthday to The Notorious B.I.G.

Today we celebrate The Notorious B.I.G.’s birthday. Born on May 21, 1972, he’s one of the most celebrated Hip Hop artists of all time. Biggie exploded into the mainstream scene with his 1994 debut album, Ready To Die. Today would have been his 46th birthday, but as fate would have it, the Brooklyn-bred MC was gunned down in 1997, bringing his life to a tragic end at the age of 24.

The music world shifted in 1997 when he was shot and killed in a shooting in LA. To this day, his murder remains unsolved and many aspects of who he was remain a mystery.

Let’s take it back a little further, before he was a rap icon, and before the accolades.

Christopher Wallace, or Biggie, used to freestyle on the streets of New York before Diddy signed him and he blew up. In fact, in March 1992, Wallace was featured in The Source’s column dedicated to aspiring rappers, and made a recording off the back of this success.

His rhyme style was also different to most.

“Unlike most other rappers, he never carried lyric notebooks into the studio,” says hip-hop journalist Cheo Hodari Coker, in Unbelievable: The Life, Death and Afterlife of the Notorious B.I.G. “He would construct those intricately rhyming narratives inside his formidable brain, then step to the microphone and record them ‘off the dome.'”

This “off the dome” rhyme style was adopted by many. One of the most famous cases of this happening was Jay-Z stating that he does the same, and we know now how much he inspired Hov.

Biggie was the Bad Boy Records staple after Craig Mack put them on. He carries that torch, even now. Diddy made sure the public knew about the prolific MC’s ability in the mainstream. Biggie transcended genres, similar to Tupac and did it all his way.

Rest in peace, Christopher Wallace.

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