by Notorious B.I.G.
"Yeah, this album is dedicated to all the teachers that told me I'd never amount to nothin', to all the people that lived above the buildings that I was hustlin' in front of that called the police on me when I was just tryin' to make some money to feed my daughters and all the n----z in the struggle, you know what I'm sayin'?"
Biggie is not exaggerating: he actually did work as a drug dealer right on up to the launch of his rap career.Deep Thought
Christopher Wallace was a sharp kid who attended a private Catholic middle school (and later dropped out of a downtown Brooklyn high school also attended by Busta Rhymes and Jay-Z). But from age 12, Biggie made his money as a drug dealer. He began trafficking drugs from New York to Virginia and Maryland, and dropped out of high school at seventeen. After several minor arrests, in his late teens he was arrested for selling crack and served ten months in prison in North Carolina. He had his first child, T'Yanna, shortly after his release.
Rumor has it that Sean (Puffy) Combs had to push Biggie to get him to stop selling drugs after Biggie accepted a record deal for Ready to Die. Biggie legendarily left a North Carolina drug house a day before it was raided by police and returned to New York at Combs' urging, a narrow miss that could have changed his entire career.
"It was all a dream / I used to read Word Up magazine"
Word Up! Magazine was one of the first popular magazines to focus on hip-hop culture.Deep Thought
Biggie spent his childhood days admiring the likes of Marley Marl, and other late 1980s and early 1990s rap stars. Just as Biggie came of age, hip-hop hit the mainstream, and the possibility of becoming a big-time star became a little more real for dreaming teens like Biggie.
"Time to get paid, blow up like the World Trade"
Wait, what? This was 1994—seven years before the World Trade Center collapsed in the infamous September 11, 2001, attacks.Deep Thought
Biggie was living in a pre-9/11 world, but another fact sometimes gets lost in history: the World Trade Center was the target of a bombing in 1993. Saddam Hussein, then struggling under harsh U.S. sanctions on Iraq, was a suspected supporter of the bombings. But alas, it was later discovered that the bombers were independent actors, associates of the al Qaeda network that came back to haunt those very same buildings in 2001.
This wasn't the last time that some associated Saddam Hussein with attacks on the World Trade Center. Pop quiz: was Saddam Hussein a part of al Qaeda? Find the answer here, courtesy of the Pentagon.
"Remember when I used to eat sardines for dinner"
Biggie's Mom, Voletta Wallace, insists that the family may not have been rich, but they were not dirt poor the way Biggie describes them.Deep Thought
Biggie's father left when he was young, and Voletta, an immigrant from Jamaica, raised Biggie alone. She worked as a schoolteacher and was able to send Biggie to a private (Catholic) middle school. Although she has never commented on the question of sardines for dinner, she says they always had food on the table and insists that any talk about a one-room shack is exaggeration on Biggie's part (Biggie and Tupac, 2002).
"I made the change from a common thief / To up close and personal with Robin Leach"
"Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis / When I was dead broke, man I couldn't picture this"
Super Nintendo was to 1990 what the Wii was to 2006.Deep Thought
Sega Genesis was a similarly coveted 1990 release. Wikipedia also called the rivalry between Nintendo and Sega "one of the fiercest console wars in video game history"—a pleasantly ridiculous distinction, if you ask us.
Biggie's point? Not related to fierce console wars. He just wants us to know that, although he wasn't about to sell crack on the streets in order to buy a Sega Genesis, success as a rapper is granting him access to material goods he never dreamed of.
"Now my mom pimps a Ac' with minks on her back "
Christopher Wallace loved his mom.Deep Thought
Biggie—so called because he was called "Big" as a kid—lived with his mother in Fort Green, Brooklyn until he turned 20 (although plenty of reports place them in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Jay-Z's home neighborhood, this is a slight inaccuracy often played up by Biggie). One of the first things he did after his rap career took off was to buy his mom a new place in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. Apparently he also bought her an Acura and some nice furs.