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Biggie Smalls, also known as Notorious B.I.G., was a revered hip-hop artist and face of East Coast gangsta rap. He was shot and killed on March 9, 1997.
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In the immediate aftermath of Ready to Die's popularity, the rapper found himself in constant fear. In 1994, he told The New York Times that he was disliked for having more money, which came with his fame. The large rapper—at 6 feet and three inches, and tipping the scales at nearly 400 pounds—said that he jumped whenever the door to his apartment building opened, fearing that someone might want to hurt him.
Biggie's fear led to anxiety,
which led to spurts of aggression. In May 1995, he allegedly beat up a man after they got into a dispute over a canceled performance. Later, he took a baseball bat to a group of autograph seekers. His most famous battles, however, occurred with others in the hip-hop industry, most notably with Tupac Shakur, Marion "Suge" Knight and Death Row Records. The rivalry turned into an East Coast-West Coast feud (with Combs and Biggie representing the East), and the tension escalated in 1994, when Shakur and a member of the Wu-Tang Clan were shot and robbed. The two men survived and Shakur came out blazing, accusing Biggie and Combs of orchestrating the attack. Both vehemently denied the accusation.
Shakur added fuel to the flames with a pointed slam on the East Coast rap world in the single, "Hit 'Em Up," in which he claimed to have slept with Biggie's wife, Faith Evans. In September 1996, East Coast-West Coast battle heated up even further, when Shakur was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. Rumors of Biggie's involvement immediately began to make the rounds, and when the rapper was one of the few hip-hop artists not to make an appearance at an anti-violence summit that was held in Harlem a few weeks later, the finger-pointing intensified.
Shakur's death amplified Biggie's fears about his own life, and his concern was tragically validated on March 9, 1997. Biggie, who had just come out of the Soul Train Music Awards, was sitting in an SUV when another vehicle pulled up to his car, opened fire and killed him. Biggie was only 24 years old at the time.
For many fans, the murder was viewed as retaliation for Shakur's murder. Biggie's death shook the music world, prompting fears that the hip-hop world might erupt into a full-fledged war, ending numerous other lives. That didn't happen, fortunately, but Biggie's friends, family and fans never received any answers regarding his death. Despite years of speculation regarding the identity of the gunman, Biggie's case was never solved. Biggie's family has been outspoken about its disappointment with the handling of the case, going as far as accusing the Los Angeles Police Department of employing rogue officers who were involved in the murder.
In 2002, filmmaker Nick Broomfield released the documentary Biggie and Tupac, which featured a round of interviews with people associated with both men. More recently, in May 2012, former L.A. police detective Greg Kading, who had worked on Biggie's case, told VH1 that he had incriminating evidence against Wardell "Poochie" Fouse, a gang member belonging to the Mob Piru Bloods.
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