Why Christopher Wallace- aka Notorious B.I.G- Should Have A Street Corner in Brooklyn Named After Him
To Community Board 2
RE: Proposal to Name the Corner of Fulton Street and St James Place after Christopher Wallace
Dear Community Board Two:
As a scholar of African American History, and American Popular Culture, who teaches three graduate and undergraduate courses at Fordham University which examine Hip Hop in the United States as both popular music and social commentary, I would strongly endorse the proposal to name the corner of Fulton Street and St James Place in honor of Christopher Wallace, known to tens of millions of Hip Hip fans around the world as Notorious B.I.G and Biggie Smalls..
Christopher Wallace is widely considered to be one of the five most important Hip Hop artists of all time, and perhaps its most inventive lyricist. His music helped pave the way for Hip Hop's global popularity and he was an important influence on the life of of Shawn Carter, also known as JZ, who has been a major force in Brooklyn's economic development.
But what Christopher Wallace will be best known for is story telling and social commentary. No musical artist expressed more eloquently and poignantly the experience of growing up amidst the chaos produced by the crack epidemic in the late 80's and 90's and none inspired more young people growing up in poverty to maintain the hope that they could escape crack's deadly embrace, But Biggie did more than inspire young people who grew up in the same circumstances as he did. He brought haunting portraits of the lives deformed by racial and economic inequality into the lives of millions, perhaps tens of millions of young people who did not live in ghettoes or experience drug epidemics first hand.
When scholars 200 years from now try to understand the impact of the crack epidemic on inner city America, they will turn to Biggie's songs as a window into that experience. As will scholars trying to understand why hip hop has become the voice of disfranchised youth throughout the world
Biggie Smalls is one of the most important cultural figures ever to come out of Brooklyn- equal in importance in his musical genre to Barbara Streisand in hers
He deserves to have a corner named after him. His voice, reminding us to remember the most marginalized in our midst, should not be forgotten
Mark D Naison Professor of African American Studies and History Fordham University