Rep. Hakeem Jeffries Salutes Notorious B.I.G. on 20th Anniversary of Rap Legend’s Murder
In a move that would have been unimaginable a generation ago, a member of Congress delivered a rousing tribute to slain rap legend Notorious B.I.G. on the floor of the House of Representatives to mark the 20th anniversary of his still unsolved murder.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), who represents Brooklyn and Queens, recited the opening lines of the Brooklyn-born B.I.G.’s breakout 1994 hit “Juicy” in Congress on Friday. “It was all a dream/I used to read Word Up magazine/Salt’n’Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine/Hangin’ pictures on my wall/Every Saturday Rap Attack, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl” will now be enshrined for eternity in the Congressional Record.
“Those were the words of the late, great Notorious B.I.G.,” said Jeffries. “Biggie Smalls. Frank White. The King of New York. “He died 20 years ago today in a tragedy that occurred in Los Angeles, but his words live on forever. I’ve got the privilege of representing the district where Biggie Smalls was raised. We know he went from negative to positive and emerged as one of the world’s most important hip-hop stars. His rags-to-riches life story is the classic embodiment of the American Dream. Biggie Smalls is gone but he will never be forgotten. Rest in peace, Notorious B.I.G. Where Brooklyn at?”
Biggie, born Christopher George Latore Wallace on May 21, 1972, is known as one of the greatest and most influential rappers of all time, with two platinum and one double platinum album and five number one rap singles, two of which — “Hypnotize” and “Mo Money Mo Problems” — also topped the US pop charts in 1997. While traveling to Los Angeles to promote his ironically titled upcoming album Life After Death, Wallace was shot dead after leaving a party shortly after midnight on March 9, 1997. His murder — like that of rival rapper Tupac Shakur, who was gunned down in Las Vegas six months before Wallace’s killing — remain unsolved to this day, making the New York rap king’s slaying one of L.A.’s most high-profile cold cases.
Gangsta rap was once the bane of polite society, with the genre’s leading luminaries regularly vilified for their profanity-filled, misogynistic and anti-authoritarian lyrics. Famous feuds included beef between Tipper Gore, wife of senator and later vice president Al Gore, and members of pioneering West Coast gangsta rappers NWA, or Niggaz Wit Attitudes, as well as condemnation from the director of the FBI, then-vice president Dan Qayle and Bill Clinton, who famously had his “Sista Souljah moment” while trying to appeal to more conservative voters during the 1992 presidential campaign.
Much has changed over the course of the past 20 years. Not only are gangsta rappers like Ice T, Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg featured in advertisements for some of America’s biggest corporations, they’ve also become something akin to elder statesmen in the pop culture realm. Snoop Dogg even stars in a loosely marijuana-themed cooking show with Martha Stewart, who he has called a “real gangsta.” The 2015 biopic Straight Outta Compton (trailer), which told the story of the rise and fall of NWA in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was a commercial and critical success, earning over $200 million at the box office and an Academy Award nomination.
Even Marco Rubio, the straight-laced Republican senator from Florida, has confessed a love for gangsta rap, although he found himself in hot water after professing his preference for West Coast gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur over Biggie. “I think Tupac’s lyrics were probably more insightful, with all apologies to Biggie Fans,” he said in a 2013 BuzzFeed interview. Rubio also argued that gangsta rappers were often misunderstood and that instead of condoning the violent, law-breaking lifestyle chronicled in their lyrics they were like journalists who were “reporting what life was like” in the ‘hood.