(Christopher George Latore Wallace photographed by Barron Claiborne)
It’s been 14 years since Christopher George Latore Wallace aka Biggie Smalls, aka The Black Frank White, aka BIG Poppa, was shot and killed in Los Angeles while on his way to a party at the Peterson Museum; and the rapper’s still touching lives in spirit as he did in song. In memory of his legacy GlobalGrind wanted to take a look at some of B.I.G’s influences. Here we look at the things that made the Clinton Hill, Brooklyn (though BIG would say Bed-Stuy) rapper who he was, both in name and action. The easiest gaze back is with the obvious: Biggie as The Black Frank White. On “Runnin (Dying to Live),” the first single off the soundtrack album, “Tupac: Resurrection” BIG rapped:
“Check it, I grew up a fucking screw up/Got introduced to the game, got a ounce and fucking blew up/Chopping rocks overnight/The nigga Biggie Smalls trying to turn into the black Frank White/We had to grow dreads to change our description/Two cops is on the milk box missing.”
Biggie took the name Frank White from “The King of New York,” a 1990 New York crime drama about a gangster on parole trying to build a public hospital in one of the city’s worst neighborhoods. The gangster, Frank White, played by Christopher Walken, meets resistance from all sides and ends up inciting a bloody gang war in the city. Directed by Abel Ferrara, and starring Laurence Fishburne, “The King of New York” resonated with BIG so strongly that the title character (with his anti-hero mentality and weird community building efforts) became his alias.The photograph of Biggie above, shot by photographer Barron Claiborne, crystalizes B.I.G as the King of New York during the 90s. His platinum selling debut album reinstated New York hip-hop as king after years of West Coast domination.
Check out more of the “King of New York” and another film that gave B.I.G his name.
Poster for “The King of New York”
Christopher Walken as Frank White.
(Poster for Lets Do It Again starring Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby)
Another major influence on B.I.G was “Let’s Do It Again,” a comedy starring Bill Cosby, Jimmy Walker and Sidney Poitier. Set in the South and directed and written by Poitier, the film, released in 1975, was about two blue collar friends who rigged a fight in order to raise money for their fraternal lodge. Jimmy Walker played Bootney Farnsworth, a scrawny boxer hypnotized into believing he’s the greatest fighter ever. The gangster Biggie Smalls goes after the friends after figuring out how Bootney cleaned him out.
(Calvin Lockhart played the gagster Biggie Smalls in “Lets Do It Again”)
Lockhart, born Bert Cooper, was from the Bahamas and was a Shakespearean actor. He appeared in many films in the 1970s and 80s. He is best remembered for his role in “Let’s Do It Again” and as Jonathan Lake, the love interest of Diahann Carroll’s Dominique Devereaux in the nighttime soap opera “Dynasty.” Blake Carrington was referenced many times by B.I.G’s protege Lil Kim when she was a member of the group Junior M.A.F.I.A. On the song “Fuck You” off her “Hard Core” album Kim rapped: “Rap barbarian/’96 Blake Carrington/I brings the most dangerous diseases/Trife please…”