It’s been 16 years since Biggie Smalls’ death, but his memory is still alive and well in his hometown of Brooklyn. Passing cars still blast his music and murals dedicated to his short life seem to pop up every year or so. But there will not be any Brooklyn streets named after the slain hip-hop icon – at least not for now.
Several members of a local community board in Clinton Hill – where Biggie grew up – objected to the idea of re-naming St. James Place and Fulton Street “Christopher Wallace Way” after the rapper’s birthname. Lucy Koteen, one of the board members, said that she “looked up the rapper’s history” and was disturbed by what she found.
“He started selling drugs at 12, he was a school dropout at 17, he was arrested for drugs and weapons charge, he was arrested for parole violations, he was arrested in North Carolina for crack cocaine, in 1996 he was again arrested for assault, he had a violent death and physically the man is not exactly a role model for youth,” she said. “I don’t see how this guy was a role model and frankly it offends me.”
Ken Lowy, another board member and the owner of a local cinema, added that Wallace referred to women with derogatory names in his music.
Councilwoman Letitia James, who’s locked into a battle for the city’s public advocate, has yet to issue a letter of support for the petition, which is necessary for it to move forward.
LeRoy McCarthy, the 45-year-old man who started the effort to rename the street after the rapper, said that “board members should not hold Wallace’s physical appearance nor how he died against him.”
“There are many artists that share stories in a vernacular that their audiences understand,” said McCarthy in response to the complaint about misogynistic lyrics. “Biggie used the language from the streets he grew up in to convey what he wanted to say.”
It’s worth noting that Clinton Hill has been in the midst of intense gentrification for several years and there aren’t as many men who physically look like him left in the neighborhood. Case in point: his old apartment at 226 St. James place was recently on sale for $750,000.
(h/t DNA Info)