Big Brooklyn homecoming awaits slain rapper Biggie Smalls

March 14, 1997

Big Brooklyn homecoming awaits slain rapper Biggie Smalls

NEW YORK (AP) – The body of rapper Biggie Smalls rested in a posh Manhattan funeral home Friday, awaiting a nostalgic funeral procession through the Brooklyn streets where he boasted he once sold crack.

Five days after he was killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles, the 24-year-old rap star, born Christopher Wallace, may not have been resting in peace.

As his 280-pound, 6-foot-tall body lay embalmed on Madison Avenue, his relatives had argued over how the funeral should be handled, a source close to the arrangements, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press.

By Friday afternoon, it appeared a compromise had been worked out.

His mother, Voletta Wallace wanted a low-key, private service, said the source, in order to play down the violence so often associated with the lyrics of the East Coast rap star (“You wanna see me locked up, shot up, Mom’s crouched up over the casket screamin…”)

But singer Faith Evans, the mother of his 6-month-old son, Christopher, had pushed for a lavish funeral procession Tuesday through the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood where Wallace was born, with his hits playing on loudspeakers as the soundtrack, the source said.

By Friday afternoon, the two women released a joint statement saying they hoped for “a quiet, dignified procession through the streets,” and urging that anyone from outside the neighborhood “not make special trips to see the procession. … We are concerned that large crowds could create an incident.”

Smalls – aka The Notorious B.I.G., whose new double compact disc is titled, “Life After Death,” – grew up in Brooklyn and learned to rap there. He especially loved to hang out near the corner of Fulton and St. James streets, where run-down, graffiti-filled brownstones house a barber shop and a laundromat. On Friday, there were also posters of the slain rapper.

“Biggie said that he once sold crack on that corner,” said Jesse Washington, managing editor of Vibe magazine, which sponsored the Soul Train Awards in Los Angeles. Wallace was honored minutes before he was gunned down.

“That’s where he grew up and where he developed all of his skills – drug-dealing and rapping among them,” Washington said in a telephone interview.

On Friday, the rapper lay at the corner of East 81st Street and Madison Avenue in the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home, a last stop for many of New York’s rich and famous.

The funeral home, on an avenue filled with designer shops, is just a block from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and near the apartment of the late Jacqueline Onassis.

Visitors paying last respects are whisked by elevator to an upper floor where the deceased are laid out in rooms with heavily draped walls.

On Tuesday, a wake open only to family and invited guests was to precede the public funeral motorcade through Brooklyn in the afternoon. Later in the day, mourners planned to attend a small service, also private, in a Campbell’s chapel.

The rapper’s body was then to be cremated, most likely at a New Jersey crematorium owned by the funeral company, not far from his Teaneck condo, said the source.

Since the shooting, the two women said they’ve been “keeping the faith and clinging tightly to one another for support,” their statement said.

They had identified his body after it arrived at New York’s La Guardia Airport from Los Angeles just after 6 a.m. Wednesday, the source said.

It was the second high-profile death of a rapper in the past six months. Smalls’ musical rival, West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur, was shot to death in Las Vegas. No arrests have been made in either shooting.

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