Biggie Smalls’ last ride to Brooklyn

March 19, 1997

Biggie Smalls’ last ride to Brooklyn

Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) – “Gangsta” rapper The Notorious B.I.G., whose harsh tales of ghetto life forecast his own murder, toured his Brooklyn neighborhood for the last time in a coffin Tuesday following a farewell from rap’s royalty.

The rapper’s body, fitted with a double-breasted white suit and matching hat, was driven in a motorcade of black stretch limousines from a service on Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side to Brooklyn’s inner city Bedford-Stuyvesant section.

Thousands of his fans lined the Brooklyn block where Christopher Wallace was a familiar presence before and after his recording success as The Notorious B.I.G.

Wallace, who also went by the name Biggie Smalls, had told of selling crack on neighborhood corners before releasing his debut album, “Ready to Die.”

The crowd cheered wildly as the funeral cortege – a hearse bearing the rapper, two black Cadillacs filled with flowers and more than a dozen stretch limousines – drove down St. James Street for more than 10 minutes. Riders in the motorcade held pictures of Wallace out limousine windows as the fans screamed and applauded.

There were several skirmishes between police and the crowd once the motorcade left, and pepper spray was used to disperse the group. Ten people – including a reporter for The New York Times – were arrested on disorderly conduct charges, with three of those also charged with resisting arrest and one also charged with felony criminal mischief, said Officer Olga Mercado, a police spokeswoman. Seven officers suffered minor injuries, she added, and seven vehicles were damaged in the melee.

The reporter, Julia Campbell, said she was arrested after asking a police officer why he had used pepper spray against her. Dunne declined to provide details of her arrest but Campbell, who was released with a ticket, said she had an earlier verbal altercation with the same officer.

Wallace, 24, was murdered in a still-unsolved drive-by shooting in Los Angeles on March 9. Reports have suggested he was a victim in the East Coast-West Coast rap rivalry, although the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that a gang member acting alone had emerged as the primary suspect.

A gunman pumped several shots into a parked car where Wallace was sitting after the Soul Train Music Awards. Wallace died a short time later at a Los Angeles hospital.

A virtual who’s who of the rap industry turned out for the funeral inside the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel on posh Madison Avenue. Dr. Dre, Flavor Flav of Public Enemy, Treach of Naughty by Nature, Spinderella and Pepa of Salt-N-Pepa, R&B diva Mary J. Blige and Queen Latifah were among the high-profile mourners.

Wallace’s estranged wife, Faith Evans, sang at the service, while Sean “Puffy” Combs – the head of Wallace’s record company Bad Boy Entertainment and a key player in the East Coast-West Coast feud – delivered a eulogy.

“It was a peaceful event,” said mourner Juanita Preudhomme, an old family friend. “It wasn’t all sorrow. Everybody was hugging and kissing, just like Biggie would have wanted.”

Wallace’s dark, wooden casket was open from the waist up at the service, where 350 invited guests arrived on a windy March morning to remember the 280-pound rapper. His body was scheduled to be cremated in New Jersey.

Blige exited the funeral home weeping, her limp body supported by several friends. Rapper Mase, a fellow Bad Boy Entertainment artist, was also in tears as he walked onto Madison Avenue. Other guests included ex-mayor David Dinkins, who reportedly did not know Wallace but was invited by the rapper’s mother, and Arista Records boss Clive Davis.

As his family and friends mourned, the Times cited unidentified police sources as saying a member of the Crips gang involved in a financial dispute with Wallace was suspected in the slaying. The Times also reported there was no connection found to the Sept. 7 slaying of Tupac Shakur, who also was gunned down in a drive-by shooting, in Las Vegas. Police have not made an arrest in that slaying.

The turnout on the Upper East Side was in contrast with the tour of the rapper’s old Bedford-Stuyvesant haunts. The procession there went past graffiti and boarded-up buildings – including one with posters promoting the rapper’s new album, due out next week.

Thousands of fans lined the block where Wallace once lived, leaving candles, pictures and empty malt liquor bottles at a makeshift shrine to the slain rapper. A copy of his CD “Ready To Die” was also left at the scene.

“He never changed,” said neighbor Cynthia Haynes, whose daughter once dated Wallace. “I saw him a year ago and told him I was so proud of him.”

On top of a parked car, three small children held a sign that showed Wallace’s death might not be in vain. “We love you B.I.G.,” it read. “Stop the violence. From future stars of tomorrow.”

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