Spreading love: ‘Biggie Smalls’ fans celebrate late rapper at Clinton Hill street co-naming

A B.I.G. deal: The new street sign pays hommage to the block of St. James Place, between Gates Avenue and Fulton Street, where Wallace grew up.
Photo by Trey Pentecost

It’s the Brooklyn way.

Devotees of the late rapper Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace braved the Monday morning downpour to celebrate the long-awaited co-naming of a Clinton Hill street in honor of the hip hop legend.

The rapper’s family, his fans, and several local pols honored the Brooklyn native at the June 10 christening of the block on St. James Place where he grew up, between Gates Avenue and Fulton Street, as “Christoper ‘Notorious B.I.G.’ Wallace Way,” which one far-flung follower said showed Kings County’s love for one of its most famous sons.

“It was really heartfelt. I could feel the Brooklyn love for him,” said Dawn Welty, who made the 900-mile journey from Milwaukee, Wisc., with her sister Xochilth Rueda for a long weekend to pay tribute to the wordsmith. “It was amazing, even though it was raining — but I didn’t care, it was great.”

True fans: Sisters Xochilth Rueda and Dawn Wilty came all the way from Milwaukee, Wisc., to pay tribute to the rap legend.
Photo by Trey Pentecost

The event’s speakers reminisced about the musician’s influence on the neighborhood, including one local pol who said Wallace — who was fatally shot in 1997 at the age of 24 — continues to inspire Kings Countians through his art to this day.

“Biggie Smalls created the soundtrack of inspiration that gave us the growth and ability to create success in Brooklyn,” said Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D-Clinton Hill), who hosted the ceremony together with the Christopher Wallace Memorial Foundation, the foundation founded by Wallace’s mother Voletta after her son’s death.

The legislator was joined by several other politicos and Wallace’s family, who spoke touchingly about him against the backdrop of his classic tracks, according to Welty.

“Once his music was playing, it was just love,” the Midwesterner said. “And then his mom was talking and I got choked up because I could tell that it was emotional for her as well.”

Unstoppable: Wallace’s fans were not held back by the rain and danced along to the late legend’s classic tracks.
Photo by Trey Pentecost

Cumbo has advocated for the city to honor Wallace’s block, where he grew up at 226 St James Pl., despite resistance by some locals over the last six years to honoring the rapper, saying that his misogynistic and violent lyrics should disqualify him from receiving a tribute, reported DNAInfo at the time.

In 2017, Bedford-Stuyvesant legislator Robert Cornegy proposed to name Clinton Hill basketball courts after the musician, after the first street co-naming in 2013 fizzled.

Last fall, Brooklyn artist LeRoy McCarthy — who also worked to honor the late soul singer Aretha Franklin with signs at Crown Heights’s Franklin Avenue subway station — resubmitted his proposal to Community Board 2, whose members overwhelmingly voted to approve the new street sign last November.

One Brooklyn pol who recently advanced to city-wide office said that it was important to honor Wallace and his impact on the community and hip hop.

Crown Heights resident Ruth Connell braved the downpour to celebrate the street co-naming for the late rapper Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace in Clinton Hill on June 10.
Photo by Trey Pentecost

“We have a right to look up to our hip-hop heroes. We’re celebrating Biggie, we’re celebrating hip hop and we’re celebrating ourselves,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.

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