He was a larger-than-life personality and one of the biggest names in music when he was shot and killed in front of dozens of witnesses early one March morning in Los Angeles.
So why nearly 12 years after the murder of celebrated rapper Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G., has the most infamous case in hip-hop history remained unsolved?
That question hangs over Notorious, the new film based on Wallace’s life story, which sees the Brooklyn rapper rise from Catholic school mama’s boy (played by Wallace’s real life son Christopher Jordan Wallace), to corner drug-slinger, to one of the best-selling rappers of his generation thanks to the mentorship of producer and businessman Sean "Diddy" Combs.
And it’s a question that haunts those who knew and loved him, including his mother Voletta Wallace.
“It hurts that this has been dragging on for so long,” says Wallace, who along with Combs was a producer on the film. “There’s a little nudge now and then, but then we have to wait and wait and wait. But you have to understand: I have all the time in the world. I’m not going anywhere.”
According to those who know the case best, the chief cause of the delay goes back to the Los Angeles Police Department’s perceived bungling of the investigation, which over the years has been headed up by at least three different sets of investigators.
“To be honest I don’t think it will see its day in court anytime soon because of the numerous problems with the case,” says Detective Derrick Parker, a 20-year veteran of the NYPD who specialized in hip-hop related crime and now runs a security service in Manhattan. “No disrespect to the LAPD, but every time they get a new set of detectives on it, it fizzles out. They lose a lot.”
Another factor holding the case back is its notoriety. The murder occurred at the peak of the highly publicized East Coast vs. West Coast feud that overshadowed hip hop of that era, and less than a year after rapper Tupac Shakur was slain in Las Vegas.
Pressures of Notoriety
“No D.A. is going to want to take a case like this unless they have it solid,” claims Parker. “If you loose it, you are losing a high-profile case in front of the media.”
“I am still waiting for that day to come,” says Voletta Wallace. “But I’m confident, based on evidence that has been brought forth, that in my life time I will see justice done in this case, and that’s all I have to say.”