Christopher Wallace's ability to free-flow about his gruff Brooklyn neighborhood caught the eye of Sean (then Puffy) Combs, who signed Wallace to his then fledgling Bad Boy Records label. It was at Bad Boy that Wallace skyrocketed, adopting the moniker Biggie Smalls (later the Notorious B.I.G.) and releasing his quadruple-platinum debut album, Ready to Die, in 1994. But his rise was soon plagued with controversy after the 1994 robbery and shooting of his onetime rap compatriot, Tupac Shakur, which spurred a lyrical feud between Bad Boy and rival Suge Knight's Death Row Records (where Shakur recorded). The rivalry came to a head with Shakur's 1996 death, and though some theories speculated Wallace was involved, he was never formally implicated in the murder. He scarcely responded to the rumors, choosing instead to prepare for his sophomore release, Life After Death. Seeking to end the beef that had separated the two coasts, Wallace went to Los Angeles to promote the album. It was there that he was shot dead at the age of 24, when he was leaving the Soul Train Music Awards on March 9, 1997. Subsequent investigations never turned up a suspect, and the L.A. Police Department was later accused of negligence in the case. Sadly, the deaths of both Shakur and Wallace are regarded by many as a turning point from which hip-hop has never recovered.
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