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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.
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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.”

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.”

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.

“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.
Updated 7:50 am, June 12, 2019
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Reasonable discourse

Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
This is gonna rile up the racist folk. They don't want a street named after a black guy who raised up from the ghetto and became successful. They will say things like: "he's a criminal, a drug dealer". Have they made these complaints about streets named after slave owners? No.
June 12, 7:07 am
Mark Zist from The Democratic Party says:
It’s just another token gesture aimed at keeping the sheep quiet and voting for the Democrats while the neighborhood gentrifies all around them. Painting murals and co-naming streets is not going to move these people forward. The politicians just throw them scraps to keep them dependent.
June 12, 7:43 am
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
I have keyboard diarrhea.
June 12, 8:20 am
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
??????Someone is stalking me??????
June 12, 8:26 am
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Yesterday, a clown held the door open for me. It was such a nice jester.
June 12, 10:56 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Actually, Henry, when this street renaming was first proposed, someone objected that he was too fat to honor. https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131016/clinton-hill/biggie-smalls-too-fat-have-corner-named-for-him-cb-member-says/
June 12, 11:23 am
Khalil from Clinton Hill says:
Henry Ford, you don't know nothing. Christopher Wallace did not grow up in the ghetto. He grew up on St James Place in Clinton Hill, a block of beautiful row hoyses. 226, Biggie's childhood home, is a lovely limestone apartment building. Also, stop talking trash about "racist folk." You sound like you're an old white guy trying to get down. How about trying to shut up? That would make everyone happy. Race baiting is an ugly activity. Leave Biggie alone.
June 13, 12:12 am
Local from Here says:
Khalil from Clinton Hill sounds like a triggered snowflake.
June 13, 11:16 am
Khalil from Clinton Hill says:
Sure am. Henry Ford doesn't know anything about Biggie's childhood hood. He lived on a nice, quiet block, St James, that's never been ghetto. What a slur on Mrs. Wallace and the block.
June 13, 11:47 am
Local from Here says:
So what? Cry some more about it. Go back to Ohio too!
June 13, 11:53 am
Ahmed Abedin from The Third World says:
Really Khalil? Clinton Hill was certainly ghetto back then. There are beautiful blocks in Bed Stuy too but it was rough and ghetto. How old are you?
June 13, 3:25 pm
Khalil from Clinton Hill says:
Wrong you are Ahmed. Clinton Hill in the 1970s and 80s was neglected but not a ghetto. I was here then, shopped at the Met supermarket where little Biggie bagged groceries. Yes, there were empty buildings and the neighborhood wasn't desirable but it wasn't a ghetto. St James was one of the nicest, most intact blocks around. Biggie had a middle class upbringing.
June 13, 3:45 pm
Chung Foo from Sunset Park says:
Just a rip-off of Chinese rapper Giant Tiny!
June 13, 4:10 pm
Joe Gonzalez from Brooklyn NY says:
All the political capital wasted on this street renaming could and should have been used to improve the living conditions in NYCHA.
June 13, 8:35 pm

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