Tupac Shakur's love letters and Notorious BIG's iconic crown up for grabs in Sotheby's first hip-hop auction

Up for grabs is the iconic King of New York crown worn by Notorious BIG, while Tupac Shakur's love letters, which he wrote as a 16-year-old high school student, are also on sale

                            Tupac Shakur's love letters and Notorious BIG's iconic crown up for grabs in Sotheby's first hip-hop auction
Tupac Shakur and Notorious BIG (Getty Images, Wikimedia Commons, MTV)

Rap legends 2Pac aka Tupac Shakur and the Notorious BIG aka Christopher Wallace were well known for their iconic hip-hop tunes and self-proclaimed gangsta lifestyles during the 1990s. Although both pioneering artistes were friends to start off with (Tupac mentored Biggie Smalls), they soon got embroiled in a bitter East Coast vs West Coast music rivalry, which continued until both were shot dead under highly contentious circumstances. Tupac was killed in a Las Vegas drive-by shooting in September 1996, while Biggie was shot five months later in another mysterious Los Angeles drive-by shooting in February 1997.


The fact that both Thug Life icons were killed within months of each other (their murders remain unsolved) cemented their place in popular culture and their influences can still be felt in the contemporary music scene today. Since both artistes are still considered musical game-changers, it's relatively easy to think that anyone would jump at the chance to own any memorabilia associated with these stars.

And that's exactly what's happening in the next few weeks, as the celebrated international auction house Sotheby's announced that they would be selling off personal effects that belonged to these rappers on September 15, in what is billed as their first-ever auction dedicated to hip-hop music and its impact.


Up for grabs as the auction's headlining showpiece is the Notorious BIG's iconic autographed crown, which the Brooklyn-based rapper wore during his final King of New York photoshoot conducted by Barron Claiborne in 1997 for Rap Pages Magazine. Also up for sale to the highest bidder is a collection of 22 signed love letters that Tupac Shakur wrote to his high-school sweetheart while he was still a 16-year-old student at the Baltimore School for the Arts.

Both items would be considered priceless by any music lover, and the crown is expected to fetch between $200,000 and $300,000 while the love letters are expected to be worth around $60,000 to $80,000. Organized in association with Monica Lynch, the former president of Tommy Boy Records, this Sotheby’s hip-hop auction will feature over 120 items that range from one-of-a-kind artifacts and rare posters to modern fashion and luxury items.


Sotheby's official Instagram page carried this official announcement regarding the auction, which you can read by clicking here. "Today we announced that on 15 September in #NYC we will present a live auction celebrating the history and cultural impact of hip-hop, headlined by one of the most iconic symbols of Hip Hop’s heyday: the crown worn and signed by Notorious BIG from @barronclaiborne’s iconic 1997 'King of New York' photoshoot for Rap Pages Magazine. The photograph is one of the most recognizable images in Hip Hop culture and it has endured as the defining portrait of the artist more than 20 years since it was taken."


The auction house also revealed that these items were a celebration of hip-hop culture, and certain proceeds from the sales would also go back to the hip-hop community. "The first-ever dedicated hip-hop auction to be presented at a major international auction house, the sale reflects on the impact hip-hop has had on art and culture from the late 1970s through the 'Golden Age' of the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, and up to the present."

"Featuring over 120 lots, the auction comprises unique artifacts, contemporary art, one-of-a-kind experiences, photography, vintage and modern fashion, historic and newly designed jewelry and luxury items, rare ephemera including flyers and posters, important publications, and more with a majority of items consigned directly by artists or their estates. A portion of Sotheby's proceeds from the sale will benefit the hip-hop programs at the @qplnyc, as well as @buildingbeats, a non-profit community organization that teaches tech, entrepreneurial and leadership skills to underserved youth through DJ and music programs."


Speaking about the upcoming event, Sotheby’s vice president Cassandra Hatton stated "Since its birth in the Bronx in the 1970s, hip-hop has become a global cultural force, whose massive influence continues to shape all realms of culture: music, fashion, design, art, film, social attitudes, language and more. This sale is a celebration of the origins and early eras of that influence."

She added, "We are pleased to announce the auction with two renowned and beloved icons whose lives and lyricism continue to resonate — Biggie and Tupac — with lots that offer an introspective look, in their own way, at the personalities behind their respective public personas."

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