How did Notorious B.I.G die? A look back at fatal night the rapper was killed on his way back from a party

The driver rolled down his window, made eye contact with Biggie, drew a 9 mm blue-steel pistol, and fired at the Biggie's vehicle, and four bullets hit the rapper

                            How did Notorious B.I.G die? A look back at fatal night the rapper was killed on his way back from a party
The Notorious B.I.G's music was often semi-autobiographical, telling of hardship and criminality, but also of debauchery and celebration (thenotoriousbig/Instagram)

The Notorious B.I.G (aka a Biggie Smalls or simply Biggie) was an American rapper and songwriter. With roots in the New York rap scene and gangsta rap traditions, he's considered one of the greatest rappers of all time. Biggie became known for his distinctive laidback lyrical delivery, offsetting the lyrics' often grim content. In fact, his music was often semi-autobiographical, voicing the hardship and criminality, and also of debauchery and celebration at the same time. 

Let's walk down memory lane and remember what really happened on the night he was fatally shot. 


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The Notorious B.I.G became known for his distinctive laidback lyrical delivery (thenotoriousbig/Instagram)


Shortly after the midnight of March 9, 1997, Biggie was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles, California. He was 24 years old and father of a young daughter and son when he died. Biggie's unsolved murder remains a topic fans take pains to discuss.

Events before his death

By early 1997, Biggie, whose real name is Christopher Wallace, was aiming to cease the East Coast-West Coast rap feud. The feud had been regarded as the reason for the September 1996 murder of his friend-turned-rival Tupac Shakur, a death that Biggie said blindsided him.

Around the time of the recording for his sophomore album, 'Life After Death', Wallace and his cousin and mentee Lil' Cease were driving a faulty rental Chevrolet Lumina when the car collided with a rail, shattering Wallace's left leg and Lil' Cease's jaw. After the accident, Wallace spent months in a hospital. He was temporarily confined to a wheelchair, forced to use a cane, and had to complete therapy. Despite the hospitalization, Biggie was determined to wrap up the album. The accident was referred to in the lyrics of 'Long Kiss Goodnight': "Ya still tickle me, I used to be as strong as Ripple be. Til Lil' Cease crippled me."

In February 1997, the rapper traveled to LA for a video shoot for the album's lead single 'Hypnotize', and stayed for the March 7 Soul Train Music Awards. At the ceremony, Biggie sat for interviews in which he expressed sadness at Tupac's death.

The Notorious B.I.G was 24 years old when he died (thenotoriousbig/Instagram)

The ill-fated night

On March 8, Biggie attended an after-party for the awards ceremony, hosted by Vibe magazine and Qwest Records at the Petersen Automotive Museum in West Los Angeles. Guests also included Faith Evans, Aaliyah, Sean Combs, and members of the Bloods and Crips gangs.

By 12.30 am PST, the following morning, Biggie left with his entourage in two Chevrolet Suburbans to return to his hotel because the Los Angeles Fire Department shut down the party early due to overcrowding. The rapper traveled in the front passenger seat alongside his associates Damion 'D-Roc' Butler, Lil' Cease, and driver Gregory 'G-Money' Young. Combs was traveling convoy in the other vehicle with three bodyguards. 

While the streets were crowded with people leaving the event, Wallace's SUV stopped at a red light on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and South Fairfax Avenue, a few dozen yards from the museum. Then, a dark-colored 1994-1996 Chevrolet Impala SS pulled up alongside Wallace's SUV, driven by an unidentified African-American man dressed in a blue suit and bow tie. The driver then rolled down his window, made eye contact with Biggie, drew a 9 mm blue-steel pistol, and fired at the Biggie's vehicle, with four bullets hitting the rapper. The shooter then sped off on Wilshire while Combs abandoned his SUV and raced across the street to his friend, found hunched over, his tongue out, and bleeding on the dashboard.

Sean Combs, Aaliyah with The Notorious B.I.G (thenotoriousbig/Instagram)

Biggie's entourage rushed him to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where doctors performed an emergency thoracotomy, but he was pronounced dead at 1.15 a.m. According to an autopsy report (revealed 15 years after his death), three of the four shots were not fatal. The first bullet hit his left forearm, the second in the back, and the third hit his left thigh. The fourth bullet was fatal, entering through his right hip and striking several vital organs, including his colon, liver, heart, and the upper lobe of his left lung, before stopping in his left shoulder area. 

Biggie's death was felt around the globe and hip-hop stars continue to pay tribute to the late rapper to this day. Rapper Nas expressed at the time of Wallace's death, along with that of Tupac Shakur, that it "was nearly the end of rap". Modern artists such as Meek Mill, Kendrick Lamar, Megan Thee Stallion, Snoop Dogg, Diddy, Rick Ross, J. Cole, and more have paid homage to The Notorious B.I.G.


Immediately following the shooting, the media linked the murders of Biggie and Tupac. This was due to the similarities in the drive-by shootings and the highly publicized East Coast-West Coast hip hop feud, of which Biggie and Tupac had been central figures. Although there was no evidence to implicate him, reports had previously speculated that Wallace was connected to Tupac's murder. 

A documentary exclusively following the career and life of The Notorious B.I.G. is dropping soon on Netflix. The documentary, titled 'Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell', features rare footage and in-depth interviews as it celebrates the life of the rap icon on his journey from hustler to rap king. Biggie's friend and collaborator Diddy and the late legend's mother, Voletta Wallace, (who is credited as executive producer) are both contributing candid interviews for the feature.

'Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell' is releasing March 1 on Netflix.

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