Notorious B.I.G.'s Criminal Past Glock-Blocks Street Naming Honor

"Christopher Wallace Way" complexities explained by Brooklyn community board boss

notorious b.i.g., brooklyn, street corner
The Notorious B.I.G. at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards Photo by Catherine McGann/Getty Images
Kyle McGovern WRITTEN BY
Kyle McGovern

The effort to name a Brooklyn street corner after the Notorious B.I.G. has met opposition from local residents who feel Biggie's criminal past and, um, sizable stature make him unsuitable for the honor. As DNAinfo New York reports, Brooklyn Community Board 2 met on Tuesday night and discussed the proposal to co-name the intersection of Saint James Place and Fulton Street "Christopher Wallace Way," after the late MC's birth name. Board member Lucy Koteen vehemently objected to the idea, saying that she "looked up the rapper's history" and was not pleased with what she found.

"He started selling drugs at 12, he was a school dropout at 17, he was arrested for drugs and weapons charge, he was arrested for parole violations, he was arrested in North Carolina for crack cocaine, in 1996 he was again arrested for assault, he had a violent death and physically the man is not exactly a role model for youth," Koteen said. "I don't see how this guy was a role model and frankly it offends me." Another board member, Kenn Lowy, said he took exception with the way that Wallace referred to women in his lyrics.

"The board is extremely conservative about who they co-name for," the board's district manager, Robert Perris, told local blog The Nabe.

Speaking with SPIN, Perris elaborated further.

"It's a tricky question in a lot of different ways and [Wallce's] weight has nothing to do with it," he said. "Clearly, he was a young man who came from a neighborhood in the district who, not only made good — he made great. He's one of the best rappers of all time and possibly, from the standpoint of just lyrics, perhaps the best of all time. He's also someone who began doing drugs at 12, had a child out of wedlock, and continued in his lyrics, in his professional career, to sing the virtues of drug abuse and gun violence. Who or what are we celebrating if we were to co-name a street for him? Can you separate the two things? Does the City of New York end up passively saying drug-dealing is okay if it co-names a street for Biggie Smalls? Or is that aspect of his life not relevant?"

Perris added, "He's a complex person and that makes the co-naming decision a complex decision."

After the meeting on Tuesday, LeRoy McCarthy — the man who launched the campaign to memorialize B.I.G. — told DNAinfo, "board members should not hold Wallace's physical appearance nor how he died against him." In response to the charges of misogyny, McCarthy said, "There are many artists that share stories in a vernacular that their audiences understand... Biggie used the language from the streets he grew up in to convey what he wanted to say."

The Change.org petition to recognize Wallace in his childhood neighborhood of Clinton Hill has drawn support from more than 3,000 people, but there's still one signature McCarthy needs: That of Councilwoman Letitia James, who must issue a letter of support for the movement to succeed. Until that happens, the issue has been tabled. Suffice it to say, fans are hoping for "One More Chance." 

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