Another large mural of The Notorious B.I.G. (aka Biggie, aka Biggie Smalls) has been installed on the corner of Fulton St. and St. James Pl. in Fort Greene– in front of the barbershop, the location of where the rapper used to get his hair cut before his passing in 1997.
The latest installation, completed on Monday, December 21, is the fourth in a series of murals of Biggie (born Christopher Wallace) that have gone up along the same block– two more around the Key Foods supermarket where he used to work; and another, near the nail salon on the corner– all part of a campaign to name the corridor “Christopher Wallace Way.”
“Biggie Smalls is listed as Billboard’s ‘Number One Rapper of All Time,’ and I think that should be recognized in his borough and at least on his own block,” said Leroy McCarthy, the campaign’s organizer. McCarthy has enlisted dozens of local artists to install murals in as many places as possible near Biggie’s former home, located at 266 St. James Place.
In October 2013, Leroy gathered more than 1,000 signatures from local businesses, churches and residents and then took a proposal to Community Board 2 to co-name the corridor at Fulton Street and St. James Place “Christopher Wallace Way.” The community was divided on whether the rapper– dubious to some as a role model in the community– merited a street naming. And so they tabled the request until McCarthy could produce letters of support from City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo and the rapper’s family.
McCarthy said he has received a letter of support from Mrs. Wallace, Biggie’s mother, but City Councilmember Cumbo “has been aloof.”
“Councilmember Cumbo supports the arts, from the museums down to community art projects,” said McCarthy. “But as far as hip hop, I’m not sure where her support lies. She hasn’t gotten back to us with a straight answer.”
In the meantime, McCarthy has organized a dozen local muralists and gotten permission from local businesses to begin a public art campaign. The latest installation on the barber shop was done by artist Vince Ballentine, a painted rendition of a photo of Biggie as a baby used on his debut album “Ready to Die.”
McCarthy’s campaign for hip hop justice goes beyond Brooklyn. He also recently organized a mural installation on the Lower East Side of Manhattan of the 80s rap group The Beastie Boys, near one of the group’s old residences.
“I’m trying to have hip hop represented throughout New York City; I feel it has been underrepresented for the past four decades,” said McCarthy. “And I just think it’s crazy we have to fight like this in New York City to get Biggie recognized in Brooklyn. He’s a world-famous entertainer, and 17 years after he passed away, many still revere him.”
McCarthy says, until the City Councilwoman and the community board make a final decision, he has permission from business owners to move forward with other planned installations, which he will continue to do… with the hope and expectation that eventually, he will get his “Way.”