The street co-naming ceremony didn’t officially start until almost 1:00pm, but as early as 11:00am, about 100 folks had already gathered at Fulton St. and St. James Pl. The rain was unrelenting, as people of all ages, origins and ethnicities began jockeying for umbrella space– all to be a part of the day when the street where rap icon Christopher Wallace, aka The Notorious B.I.G. would officially and finally carry his name.
It was a long road to get there. The idea was first floated to co-name the street after Biggie in 1998, a year after the rapper was murdered while on a promotional tour in California for his Life After Death album. But with little response from the community board, the effort died out.
Then in August 2013, Flatbush resident Leroy McCarthy started up a petition to have the street named Christopher Wallace Way. After gathering enough signatures from local residents and business owners, he went before Community Board 2 only to receive pushback. He was told “Biggie did not have the physical characteristics to be a role model, and he would needed a letter form then-City Councilmember Tish James.
“While I’m a fan of Biggie; while we’re both from Brooklyn and both of Jamaican heritage, I feel the hip hop generation should get its due respect and recognition from government officials,” McCarthy told BK Reader. “I was just looking for the same recognition that has been given to other Brooklyn artists and creatives in the generations before us.”
The idea was tabled again until 2014, after the election of City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo. McCarthy said he met a few times with Cumbo, who supported the idea. But it wasn’t until her reelection in November 2018 that she successfully advanced the effort. This time, when put before the community board, it was supported and then passed in the city council.
A little more than two decades after Biggie’s death, in front of about 300 revelers, Cumbo stood alongside Biggie’s mother, Voletta Wallace; daughter, T’yanna Wallace; son, Christopher Wallace, Jr.; and Wayne Barrow, Biggie’s manager throughout his career and also co-chairman of the Christopher Wallace Memorial Foundation, to present the unveiling of the street sign: Christopher “Notorious B.I.G” Wallace Way!
“And the rain makes it that much better!” said Cumbo to the crowd of about 300 revelers. “But as it was said, Biggie is crying right now tears of joy!”
His presence was definitely felt, not only by the crowd of fans whose lives he touched through music but also by those who had been close to Biggie during his abbreviated career.
Also on stage and in the crowd were Mark Pitts, co-chairman of the Christopher Wallace Memorial Foundation Lisa Evers of Hot 97 Street Soldiers; Ralph McDaniels of Video Music Box and Notorious B.I.G.’s former music video director; hip hop artists Lil Kim, Lil’ Cease, Damion “DRoc” Butler and Jadakiss; Diggy Simmons, DJ Enuff and DJ Mister Cee; as well as City Councilmembers Robert E. Cornegy Jr. and Alicka Ampry-Samuel; and Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams.
“I feel good to see the street name finally being completed, because Biggie touched a lot of people from around the world,” said McCarthy. “I’m very happy for the family and all the fans, but I think that more than anything, this represents a place of empowerment for young generations. Hip hop is a culture we created and a part of who we are.”