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For hip-hop fans of a certain age, Christopher Wallace (1972-1997), aka the Notorious B.I.G., aka Biggie, was not just a rapper; he was a folk hero. Tinsley, a senior writer for Andscape, focuses more on storytelling than trying to unearth new facts or theories about Biggie’s still-unsolved murder. (The author mostly subscribes to the findings of Greg Kading, a detective with the LAPD special investigation unit, who believes that the shooter was an associate of Death Row Records co-founder Suge Knight, hired to avenge the death of Tupac Shakur the previous year.) Tinsley’s sleek, effective biography introduces major figures in Wallace’s life, complete with interesting backstories, before we meet the influential rapper, giving readers a solid grounding in the pertinent context. “Biggie and Tupac’s friendship was as genuine as any in rap,” writes the author. “Born less than a year apart, they had completely different personalities. ’Pac was the more vocal, not just in rap, but in everything he did, and Big respected the fact that ’Pac came from a lineage that tied him directly to the streets and the struggle painted in his music. He’d speak about injustices toward Black women in the same vein he’d talk about shootouts in public with rivals and the same way he’d hold America accountable for systemic injustices toward his people.” Tinsley mostly blames their falling out on Tupac, but he does hold Biggie accountable for his missteps in other relationships—especially regarding his wife, Faith Evans, and his extramarital affairs with Lil’ Kim and Charli Baltimore. He also goes much deeper into how Biggie was a loyal friend to his pals from his Brooklyn neighborhood than he does in explaining why he was a great musical artist.

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