If only it were just a dream.
On March 9, 1997, rapper Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace was shot and killed. Twenty years later, the hip hop legend’s murder remains unsolved but his music remains just as relevant.
Working from Wallace’s vault, singer Faith Evans, who was married to Wallace at the time of his death, has recorded an album of duets with the rapper titled “The King & I.”
The 25-track project, which Evans has worked on for more than two years, releases in May and features contributions from Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Jadakiss, Lil’ Cease and Lil’ Kim.
“[His music] is still just as impactful, as if he were this new, dope rapper from Brooklyn, now,” Evans told CNN in a recent interview. “Something about his word play, his confidence, he was pretty witty and he was intelligent. It’s absolutely timeless.”
One more chance
Evans and Wallace met at a photo shoot in 1994 and they married just nine days later.
Evans was a studio singer who rose to become the first lady of Bad Boy Records. Wallace — also known as Biggie — was the biggest star on the label, owned by his close friend Sean “Diddy” Combs.
Evans and Wallace had a passionate but tumultuous relationship.
The pair were estranged when she gave birth to his son, Christopher “C.J.” Wallace, Jr., a few months before Wallace was killed.
Their son C.J. is now also in the music industry, but Evans said he hasn’t heard the entire album yet and declined to be on a single.
“I think it may have been a little bit to heavy for him emotionally,” she said.
Speaking with Evans, it’s evident her love for her late husband endures.
“He could make anything into a joke,” she said. “I think that’s why it’s hard for me to stay mad at him.”
Mo Money Mo Problems
On the night of his murder, Wallace was leaving an industry party in Los Angeles when his vehicle came under fire.
His death came just six months after rapper Tupac Shakur was gunned down in Las Vegas. The two superstars were symbols of the East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry, which pitted Shakur’s recording label, Death Row Records, against Wallace’s.
Shakur’s murder also remains unsolved.
“Luke Cage” showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker interviewed Wallace two days before he died for Vibe magazine — in what would become the rapper’s final print interview.
Coker told CNN he often thinks about the circumstances surrounding Wallace’s death.
“He was supposed to catch a flight that night to go to London,” Coker said.
But, according to Coker, Wallace decided not to go at the last minute.
What the two discussed during the interview became the cornerstone of Coker’s book “Unbelievable: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of the Notorious B.I.G.” (The book was later adapted for the film “Notorious.”)
Life after Death
Though Wallace was known for spitting easy lyrics, he also loved acting and was thrilled by an appearance he made in 1995 on the sitcom “Martin,” according to Evans.
Coker said Wallace would have been a natural to play the complicated villain Cornel “Cottonmouth” Stokes on “Luke Cage,” (The role is played by Oscar-winning actor Mahershala Ali.)
“That would have been what I would have written for him [Wallace], where you have that dichotomy of being a gangster and having a deep sensitivity,” Coker said. “That was him.”
“A lot of that dichotomy of Cottonmouth’s personality, which wasn’t in the comic that we kind of imbued in the character, was very much influenced by Chris,” Coker added.
If Wallace were still alive, Evans said she imagines he’d be involved in both TV and film. But always, she said, there would be music.
“He definitely would have still been making records,” Evans said. “And who knows what else.”