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 Unearthed in the Murder of the Notorious B.I.G.

By Boyce Watkins, PhD on Jan 7th 2011 12:34PM

One of the great mysteries of hip-hop lies with the death of the Notorious B.I.G., aka Biggie Smalls. Well, actually his real name was Christopher Wallace, and that’s the one that his mother will remember the most. Biggie’s murder in 1997 put the hip hop community on hold and opened the door for a new era with regard to regional divisions in music.

After years of being accused of not telling the entire truth in Biggie’s murder, a task force of various local and federal law enforcement officials have now told CNN that they are actively pursuing leads in the 13-year old homicide. One official is stating that the information has “reinvigorated” the case, but that he could not elaborate because of the ongoing investigation.

Wallace was murdered on March 9, 1997 at the age of 24. He was leaving a party held at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. He’d been warned to stay away from L.A. in large part because some felt that he and/or Puff Daddy (his label boss at the time) may have been connected with the murder of Tupac Shakur just a few months earlier. Suge Knight, the CEO of Death Row Records, lost tens of millions of dollars with Tupac’s murder, so hostility was high at the time.

According to police, Wallace was riding in a Suburban when a Chevy Impala drove up next to him with a man opening fire. The suspect has been described as a black man with a suit and bow tie. Some have wondered if members of the LA Police Department were involved in helping to arrange the murder, which Biggie’s mother argues was part of the reason the investigation was thwarted.

Mrs. Wallace and her family filed suit against the Los Angeles Police Department in 2002, alleging that they were covering up vital information in the murder of her son. The case was put on hold last year after police argued that the case would interfere with renewed efforts to find the killer. Russell Poole, a retired detective with the Los Angeles Police Department, has consistently argued that members of the LAPD were linked to the murder. He believes that “Suge Knight ordered the hit.” He goes on to say that his early retirement occurred after he was consistently blocked in his efforts to uncover evidence linked to LAPD officers who worked for Death Row Records part-time.

“I think I was getting too close to the truth,” Poole said. “I think they feared that the truth would be a scandal.”

Poole states that one of the officers connected to the murder of Wallace is David Mack, a former officer who was arrested for robbing a bank in the same year that Wallace was killed. According to Poole, Mack owned a car similar to the one that was used in the murder of Wallace, and the sketch of the shooter resembles one of Mack’s friends. Mack is set to be released from prison this year.

With each passing year, it seems that chickens of our past are coming home to roost. Although Biggie died far too young over 13 years ago, his spirit continues to live within the ranks of hip-hop immortality. Both Biggie and Tupac are doing duets with today’s leading artists, and both of them gave their lives to claim an eternal space that is virtually inaccessible to any living artist today.

Given the tattered history of the Los Angeles Police Department, is it not inconceivable that members of the LAPD were involved in Biggie’s murder. Mrs. Wallace’s consistent legal challenges to find her son’s killer are nothing short of heroic, and I would presume that the recently beefed up investigation is a direct benefit of Mrs. Wallace’s unrelenting pressure. I fully expect that within a year, all of the pieces will come together and Biggie’s murderer will be behind bars.

It is also ironic that the alleged corruption of the LAPD that may have kept the murder of Biggie from being fully investigated was the subject of one of the most famous songs in gangster rap history. Since NWA released the protest song, “F*ck the Police” in 1988, we’ve had the LA riots, as well as widespread reform on police brutality all across the nation. So, in conjunction with the consistently destructive relationship between modern rappers and the criminal justice system (two or three rappers went to jail this week), there is also enormous potential for significant political progress for conscientious artists willing to take the lead on important issues. Whether it is used for good or evil, hip-hop is a powerful thing.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.