Inside The Notorious B.I.G.’s Acting Career

The Notorious B.I.G. is known to many people as a hip-hop legend. But Biggie was an artist in more ways than one, and the Brooklyn-bred rapper never passed up an opportunity to show off his talents.

Notorious B.I.G. performing at Meadowlands
The Notorious B.I.G. | David Corio/Redferns

The Notorious B.I.G. was an accomplished rapper

The Notorious B.I.G. rose to fame rapping on the streets of Brooklyn as a teenager. He released his debut single, “Party & Bulls—” in 1993, and quickly became the hottest new rapper on the block.

In 1994, Biggie was discovered by Sean “Diddy” Combs in an article in The Source magazine. Diddy signed Biggie to his new record label, Bad Boy Records, and they got to work on his debut album.

Biggie’s 1994 debut album, Ready to Die, remains one of hip-hop’s most revered projects. It contained hit songs such as “Juicy,” “Big Poppa,” and “One More Chance,” and has sold over 6 million copies to date.

The Notorious B.I.G. AKA Biggie Smalls (Christopher Wallace) performs on October 5, 1995 during the UrbanAid Lifebeat concert
The Notorious B.I.G. | Larry Busacca/Getty Images

The Notorious B.I.G. was a respected music figure

Ready to Die shook up the hip-hop landscape in a significant way. For much of the early 1990s, West Coast hip-hop dominated the scene with the success of artists such as Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur. With Ready to Die, Biggie brought the crown back home to New York, and the infamous West Coast vs. East Coast hip-hop feud began to heat up.

Eventually, the West Coast/East Coast hip-hop feud became deadly. Biggie’s friendship with Tupac started to deteriorate after Tupac was shot at a studio where he was meeting Biggie and his friend and confidante, Sean “Diddy” Combs. In September 1996, Tupac was gunned down in Las Vegas, and rumors swirled that Diddy was involved in planning the ambush.

Six months later, Biggie himself was killed by an unknown gunman. His landmark album Life After Death was released just two weeks after his death, and his place in the hip-hop pantheon of history was cemented forever.

The Notorious B.I.G. performing in 1995
The Notorious B.I.G. | Chris Walter/WireImage

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The Notorious B.I.G.’s on-screen career

By the mid-1990s, Biggie had become a looming figure in pop culture. As a result, he parlayed his status as a hot new rapper into different television appearances.

In 1995, Biggie appeared on the popular sitcom Martin as himself. That same year, he had a small guest spot on New York Undercover. Before his death, he appeared in the hip-hop documentaries The Show and Rhyme & Reason in the mid-1990s.

The Notorious B.I.G. was also an artist

Biggie’s appreciation for art went beyond just the studio or the screen. No one knew this better than Jan Jackson, high school girlfriend and the mother of his daughter, T’yanna Wallace.

Jackson spoke about Biggie’s artistic eye in a 2004 interview with XXL magazine. “His friends would tell me about different battling escapades, but he would never rap in front of me. He would express other talents in front of me,” she recalled. “The man had such a talent for drawing! He would draw me pictures of things and make ’em into a ghetto style.”