It Was All a Dream: Biggie and the World That Made Him

Abrams. May 2022. 352p. ISBN 9781419750311. $28. MUSIC
Journalist Tinsley writes a meticulously researched study of the life of rapper Christopher Wallace (known as the Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls, or simply Biggie) and his influence on the ’90s music industry. Growing up in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, Biggie was torn between his scholastic abilities and his desire to make fast money, Tinsley writes; he ended up selling drugs and was jailed for nine months as a 20-year-old. But music was in his heart, and his discovery by producer Sean “Puffy” Combs led to the launch of the album Ready To Die in 1994 and Biggie’s eventual anointment as the greatest rapper of all time. Tinsley explores the complicated relationships forged by the sometimes-demanding Biggie—one friend took a gun rap for him; his wife, Faith Evans, was humiliated by his very public cheating; and his falling out with Tupac Shakur led to speculation that Biggie was responsible for Shakur’s murder. Tinsley ends by describing how Biggie became embroiled in the infamous East Coast–West Coast hip-hop feud and was gunned down at only 24 years old while visiting Los Angeles, six months after Shakur’s death.
VERDICT Hip-hop and Biggie fans will appreciate the book’s context of his rise to fame and the reminiscences of those closest to him. [See interview, p. 73, and Editors’ Picks, p. 24.]
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