When Voletta Wallace turned the corner onto St. James Place in Bedford-Stuyvesant after learning her son Christopher, better known as The Notorious B.I.G., had been murdered, she found herself face-to-face with throngs of mourners.
“It was a sad day,” Wallace said, recalling that moment 22 years ago. “And when I saw the crowds, tears came to my eyes. And I said to my friend, ‘My son was well-loved.’”
On Monday, hundreds of people gathered on St. James Place to honor the legacy of the late rapper, also known as Biggie Smalls, with a street co-naming, braving a downpour that persisted for the duration of the ceremony.
The co-naming officially means St. James Place between Fulton Street and Gates Avenue — the block Biggie grew up on — will now also be known as ”Christopher ‘Notorious B.I.G.’ Wallace Way.”
This time, seeing a crowd converge on the street moved Wallace to “happy tears,” she said.
“I want to thank you for standing out there in the rain to see a sign unveiled. That is love,” she said. “You out there, soaking wet? I will remember this for a long, long time.’”
Biggie’s son C.J. Wallace, who attended the unveiling along with his grandmother and sister T’yanna Wallace, called the ceremony, wet weather and all, “beautiful.”
“I’m just so happy to see this. The rain, all of it, it’s perfect,” he said. “This is just for Brooklyn, at the end of the day. It’s for Brooklyn and for hip-hop.”
Family, friends and fans of Biggie, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles in 1997, have been advocating for the renaming for years.
Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, whose district includes Bedford-Stuyvesant and Clinton Hill, said she and other advocates “fought a long time to get to this place.”
“That’s why this sign is important today — so that the history of why this place is what it is is told to our children, and to our children’s children,” she said. “We created this borough, and Biggie Smalls created the soundtrack of inspiration that gave us the growth, the ability, the inspiration to create success in Brooklyn, New York.”
Cumbo, fellow council member Robert Cornegy Jr. and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams all credited Biggie with providing inspiration for their own careers.
Rapper Lil’ Kim, a member of Junior M.A.F.I.A., a hip-hop group mentored by Biggie, said she “used to dream about a street being named after Biggie because it was only right.”
“This block, it belongs to Biggie,” she said. “He always had a vision, and I feel like today was part of his vision.”
The street co-naming held special meaning for residents of the neighborhood, who will now have a tribute to the late rapper they can pass by each day.
Resident Jermaine Jones, who grew up not far from the newly-unveiled street sign, said the day meant “everything” to him.
“A lot of people swear. They swear to God, they swear to their mother. In this neighborhood, you know what we say? We say, ‘word to Big.’ Meaning, we won’t lie on his name,” he said.
“We believed in him that much,” he explained. “He showed me as a young man, I could do anything that I wanted to do.”