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'Biggie' Recalled by Mother in New Book

ED GORDON, host:

Christopher Wallace, better known as Notorious B.I.G., was at the height of his hip-hop career in the early '90s.

(Soundbite of music)

Notorious B.I.G.: (Rapping) Thicker than your average copper twist, damage your instinct...

GORDON: But the rising star's ascent came to a tragic end eight years ago when Wallace was gunned down after leaving a party in Los Angeles. His murder forced hip-hop musicians and fans to face the violence that was robbing rap of its freshest young talent. But for Voletta Wallace, the shooting meant more than the death of an artist. She lost a son. Ms. Wallace's new book, "Biggie," is both a mother's tribute and a way to help her cope with the pain.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Group: Biggie, Biggie, Biggie, can't you...

Ms. VOLETTA WALLACE (Mother Of `Notorious B.I.G.'): He has touched so many people and so many people loved him and, you know, still do. That cannot take my pain away. What I am feeling inside is like a 100-pound lead weighing down in my chest. It's very cold and it's very heavy and I am so dying to get rid of it. But it's not something you can get rid of, because that was my son. He was my baby. I am a mother and I will always be a mother.

GORDON: Voletta, the idea that the murder has not been solved, that you've been fighting in court a wrongful death suit against the Los Angeles Police Department, does the fight make it easier in that you have a mission or make it harder in that you can't, to the best of our ability when a loved one passes away, let it be and move on?

Ms. WALLACE: With this case I don't look at it as harder, easier. I don't see triumph in it. It's about honesty. It's about integrity. It's about making a wrong right. Someone murdered my son and the LAPD knew all about it and it needs to be exposed. The truth needs to come out.

GORDON: What about the environment of, not just rap, but the music industry? Those of us who've been around it for years understand that for all of what it can bring you on the plus side, there is a tremendously historic and long down side, dangerous side, seedy side of the music industry. When you learned it through Christopher's involvement and you see where rap music, in particular, is today, what's your thought?

Ms. WALLACE: I don't look at where rap music is today. I look at the individual who is rapping. Rap is a culture. The individual make it what it is. It is their lifestyle. It is what they want it to be. I don't like it. I don't like the fact that there's profanity. They're degrading women, but they're telling a story and it's their story. I don't have to listen to it. I don't have to buy it. I would really love for them to be educated to know that some of the things that they're saying, they're hurting people. I mean, emotionally. I honestly don't think that the music is hurting anyone physically. People hurt people.

GORDON: Can you listen to his music today? Do you listen to it?

Ms. WALLACE: I listened to it once, when I heard all the negative ramifications that surrounded--by it. People were saying that he caused his death. He sang, you know, whatever--he recited his death. And so, as a mother, I had to listen to it. He had told me earlier not to listen to it because rap was not for me. I want to find out what is it that some people like about it, what they love about it and what they hated about it. And I wanted to find out if I hated it, too. And I love the music. I love some of the stories. I just hated some of the story lines.

GORDON: Often when you lose a figure, particularly an entertainment figure so young--you think of the iconic nature of a James Dean, a Marilyn Monroe, an Otis Redding, a Sam Cooke. Biggie will fall into that in the sense that in our minds he will get no older, he will be as we know him. Do you think about that? And do you reflect in your fantasy the man he would have become?

Ms. WALLACE: Oh, every day I looked at the young men. It brought tears to my eyes. I remembered right after his death I couldn't look at Boyz II Men because I saw my son in them. When I saw the grandmothers and the aunts and the uncles I get a little jealous. I'm not ashamed to say. I'm jealous because I wanted to be that aunt. I wanted to be that grandma. I wanted to be that mother.

GORDON: In all of this, Voletta, we should note that you've also--and it's important for this month for us to talk about this--battled breast cancer. I'm wondering in his death were you able to gain strength in dealing with your own circumstance?

Ms. WALLACE: When my son passed away I had my first bout with breast cancer. I had my first mastectomy, '93. And I just had my second mastectomy two and a half years ago. As far as breast cancer is concerned, all I can encourage young ones to do is be educated and do very, very regular examinations. Because if you don't, it is death. But breast cancer doesn't have to be a death sentence. It can be life if you know what you're doing with your body.

GORDON: Well, the book is titled "Biggie." It is a remembrance of a son--from Voletta Wallace talking about her son, Christopher Wallace, known as Biggie or Notorious B.I.G. to many. Voletta Wallace, again one can never ease the pain, but we appreciate the stalwart effort and the grace you've handled yourself in all of this. And we thank you for your time today.

Ms. WALLACE: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

(Soundbite of song "I'll Be Missing You")

Unidentified Group: ...of the days when you went away, what a life to take, what a bond to break, I'll be missing you.

GORDON: Thanks for joining us. That's our program today. To listen to this show, visit npr.org. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

(Soundbite of song "I'll Be Missing You")

Unidentified Group #1: ...I know I'll be OK.

Unidentified Group #2: Every night I pray, every step I take, every move I make, every single day, every night I pray...

GORDON: I'm Ed Gordon. This is NEWS & NOTES. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.