When it comes to running the estate of her son, The Notorious B.I.G., Voletta Wallace has a simple formula. “If I see something that’s going to belittle his integrity or his memory, I won’t do it,” she says of posthumous projects involving the rapper (real name: Christopher Wallace, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in March 1997, just 16 days before the release of his second album, Life After Death, which has sold 5.3 million copies, according to Nielsen Music). "It has to do with principles, morality and honesty."
Those criteria have helped Wallace, 63, keep her son’s legacy alive and avoid much of the exploitation and over-saturation common with celebrity estates -- particularly one as valuable as Big's. Commonly referenced as one of the greatest rappers of all time, Big died at age 24, just six months after the murder of onetime friend-turned-rap-rival Tupac Shakur.
But Ms. Wallace hasn't done it alone; her team includes Big's widow, Faith Evans; his former manager, Wayne Barrow; her attorney, Julian Petty of Nixon Peabody; and merchandising manager Rick Barlowe, who previously worked with Shakur's estate. In the past, the team has partnered with Mezco Toyz for an action figure; with Zingy to create a mobile game; with Sprite to license his lyrics for an ad campaign; and with Taco Bell for a commercial that remixed his hit "Big Poppa." The estate's clothing line, available in retailers from H&M to WalMart to Forever 21, does "major numbers," Barlowe says, declining to give specifics. (An audacious proposal for a Biggie-themed online poker casino was scrapped some years ago.) But the estate's biggest achievement to date, according to those who run it, was the 2009 film Notorious, which told the life story of the rapper from Brooklyn who became an icon before his 25th birthday.