On Friday night (Sept. 13), Optimo helped friends and family of the Notorious B.I.G. celebrate the 25th anniversary of the groundbreaking Ready To Die, the rapper’s debut album released in 1994.
Members of Biggie’s family — Voletta Wallace, his mother, and CJ Wallace and T’Yanna Wallace, his son and daughter — were joined at the William Vale Hotel Westlight Lounge by artists like Lil Kim, Rick Ross, Faith Evans and more to help honor B.I.G.’s everlasting legacy.
One of today’s hottest rappers speaks to Biggie’s lasting, “classic” influence. “He blew my mind,” Ross tells Billboard about Biggie’s legacy. “If Biggie we’re here right now, I wish I could tell him that. Even on the way here, we were just talking about how he’s the first rapper we heard to use the word ‘stupendous.’ The wordplay is next level. The flows are so grimy, yet so classic. He will live on.”
His music lives on with young artists who weren’t even around for his prime, too. “I specifically remember being in the studio with my pops when I was super young. He was mixing one of Biggie’s albums that came out after he passed. That bass was just kickin’ the door,” Christian Combs — son of Sean “Diddy Combs,” one of Biggie’s closest collaborators — tells Billboard about the first memory he has with Biggie’s music. “After that moment I knew, he was the GOAT. It just stuck with me. He was just powerful and different. He’s still my favorite rapper to this day.”
Prior to the party, a mural reveal was hosted in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn to honor the late rapper. Optimo created the “Biggie Inspires” contest, a one-of-a-kind art competition where more than 170 artists created and submitted art inspired by B.I.G. Two first-place winners, Hoa Hong and Cinque Smith, were selected to have their artwork come to life and be displayed as murals. Hong’s work is displayed in Bed-Stuy while Smith’s is on view in Williamsburg.
Pieces by other contest winners were on display throughout the entire venue for the duration of the party last night. (The rest of the entries can be viewed here.) A third mural, which was commissioned by Optimo, will be unveiled in Atlanta later this month.
The Biggie homages stretched beyond the walls of the William Vale hotel. After enjoying a few hours in the Westlight Lounge, with only Biggie Smalls hits playing all night, guests were invited outside on the balcony to view a stellar surprise: a lyric video made for one of his most iconic hits “Juicy” being projected onto the roof of a nearby building. Between the artwork, the celebration, and everything in between, it’s clear the Notorious B.I.G.’s legacy is alive and well, and will continue to live on.