In a phone interview with Billboard, Biggie’s mother, Voletta Wallace, expressed her delight upon hearing the news of her son’s monumental feat. “Today, I’m feeling great,” she said. “As a mother, I’m extremely proud of his accomplishments. You know, I still see such a young man at a young age, and sadly, he’s not here to witness all this. But it’s an astute honor, and as a mother, I’m just elated for that.”
Set to be honored this May at Cleveland’s Public Auditorium, the Class of 2020 includes a hefty list of music legends, including Nine Inch Nails, Whitney Houston, Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers and T. Rex. For Wallace, her son’s inclusion, especially as a rapper, speaks volumes to his legacy and irrefutable candor as an MC.
“Many of [his songs] speak truth,” she said. “It might be gritty, and maybe the language is so out there, but he was honest. There was nothing fake about what he was doing. I think for such a young man to resonate such honesty in his lyrics is awesome.”
Biggie’s transcendent career rocketed in the ’90s with the release of his 1994 debut album Ready to Die. The precocious lyricist chiseled his way onto the rap scene with songs such as “Big Poppa,” “Juicy” and “One More Chance,” which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. His meteoric career came to a screeching halt when he was shot and killed in 1997. Following his demise, 16 days later, Biggie’s sophomore album, Life After Death, was released. The double-album soared to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and, as of last year, sold more than 5 million records. Despite not performing rock music, Biggie’s bullish persona, decorated catalog and live-fast-die-young mantra definitely fit the rock-star mold.
“Rap is respected. We are in a changing time now. People’s thoughts are different,” said Wallace. “When you put it out there, there’s so much respect for it [now].”
With his inclusion, Biggie becomes the seventh rapper to be inducted into the Rock Hall, following Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, N.W.A and his onetime rival Tupac Shakur. And though Wallace was never a rap fan during her son’s career — and is admittedly still not one today — her undying love continues to be the reason why she keeps his memory intact.
“This legacy was trusted to me, and I have to respect it,” she said. “I couldn’t walk away from his legacy, so I have to care for it, I have to love it, and I have to respect it.”