Notorious Big, aka Biggie Smalls, maintains his status as one of the greatest rappers of all time. Biggie’s place as a hip-hop icon is undeniable, but many fans of “Big Poppa” will be surprised to hear a variety of music in addition to rap.
Biggie Smalls’ introduction to music
Biggie was in love with music since childhood. His mother, Voletta Wallace, immigrated to the United States from Jamaica when she was just a teenager. But he still made sure that he connected to his roots often. “I would save money every year to move my son and myself to Jamaica,” she said in a 2021 Netflix documentary Biggie: I’ve got a story to tell. “He loved Jamaica, because they spoiled him.
In a 2021 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Wallace further described how he became interested in reggae music during his visit to the island country.
“When Christopher was young, he was fascinated by my brothers Dave and Lou because they are musicians,” she recalled. “I remember Lou trying to teach him how to play the guitar while Dave would be the vocalist. At the time, I didn’t know anything about rap and I suspect Christopher did too.”
“When they were together, they were always playing their reggae music. She really got a kick out of it and was looking forward to those moments,” she continued. Would have taken him to a small club in the district where he played and he thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Biggie’s love for different types of music
Biggie also developed an appreciation for jazz, thanks to his neighbor in Brooklyn, a saxophonist named Donald Harrison. He taught Biggie about music icons like Ella Fitzgerald and Cannonball Adderley. “Donald saw something in Christopher that I didn’t see,” Wallace admitted. “I think he wanted Christopher to be a jazz musician… Donald was molding him to be a jazz musician, and that taught him about its origins.”
In footage from an interview with her son, Wallace admitted at the time that she knew nothing about the style in which her son fell. “Their world – the world of rap – and my world, we are completely opposite,” she said. “If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be listening to rap music. I’m a country and western person. I’m a ballad person.”
Biggie’s appreciation for country music
In Jamaica, Biggie’s mother often listened to country and western music on the radio. Eventually, his love for this type of music passed on to his son.
Biggie’s longtime friend Hubert Sam described how those visits ultimately influenced Biggie’s musical tastes. “Every summer, Chris would come back from Jamaica, and Chris would bring back some Jamaican slang and music we didn’t hear — rock music, reggae, country.”
Sam then remembered a comment from Biggie, which took him by surprise. “He said, ‘You know, I can’t sleep without country music,’ and we were shocked!”
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Biggie’s love for country came from his mother
Wallace believed that Biggie’s admiration for country music as a child was a result of him playing it in his home. “Ever since I was a little girl, I loved stories. So when I first heard country music, what I loved was how it told a story through the music — they were heartwarming and heartwarming,” Wallace told EW.
“When he was a little boy and growing up, I always had the radio turned on and tuned into a country music station,” she said. “He heard all this with me because he had no other choice.”