April 20th, 2011
03:56 PM ET
Between the tributes, books, a major motion picture and even FBI file dumps, a lot has been said about the late rapper Christopher "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace, but The FADER magazine is aiming to put a fresh spin on the conversation with its Icon issue.
Instead of focusing on Wallace's 1997 death, the publicly played East coast/West coast battle or the drama surrounding it, the issue opts to celebrate his life, says FADER Media's co-founder Rob Stone, who worked alongside the artist as an Arista Records exec.
“My memories of Big are really [of] this young guy trying to make it, who had a talent that was probably unequivocal on any level that’s ever been seen. He just had an innate ability to rhyme and to tell a story, and… I wanted to focus on the greatness of him and the impact he’s had on people’s lives.”
At least 50 percent of the issue is dedicated to Wallace, Stone says, and offers never-before-seen photos of the artist (including some from photographer Jonathan Mannion), an essay from Andrew Noz on his musical legacy, artwork depicting his lyrics and stories from those who knew him best, like Sean "Diddy" Combs on how he feels now when he hears one of Wallace's records.
For Stone, one of the greatest pieces in the issue takes the reader back to the time Wallace first met Tupac. "It talks about them as two young guys and a bunch of friends hanging out and playing around," Stone describes. "It shows the humanity of Big [and] the similarities between them.”
In the end, that was the goal of FADER's issue: to offer a glimpse of Wallace as a young man as well as a star.
"We’re talking about an icon, and everyone always thinks of Big as this big persona who tackled the hip-hop world and was this mega superstar, but he was just a regular guy," Stone notes. "The people close to him got to see the comedian and the guy who loved to laugh...We went to people like that [for this issue], people who had firsthand stories that had never been heard before.”
That includes Stone himself, who recalls what it was like to hear "Ready to Die" for the first time, and watch as Wallace went from an unknown to a superstar. He was also more than a lyricist, Stone notes, adding that it's something we'd have been able to see more of if he'd lived.
“I remember conversations with him where he talked about the clothing line he wanted to start, and how he wanted to improve Brooklyn and the community,” the FADER founder says. “I truly believe he would’ve gone on to be a great leader for our generation, and not just from a hip-hop/street perspective. And Tupac as well – there was a lot more to Tupac and Biggie than just rhymes.”
The Icon issue of the FADER arrives on newsstands May 3.
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