I’m gonna let this story speak for itself: A community board in Brooklyn has rejected a proposal to name a street after the Notorious B.I.G. because he dealt drugs, died violently, and—maybe most offensive to the board, but what do I know—he was “physically not a role model to the youth.” Biggie was fat, so we can’t name a street after him. In 2013.
DNAInfo has the story, but here’s the breakdown: a petition was started by Brooklyn resident LeRoy McCarthy recently which proposed to change the name of the corner of St. James Place and Fulton Street, the location of Big’s childhood home in what is now Clinton Hill, to “Christopher Wallace Way.” The Change.org petition has garnered more than 3,500 supporters, and recently went before the community board of the neighborhood, a presentation which, to be frank, tanked horribly.
“He started selling drugs at 12, he was a school dropout at 17, he was arrested for drugs and weapons charges, he was arrested for parole violations, he was arrested in North Carolina for crack cocaine, in 1996 he was again arrested for assault, he had a violent death and physically the man is not exactly a role model for youth,” said committee member Lucy Koteen, who said she “looked up the rapper’s history” and apparently didn’t like what she read. “I don’t see how this guy was a role model and frankly it offends me.”
In another instance of completely ignoring context in favor of getting offended, a second committee member, Kenn Lowy, weighed in and said he did not appreciate Biggie’s use of misogynistic and derogatory lyrics towards women, according to DNAInfo. “There are many artists that share stories in a vernacular that their audiences understand,” said petitioner McCarthy after the meeting. “Biggie used the language from the streets he grew up in to convey what he wanted to say.”
The proposal won’t be able to move forward until councilwoman Letitia James formally endorses it via a letter of support, but it’s still interesting to hear what the members of the community that Biggie left behind have to say about his life, despite the fact that there are multiple murals in the neighborhood as well as letters of support from churches, mosques and a block association, not to mention the thousands of signatures, all backing the idea.
So to recap: Biggie sold crack, was arrested, dropped out of school, was fat, and got shot to death, so we shouldn’t name a street after him. We’ll all just disregard his status as a major symbol of Brooklyn, his success story starting from a neighborhood where selling crack was one of the only viable ways to get by to becoming one of the greatest rappers of all time, the sad and upsetting events surrounding his death, and, you know, his work which inspired—and still inspires—entire generations of kids to see that there is something else outside of the block. Instead of having kids looking up at the street corner, seeing “Christopher Wallace Way” and saying to themselves, “You know, I can make something of myself and maybe have my own street named after me one day,” the committee members of CB2 would rather we just ignored Biggie and painted him the way they really see him: a fat criminal who died in a hail of bullets.
Update (2:14 pm): Minutes after the story was posted, councilwoman James called XXL to explain that the proposal had not gone through the standard process in order to reach her desk, including an official application, a petition in the neighborhood, support from local businesses, or other recommendations from the community board. “At this point i’m going to defer to the community board and await their recommendation,” said Ms. James. DNAInfo reports that the board tabled the proposal for now, pending a letter from James, though it seems that James is awaiting a recommendation from the board. This one may take a while.