The Illest Biggie Smalls Murals In The World—And The Artists Who Made Them
Ready to Dry
With all due respect to Talib Kweli, it’s not just Brooklyn, New York City, where people paint murals of Biggie. Although BK has certainly hosted a lot of them over the years, there are public art tributes to the Livest One in surprisingly far-flung destinations too. In fact some of the best ones are damn near on the opposite side of the globe from Bed-Stuy.
Sure he once described himself as “Black and ugly as ever,” however Biggie remains one of the most compelling subjects for artists all over the planet. So, with the 20th anniversary of his premature passing upon us, we figured now would be a good time to look at some of the best Christopher Wallace tribute murals from around the world.
We should point out that murals are ephemeral by nature—they come and go like seasons; worn away by the weather, buffed out by overzealous city workers, or by property owners—and plenty of murals get bombed or tagged by writers. Murals can also pop up unexpectedly, and disappear with little to no warning, like so many posthumous remix albums. Unfortunately, some masterpieces never get properly documented in the first place, and that’s the nature of the public art game sometimes. Having said that, here are some of our favorite Big Poppa murals from recent years. And if you don’t know, now you know…
Owen Dippie is an accomplished artist from New Zealand, arguably best known for his incredible portrait murals. Owen has visited NYC several times, blessing the city with several incredible Biggie murals over the years. Some have been buffed or demolished, sadly. Luckily, the artist makes a point of returning every few years, specifically to put up another tribute. When asked what motivates him to fly half way around the world and paint tribute murals, he said it all boils down to the fact that “Biggie Smalls is the illest.” No argument here.
New Zealand 2007
Five Points, Manhattan 2009
Australian artist Scott Marsh was in the spotlight last year, after he famously painted his Kanye Kissing Kanye mural. Kanye’s people apparently asked the artist to buff it out, and word on the interwebs is, Scott said he’d do it for $100K and a lifetime supply of Yeezys. Needless to say, the mural got buffed. Scott’s impressive Biggie tribute is located at Lord Gladstone hotel in Sydney, Australia. This piece was commissioned by the hotel owner, a Biggie fan, who had admired iconic Biggie portrait murals on visits to NYC.
Bruce Tsai-Meu-Chong is a Rotterdam-based illustrator, hand-letterer and sign painter. He initially painted the black-on-white lyric-driven mural in 2012, for the 10-year anniversary of Hiphop Huis, an organization that educates kids about hip-hop, and provides space for dancers, beat makers and DJ’s. Focusing on the first from Biggie’s early hit “Juicy,” the artist captured the sense of celebratory thanksgiving for anyone who’s ever accomplished the impossible. His mural went viral in a big way, and opened up a lot of opportunities for the artist. It eventually caught some tags and the paint started to fade, so Bruce came back in 2016 and flipped the artwork to white-on-black. “Full disclosure: I was raised overseas and have never, ever even seen Word Up! magazine IRL.”
Scott “Zimer” Zimmerman + Naoufal “Rocko” Alaoui
Back to Bed-Stuy for this impressive wall, a collaboration by Scott “Zimer” Zimmerman, and Naoufal “Rocko” Alaoui, in 2015. After creating several others in other parts of NYC, this was their first Biggie mural in BK, so they wanted it to be the biggest B.I.G. mural ever. Located at the intersection of Bedford Ave and Quincy Street, Zimer handled the portraiture, while Rocko took care of the lyrics, which are from “Microphone Murderer,” Biggie’s rare first-ever demo tape. The artists were joined by Biggie’s neighbors, community, and even members of the Old Gold Brothers crew, in celebrating this particularly well-placed public portrait of Brooklyn’s Finest.
Cern One (with Lee Quinones & John Garcia)
You can’t really pass Habana To Go, at 790 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, without admiring the large “!Comandante Biggie!” mural, which adorns one side of the slightly odd-shaped corner building. The restaurant commissioned the work, which is commendable. The portrait was expertly painted by artist Cern One, the rays were added by the restaurant’s designer, John Garcia, and the flock of birds that wrap around the building below are a collaboration by Cern and the legend Lee Quiñones.
OK, this one’s not a mural, technically. But it’s in here because it’s undeniably dope, Biggie-inspired public art, featuring a lyric that references the same Old Gold Brothers crew that showed up in person to support the Zimer & Rocko piece. The very next line is, “The crew stay deep on Bedford & Quincy,” which is exactly where you’ll find this subtle masterpiece. It’s part of designer Jay Shells‘ Rap Quotes project, which he started 4 years ago. Jay made it his mission to gather all site-specific rap lyrics around the country and to get out and install them in their respective locations. For that, we salute him.
We know there are more Biggie murals out there, probably a few being painted as we speak. If there’s one in your area that we need to know about, hit us up: [email protected]