Christopher Wallace was born on May 21, 1972 to Voletta Wallace, a single mother living in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn
, N.Y. From very early on, Ms. Wallace, a grade-school teacher, stressed the importance of education, determined to give her son opportunities she never had.
1977-1989 “Way Back, When I had the red and black lumberjack…”
Melvin Blackman: I used to work as an assistant teacher at Christopher’s daycare center, Quincy-Lexington Open Door DayCare Center in Brooklyn. He must have been 5 or 6—I remember him because he was one of the biggest kids in the class. He could eat and eat and eat! He was so smart. He was a heavier kid, and they tend to intimidate by just being, but [Christopher] used his mind. He dealt with kids mentally. I guess you could call it charisma.
Arty-B: We lived next door to each other in 225 St. James Place, between Gates [Avenue] and Fulton [Street]. We became best friends at the age of 8 or 9 because we were the only kids in the building. We both had West Indian parents, we had a lot in common. A typical Saturday for us would be hanging in the house all day. At 3 o’clock on channel 5 was the drive-in movie with the kung-fu flicks. The whole day was mapped out. We would build a tent out of me and my brother’s bunk bed. We would put a blanket from the top bunk to the dresser. Under the canopy I had a little 13-inch black-and-white TV, and we’d play Intellivision—that was before Atari—a car racing game. We’d get little bowls and put in chips, Skittles, and cut-up fruits, like mangos, tangerines, cherries. And we’d have a little picnic thing going on there. So while we were playing out video game, we’re eating our snacks and talking about how we wanted to have all the things that Ricky Schroder had in Silver Spoons. It was definitely a joyous occasion.
Chris had a lot of personality. I remember once when my little bro was sick and real down. So Big thought of making a puppet out of cloth. We sewed it together and put faces on it and we put on a show for my brother to make him feel better.
Lil’ Cease: I was 7, so Big had to be 11 or 12 when we met. But when we got older, like when I was 12 or 13, that’s when I started hangin’ out on the corner, cuttin’ school and all that. That’s when I started bonding with [Big]. He wasn’t serious about the rap thing yet. We was just bangin’ on the avenue.
Justice Rivers: I used to see Big when he was, like, 14 or 15, hanging out on the St. James Place. I would drive through playing Kid Capri tapes and Big used to love Capri. He’d come up to my car and ask, “Yo man, you think you could go uptown and bring me one back?”
Lil’ Kim: I would always see him on the block and he would be playin’ dice with his friends. And if he only won $5 that day and I was like, “Big, I’m hungry,” he would give me $2.50 of his $5.