Christopher Wallace was arguably one of the greatest rappers of all time. His big break came after respected DJ Mister Cee came across his demo and he was featured in The Source magazine. The article was seen by young producer Sean “Puffy” Combs who went on to sign him to Bad Boy Entertainment. His one album, “Ready To Die” released in 1994, which told his story of drug dealer to rapper, made a huge impact on hip hop and still continues to do so to this day. The Brooklyn rapper collaborated with many of the greats including Mary J Blige, LL Cool J, R Kelly and Michael Jackson. By the end of 1995 he was one of music’s best-selling and most sought after performers. However, this success brought on a fear of attack for Big and he lashed out starting fights and threatening fans. His feud with West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur escalated after 2pac accused him and Combs of being involved in his shooting in 1994, which they both strongly denied involvement in. Christopher was sadly murdered aged 24 in a drive-by shooting on March 9th 1997 on his way back from Vibe Magazine's Soul Train Awards After-Party. This tragic event linked Biggie to Tupac, who was murdered in the same way just six months earlier, as fans viewed his death as retaliation. Both murder cases went unsolved, an injustice loudly disputed by his loved ones. All of his albums after his death went on to be huge successes.
The Brooklyn born R&B starlet lived up to the Swahili meaning of her name “most exalted one” when she became a trendsetter, popularizing the futuristic production style of the 1990s with the help of producer Timbaland and friend Missy Elliott. In 1992 she met R&B legend R Kelly who went on to write and produce songs for her as her mentor and who she later married briefly at the age of 15, sparking controversy in the media. During her career she created three successful albums, which all went platinum and two of which went double platinum. She also contributed the soundtracks to box office hit films such as Anastasia, Dr Dolittle and Romeo Must Die; her single for Anastasia was Oscar nominated. Aaliyah explored her acting talents in Romeo Must Die, Queen of the Damned and in two of The Matrix sequels, proving that her talents were multifaceted. As she released her third album in 2001, her transition into maturity was evident in both her appearance and musical talent. Just a month later on August 25, 2001, Aaliyah was tragically killed in a plane crash on her way home from filming a video for her single “Rock the Boat” in the Bahamas, aged at just 22. She was one of nine fatalities; the plane had been loaded over weight capacity and was never authorised to be flown by the pilot who was found to be intoxicated at the time of the crash. Her fourth album was released in 2002 as a compilation of her hits and unreleased songs.
Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes
The feisty “L” in successful R&B girl group TLC, Left Eye made her mark as the band’s only rapper. She cofounded the award winning, multiplatinum band in 1990 and they shortly afterwards signed to LaFace Records. Their early style was influenced by new jack swing and hip hop, but later matured to a smoother, sexier, modern R&B image. Lisa stood out with her oversized hats, colourful outfits and various tattoos; she also famously covered the left eye of her glasses with an unwrapped condom in their early promotional appearances. Left Eye made headlines in 1994 when she was sentenced to five years’ probation and a stint in rehab for setting fire to her boyfriend NFL star Andre Rison’s shoes in a bathtub after an argument, which subsequently led to the unintentional burning down of his mansion. Highly competitive in nature, she notoriously challenged her band-mates in a letter published in Entertainment Weekly to release solo albums simultaneously so that they could see who the most talented member was. She was in the process of creating her second solo album and in talks with Suge Knight to join new label Tha Row Records when she came to her untimely death at age 30. On April 25, 2002, she was involved in a car accident in Honduras, where she was enjoying a 30-day spiritual retreat with her friends and family. Lisa was the only fatality out of eight passengers.
Known for her sultry voice, beehive hairdo and iconic eye make-up, Amy Winehouse was a raw talent disturbed by her volatile personal life. She was picked up by a jazz record label at the age of 16 and wowed audiences with her talent, charisma and ability to relate with her fans worldwide. Her album Frank received several award nominations, a prestigious Ivor Novello Award and went double platinum. But it was her second album Back to Black that gave her critical acclaim in the states and five Grammy Awards. In 2007 she married her on and off boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil who was seen as a bad influence on Amy as he encouraged her wild partying and drug abuse. By this point she was just as famous for her tardiness and drunken behaviour as her music in the media, and left her label after they suggested rehab. Her tour dates were cancelled due to her bad health, which led to a coma and Blake was in and out of trouble with the law. By 2008 their marriage was dissolved. Amy was admitted to rehab and became more focused on her career. Leading up to her death she appeared to be back on track by embracing sobriety, but on July 26, 2011 she was found dead. Her cause of death was marked as “death by misadventure” and coroners labelled it as a toxic overdose of drinking.
Despite rumours that Nate Dogg would be performing via hologram at the 2012 Coachella festival during the West Coast tribute performance, this was sadly never made a reality. His rap career began in 1991 with rap group 213, with whom the four time Grammy nominee was a big part of the West Coast G-Funk movement. He went on to release three successful solo albums, as well as his many hit collaborations. These included Warren G’s “Regulate”, Dre and Snoop’s “The Next Episode”, Ludacris’ “Area Codes” and Eminem’s “Shake That”. After years of progressively bad health, Nate Dogg died at age 41 on March 16, 2011 after complications from multiple strokes. His close high school friend Snoop Dogg expressed his sorrow for the loss of Nate Dogg in his documentary film Reincarnated last year.