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“Biggie Smalls is the Illest.”

In the early 90s, the New York rap scene was searching for a new star. West Coast Hip-Hop had taken hold of the game, taking the sound and styles that encompassed California life to dizzying new heights.

Enter a hungry young rapper from Brooklyn: Armed with a charismatic flow and hard-hitting lyrics, The Notorious B.I.G. was as comfortable on a radio smash as he was a grimy mixtape cut. His debut album, Ready To Die, became an instant classic, solidifying his place as one of rap’s most skilled lyricists and reestablishing The Big Apple’s spot in Hip-Hop.

SEE ALSO: Biggie’s Daughter Opens A “Notoriouss” Clothing Store To Honor Her Father’s Brooklyn Legacy

Sadly, Biggie would be killed before the release of his second album. Life After Death, released just weeks after his murder, would go on to become another hit with fans and music critics alike.

We lost a legend on March 9, 1997, but his music would live on – inspiring not only his contemporaries – but scores of rappers to come.

Today we celebrate what would have been his 49th birthday with a gallery of rare photos from the life of Brooklyn’s Finest.

Happy Birthday Biggie: 15 Rare Pics of The Notorious B.I.G.  was originally published on zhiphopcleveland.com

1. A Young Christopher Wallace

2. Biggie & Faith Evans

3. Big Shows Love To Fans

4. Brooklyn’s Finest

5. Biggie Grabs A Pic With Whitney & Bobby Brown

6. Biggie Smalls Is The Illest

7. Tour Life with B.I.G.

8. Dream Big

9. Big With Lil Kim & Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

10. Spread Love, Is The Brooklyn Way

11. A Future Rap Legend

12. Busta Rhymes and Poppa

13. Brooklyn Is Definitely In The House

14. Junior MAFIA’s The Clique

15. 90s Swag With Puff Daddy & The Notorious One