Christopher George Latore Wallace (May 21, 1972 – March 9, 1997), better known by his stage names the Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls, or simply Biggie, was an American rapper. Rooted in East Coast hip hop and particularly gangsta rap, he is widely considered one of the greatest rappers of all time. Wallace became known for his distinctive laid-back lyrical delivery, offsetting the lyrics' often grim content. His music was often semi-autobiographical, telling of hardship and criminality, but also of debauchery and celebration.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City, Wallace signed to Sean "Puffy" Combs' label Bad Boy Records as it launched in 1993, and gained exposure through features on several other artists' singles that year. His debut album Ready to Die (1994) was met with widespread critical acclaim, and included his signature songs "Juicy" and "Big Poppa". The album made him the central figure in East Coast hip hop, and restored New York's visibility at a time when the West Coast hip hop scene was dominating hip hop music. Wallace was awarded the 1995 Billboard Music Awards' Rapper of the Year. The following year, he led his protégé group Junior M.A.F.I.A., a team of himself and longtime friends, including Lil' Kim, to chart success.
Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, better known by his stage name Nas, is an American rapper. Rooted in East Coast hip hop, he is regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time. The son of jazz musician Olu Dara, Jones began his musical career in 1989 as he adopted the moniker of "Nasty Nas" and recorded demos for Large Professor. He was later featured on the 1991 song "Live at the Barbeque" by Main Source.
Wu-Tang Clan is an American hip hop group formed in Staten Island, New York City, in 1992. Its original members include RZA, GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, and Masta Killa. Close affiliate Cappadonna later became an official member. Wu-Tang Clan are regarded as a highly influential group in hip hop, helping to popularize and develop the East Coast hip hop and hardcore hip hop styles.
After signing to Steve Rifkind's label Loud Records in 1992, Wu-Tang Clan released their debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) in 1993; initially receiving positive reviews, it has since garnered widespread critical acclaim and is widely considered one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time. Members of the group released solo albums between 1994 and 1996. In 1997, the group released their second album, Wu-Tang Forever. It debuted atop the Billboard 200 and was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 1998 Grammy Awards. The group later released the albums The W (2000), Iron Flag (2001), 8 Diagrams (2007) and A Better Tomorrow (2014), to less popularity. The only copy of their seventh album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin (2015), was bought for $2 million by former hedge fund manager and convicted felon Martin Shkreli.
Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, better known by his stage name the RZA, is an American rapper, actor, filmmaker, and record producer. He is the de facto leader of the hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan, having produced most albums for the group and its respective members. He is a cousin of two other original Wu-Tang Clan members: GZA and Ol' Dirty Bastard. He has also released solo albums under the alter-ego Bobby Digital, along with executive producing credits for side projects. After forming the Wu-Tang Clan, RZA was a founding member of the horrorcore group Gravediggaz, where he went by the name The RZArector.
Tupac Amaru Shakur, also known by his stage names 2Pac and Makaveli, was an American rapper and actor. He is widely considered one of the most influential rappers of all time. Shakur is among the best-selling music artists, having sold more than 75 million records worldwide. Much of Shakur's music has been noted for addressing contemporary social issues that plagued inner cities, and he is considered a symbol of activism against inequality.