In his short lifetime, the Notorious B.I.G. only turned out two studio albums with oddly prescient titles: 1994’s Ready to Die and 1997’s Life After Death.
Even though B.I.G., who also went by the name Biggie Smalls (or just "Biggie" to fans), was gone at the age of 24 after being shot in a ’97 drive-by shooting, his influence was huge and it’s still felt in hip-hop culture. Now, it appears that that branding will now go on to influence plenty more without any new material providing the soundtrack.
This week it was announced that the trustees of the estate of Christopher George LaTore Wallace (a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G.), including his mother and wife, have signed a deal with Brand Sense Partners “to brand Biggie’s name and likeness.”
The agreement means that Brand Sense, a firm which currently has a few fashion clients such as Penny Stock and Shabby Chic, will have “control over licensing and merchandising of products containing the late rapper's name, likeness, and legacy.” So are Notorious B.I.G. coasters, ice cream flavors, and Halloween masks on their way?
"The family and I are excited to move forward with the exceptional team at BSP," said Biggie's former manager Wayne Barrow in a statement. "Their understanding of Christopher's cultural impact as well as their vision for our brand mission made them the best partner possible for the task. We look forward to working hand in hand with them to build on Christopher's unique legacy."
One imagines that Brand Sense won’t be accentuating the Brooklyn-born Wallace’s role in the East Coast/West Coast hip-hop feud that was exploding early in his career. After all, the hope would be to reach as wide an audience as possible, presumably. Perhaps the plan will be to take Smalls in the direction of Bob Marley or Che Guevara, whose likenesses can sometimes seem ubiquitous and whose brands have become seriously imprinted onto the overall popular culture since their deaths.
While branding dead celebrities is nothing new — Forbes even tracks dead celebs' earnings — whatever the Brand Sense team plans to do with the B.I.G. legacy, they should do it soon.
While there are plenty of B.I.G. fans still floating around out there, his image has faded with time and the accelerated acceptance of hip-hop artists into the mainstream since he passed away. And please: no "I'm kind of a Biggie Deal" t-shirts.