They’re dead wrong.
Clinton Hill residents opposed to naming the basketball courts in a neighborhood park after native hip-hop legend Biggie Smalls should bury their issues with his controversial lyrics and tough-guy reputation and honor the rapper for his far-reaching influence, the Community Board 2 chairwoman said at a Monday Parks Committee meeting.
“Let’s give it a break folks. I don’t want to say forget about his lyrics, but I don’t look at his lyrics now, I look at his contributions,” said Shirley McRae. “Why don’t we try to focus on the good? The man has been dead for 20 years, when do you say enough is enough?”
Councilman Robert Cornegy (D–Bedford-Stuyvesant) is proposing to name the courts at Crispus Attucks Playground on Fulton Street and Classon Avenue for Christopher Wallace, better known as the Notorious B.I.G., in an homage to the former Clinton Hill resident, who died at 24 after being hit with four bullets in a drive-by shooting.
The Parks Committee voted unanimously to approve the tribute.
The hoops have hosted an annual basketball tournament each year since Biggie died, and Cornegy wants to cement the rapper’s influence in the neighborhood by branding the blacktop with his name.
But some locals argued that the artist who rapped about womanizing and guns doesn’t deserve the tribute, and suggested the courts be named after an iconic female politician from Brooklyn instead.
“By naming a park after him you are endorsing that he stood for drugs and carrying illegal guns,” said Fort Greene resident Lucy Koteen, who brandished copies of Wallace’s lyrics at the meeting. “His favorite thing was to put down somebody else. Couldn’t we name it Shirley Chisholm Park or something?”
Cornegy acknowledged Wallace’s lyrics are misogynistic, but pointed out that he has helped tons of kids posthumously through the Christopher Wallace Memorial Foundation, an academic organization founded by his mother with the slogan “B.I.G.: Books Instead of Guns.”
Another resident said he and his friends hailed Wallace for his musical genius, and that people should not be so quick to dismiss lyrical content in hip-hop that also exists in other genres.
“We didn’t think about the drugs, we thought about the art form,” said Jason Salmon, who works for state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D–Clinton Hill). “I know that art form advanced a lot of people’s lives — if this was the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, or any other genre of music would we be examining it like this?”
This isn’t the first time Cornegy — who said he promised Wallace’s mother that he would do everything he could to honor the rapper — has tried to name something after him. The pol tried to get a portion of St. James Place co-named after Wallace in 2013, but dropped the cause after community outrage over it caused further pain to Biggie’s mother, Cornegy said.
The proposed naming next faces Community Board 2’s Executive Committee, which will vote on it at its June 26 meeting.
The basketball courts will get a plaque with Wallace’s name and a paragraph detailing his contributions to the community if the tribute is ultimately approved by the city.