A mural on Decatur Street of the late Brooklyn-native rapper, Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G” Wallace was vandalized on the morning of June 9 for reasons unknown.
Just days before officials granted The Notorious B.I.G. a street in his name, the vice chairperson of the Bushwick community board, Joshua Brown, recorded and tried to prevent the vandal from defacing the mural.
“I asked her what was she doing. She asked me to keep walking along. I said ‘No’ and pulled out my camera. When I started recording her and realized she was defacing the mural, I made it clear to her that it wasn’t cool,” said Brown. He posted an 18-second clip onto his social media of a woman spray painting the word “karma” on B.I.G.’s body.
Brown was confused when he spotted a woman walking suspiciously as she suddenly pulled out spray cans. “It threw me off. This particular mural brings people together. It allows families to stop and take photos. It’s a conversation piece between neighbors who may have not known each other but now do because of the common topic,” says Brown.
The mural was created by a New Zealand artist named Owen Dippie. The black and white mural features the “The Notorious B.I.G,” a Brooklyn Hip-Hop legend alongside Alfred Hitchcock, an influential film director with two birds perched on top of the cigars in their mouths. A pigeon on B.I.G.’s and a raven on Hitchcock’s. B.I.G. referred to himself as “the rap Alfred Hitchcock,” in his song “What’s Beef.” Much like Hitchcock’s suspenseful films, B.I.G mastered the art of storytelling with his twisted and thrilling rhymes. Not to mention, Hitchcock has a film called “Notorious.”
For ten months, people would come by to use it as a backdrop for videos, do interviews and take pictures in front of the mural. When the video began to circulate showing a woman spray painting over B.I.G.’s side of the mural, it angered members of the community.
Fort Greene native, April Gopie, says her immediate reaction to the video was shock followed by anger when she noticed that the woman—who didn’t appear to be black—was defacing the mural and continued to destroy a specific section of Dippie’s art without any concern.
“I connect it to race and racism because of where we are today and where we’ve been. There are two parts of that mural, the Alfred Hitchcock side and Biggie’s. To my knowledge, she only vandalized the side where B.I.G. is painted,” said Gopie.
Brooklyn Native, Everad Fortune suggests it could be a new tenant in the neighborhood that isn’t a fan of the mural. However, Brown believes the vandal isn’t a member of the community.
“I was disappointed. I felt pity for the person who was doing it. I don’t know if she wanted to promote her tag throughout the neighborhood but It was a poor place to put it given that mural is a place where people generally come together. Her tag didn’t add any value and it actually wasn’t a good tag. It was just defacing art. It appears to be someone who isn’t from our neighborhood,” said Brown.
Since Biggie’s passing, artists all over the world have memorialized the Brooklyn rapper by using his image to bring honor to their neighborhoods. The murals are usually B.I.G. in his vibrant retro-styled Coogi sweater, holding a mic, and wearing a crown or a pair of black shades.
For many residents in Bushwick, B.I.G. is not only a neighborhood hero but a rap icon. “There’s not a week in the summer that could go by without you hearing ‘Juicy’ at least once while roaming the streets,” said 23-year-old Fortune.
Gopie recalls the late B.I.G being the key identifier amongst foreigners when she was asked where she was from during her time spent abroad.
“Biggie is Brooklyn’s hero. There are Brooklyn tours dedicated to B.I.G. He is a legend, but for Brooklynites, he is kin,” said Gopie.
Scattered around the city are memorial murals of legendary late hip-hop pioneers like Big L, Big Pun, Prodigy and The Notorious B.I.G. himself. Usually, the murals are respected amongst street artists and left alone out of respect.
Brown sent the video to the Bushwick Collective – a group of artists that work throughout Bushwick, knowing the local artists police each other. Brown also contacted Owen Dippie, the artist who created the mural.
Community members are hoping that the woman who defaced the mural will be held responsible and expect the mural to be restored. However, no plans have been made to restore the mural as of yet.
“We obviously want it restored but we’re leaving it up to the creator’s decision. Having it restored to its glory would be in everyone’s best interest,” said Brown.
Brown says the community can help protect things sacred to Bushwick by supporting artists and being vigilant about things that are positive for the community.
Gopie said, “Conversations within the communities need to be started or continued with respect and appreciation for what came before. I’m open to changes but don’t devalue what was here before you got here and was likely one of the catalysts for you arriving.”
Bushwick is still one of New York’s most known neighborhoods for street art and the late B.I.G.’s message remains rampant, “Spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way.”
Dippie has not yet made a public statement about the defacement of the mural.
All images courtesy of author.
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