Interview: Christopher Wallace Way Petition Founder LeRoy McCarthy Discusses the Fight to Honor the Notorious B.I.G. in Brooklyn

It’s undeniable that hip-hop has done a lot for New York. Consider this: there’s a Joey Ramone Place in the East Village near where CBGB used to be. If there can be a Joey Ramone Place, why can’t there be a Christopher Wallace Way? Then, on a deeper level, keep in mind that we’re having this conversation the same week that we "celebrated" Christopher Columbus Day. Do you think the opposition goes back to hip-hop’s negative stigma? I feel like misogynistic lyrics often become a bigger deal depending on who they come from.
There are issues where some people get away with everything, and then there are other things that some people can’t get past. Even this summer, you had the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival. A few weeks later, you had the Electric Zoo Festival at Randall’s Island where two people overdosed. If that would’ve happened at the [Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival], it would still be front page news. Sometimes hip-hop does harm itself, but hip-hop has done more for New York Cityand I even told one of the Community Board members that she’s benefitted from hip-hop. She said "I can’t see how hip-hop has benefitted me at all." I explained that hip-hop has done so much for race relations in the United States and around the world that people can’t even comprehend what it’s done to unite races. People who follow artists like Biggie Smalls, a lot of them are white people; a lot of them are Indian people; a lot of them are Latinos. They’ve all been unified by music.

Right, it’s the elephant in the room that some people can see, yet others can’t. I’d argue that Biggie was instrumental in helping to make hip-hop culture become popular culture. Everyone knows the lyrics to the "One More Chance" remix; everybody knows the lyrics to "Juicy" and "Hypnotize."
The video for "Juicy" was shot right on that corner [of St. James Place and Fulton Street]. He always represented where he came from, from the very beginning to the very end. Spike Lee is Brooklyn; Mike Tyson is Brooklyn, but Biggie bigged up Brooklyn on a regular basis. He always gave Brooklyn a shoutout, so he needs to be honored. 

I know the letter from councilwoman Letitia James is necessary to take the petition to the level, but what else needs to be done to make Christopher Wallace Way happen and how can people help you?They can still sign the petition online to show that there is support in the community, New York City and America from people who think Christopher Wallace deserves to have a street co-named in his honor. I’m not thinking about having people call the offices of these elected officials because I know people that know them personally. Two weeks ago I met Chuck Schumer and told him what I was doing and he said it was great. He told me about how he helped save the rec center that Kool Herc used to spin at. The City Council is largely Democratic, but there’s going to be a new councilmember sworn in [this coming] January. I’m hoping they'll be younger and hipper. Some of them are under 40, so they’ll understand the music, the culture and its influence. Hopefully they’ll understand how hip-hop has deterred the youth from following a path of negativity. I’m also hoping the people behind Big Pun will restart their efforts to have him honored, because the Latino influence in hip-hop is tremendous and Big Pun represents that.

I work in film production as a location manager. Putting this thing together and getting community support behind a project, signatures and the “ok” from the community, this is something I do on a regular basis for films people will never see. To do this for a cultural icon is more meaningful and long lasting, and I think people will appreciate it years from now. Years ago, I worked on the Nas video for "Made You Look," and if you remember, he shot a piece at Queensbridge; he shot a piece at Rucker Park; he shot a piece over in the Bronx by Big Pun’s spot and they also shot a piece by the intersection of St. James Place and Fulton Street. They shot it at Putnam and Fulton Street, and at Union Square. I think Benny Boom directed the video and I liked how four of the five boroughs of New York City were represented through hip-hop. It would be great if hip-hop were represented on the map in all five of the boroughs in New York City. I would love to see the city represent hip-hop’s contributions to it.

RELATED: Another Day, Another Struggle: Brooklyn Community Board Members Deem Notorious B.I.G. Too Fat, Violent to Have Street Corner Named After Him
RELATED: There's a Petition to Rename Brooklyn Corner After Notorious B.I.G. 

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