Famous Brooklyn rappers: Notorious B.I.G., Busta Rhymes, Jay Z, and more

Brooklyn has contributed some major chapters to the development of rap music. Thanks to the love rappers such as the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z and Talib Kweli have shown for their home town over the years, you can’t listen to hip hop without hearing a few BK references. As part of our ongoing series detailing the Brooklyn roots of famous entertainers, here are six rappers who hail from Kings County.


Notorious B.I.G. (Clinton Hill)
Biggie was born Christopher George Latore Wallace in 1972 and was raised in Clinton Hill. Better known by his stage names The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie, or Biggie Smalls—Wallace is considered one of the most influential rappers of all time. His untimely death in 1997 inspired fans in Brooklyn to paint several murals in his honor, including a planned mural that’s been commissioned at the Fort Greene Key Food where Biggie once worked.

Notorious B.I.G. mural photo courtesy of Amr Abdallah via Facebook.


busta-rhymes-brooklyn-festivalBusta Rhymes (right) | Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival via Daily Motion

Busta Rhymes (Flatbush)
Trevor Tahiem Smith, Jr. was born in East Flatbush to Jamaican parents and is better known by his stage name Busta Rhymes. Of his hometown, Smith says: “Brooklyn is where I primarily developed. I had an opportunity to make records and perform in clubs here and there, and I started networking with the right people in the right places.”


jay-z-beyonce-netsJay-Z and Beyonce enjoying the Brooklyn Nets via missinfo.tv

Jay Z (Bedford-Stuyvesant)
Sean Carter grew into the international superstar known as Jay Z after growing up in the Marcy Housing Projects in Bedford Stuyvesant. Known by friends as “Jazzy,” Carter first came to prominence in 1994 and has since grown an equally impressive business empire, including a stake in the Brooklyn Nets and a share, since sold, in the Barclays Center.


ODB-muralOl’ Dirty Bastard mural | Brandon Z. via Foursquare

Ol’ Dirty Bastard (Fort Greene)
“Brooklyn Zoo” was the solo debut of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, from the album Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, his first solo album apart from the rap collective The Wu-Tang Clan. ODB, né Russell Tyrone Jones, hailed from Fort Greene, and died in 2004 from a drug overdose. Fans can check out the mural above in Bedford-Stuyvesant.


Talib-KweliTalib Kweli via Facebook

Talib Kweli (Park Slope)
Talib Kweli grew up in Park Slope, the son of an English professor and an administrator at city universities He has long been an activist and advocate for justice. In 2011, Kweli founded Javotti Media, his independent label, which is based in Brooklyn.


Jam-Master-JayJam Master Jay | Run-D.M.C. via Facebook

Jam Master Jay (East New York)
Jason William Mizell, better known by his stage name Jam Master Jay, was a musician, rapper, and the DJ of the influential hip hop group Run–D.M.C. He was born in Brooklyn but moved to Hollis, Queens with his family when he was 13 years old. Murdered in 2002, he lives on through the Jam Master Jay Foundation for Music, which is dedicated to providing access to the arts to all children, regardless of socio-economic background.


For more on Famous Brooklyn, check out our articles: Famous Brooklynites part 6, Five famous and historic Brooklyn stoopsFamous Brooklyn movie locationsFamous Brooklynites part 1Famous Brooklynites part 2Famous Brooklynites part 3, and Famous Brooklynites part 4, and Famous Brooklynites part 5.


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