The 1997 shooting death of Christopher "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace has become its own morbid cottage industry, filled with books, TV shows, documentaries and myriad theories about who was behind the murder of one of rap's most beloved figures. And while the Los Angeles Police Department has yet to make any arrests in connection with Wallace's murder, his mother Voletta tells Rolling Stone that she remains "optimistic" that someone will be brought to justice.
"I am very optimistic. Very, very optimistic. There are so many things happening," she says Sunday night at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, where the Nets commemorated the rapper at an event dubbed "Biggie Night." "There are books being written and movies being made. The truth is not there, but I know the truth and the [LAPD detective] I spoke to knows the truth and I just want to give them the chance to do the work because the case is still open. I always think there's a conspiracy. I always know that the truth is there, but they're not bringing it to the forefront."
Wallace remains heavily involved in the investigation, talking to the LAPD on a frequent basis. "What mother wouldn't?" she says. "Because it's an open investigation, I can't give up."
R&B singer and Biggie's widow Faith Evans says she is more "hopeful" than optimistic that justice will be served.
"We believe that [the LAPD] knows [who murdered him], but it's still a matter of them actually saying that and bringing someone to justice," she tells Rolling Stone. "I pray for that to happen, but I'm almost accepting the fact that they may not because it's just so shady and has been able to go under the rug for so long. Maybe it's just a matter of one thing that will happen and no matter how long it takes, it'll actually make them do that. But [the dominoes] have been falling over the years; they're just slowly falling down."
Evans is prepping the May 19th release of The King and I, a new album featuring Biggie paired with verses from Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg, Lil Kim and the Lox, among others. Evans and Wallace first conceived the album more than 15 years ago, inspired by Natalie Cole's 1991 album Unforgettable that featured duets with her deceased father Nat.
"I didn't know how it was going to come together in terms of how I was going to approach it when we did get the chance to do it," Evans admits. "One day towards the end of recording, I was playing the album back for different people and I just felt a tap on my shoulder and I just started bawling like, 'I think he just told me he's proud.' I turned around like, 'Get it together.'"
The album is one of many projects, sanctioned and otherwise, in the works. Think Big, a scripted comedy based on the rapper's life and authorized by the rapper's estate, remains in development – "Think Fat Albert meets King of the Hill," producer Wayne Barrow tells Rolling Stone – while Unsolved, a scripted show about Wallace and Tupac Shakur's murder based on the book Murder Rap: The Untold Story of the Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur Murder Investigations, cast its leads last week. Notorious B.I.G.: One More Chance, the first documentary on the rapper made in collaboration with the rapper's estate, was announced last month.
Sunday night's event featured numerous tributes to the Brooklyn rapper, capped with the unveiling of a permanent banner with Wallace's name, year of birth and "Spread love, it's the Brooklyn way." The banner will hang next to one commemorating Jay Z's eight shows at Barclays Center to open the venue in 2012.
In addition to a halftime set of Biggie songs by DJ Enuff and the launching of Biggie T-shirts into the crowd, the event featured Voletta Wallace giving a brief speech about her son before the game (flanked by the rapper's children T'yanna and C.J.)
Sean "Diddy" Combs also addressed the crowd at halftime. "There would be no Biggie without Brooklyn," Combs said. "Instead of a moment of silence, let's get 10 seconds of Brooklyn noise."
For Wallace, events like these help continue to burnish the rapper's image into the public consciousness, which she hopes will lead to a breakthrough in the case. "When you see the love, it's going to reach somebody's heart," she says. "They will talk. It's possible they're afraid. It's one of those codes that 'I can't talk,' but I'm sure when they see all this love that's being poured out, their conscience will stick a little bit and they'll come out and say, 'OK.'"
Asked point blank if she thinks she knows who murdered her son, she immediately responds.
"I don't 'think.' I know."