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Rappers, fans pay final respects to Biggie Smalls

March 18, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Rap stars and fans alike turned out today for a final farewell to The Notorious B.I.G., the Brooklyn-born gangsta rapper killed nine days ago in a Los Angeles drive-by shooting.

The 24-year-old rapper, dressed in a white hat and matching double-breasted suit, lay in a wooden casket at a funeral home on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where 350 invited guests attended the wake and service.

Among the mourners were members of Junior M.A.F.I.A., Spinderella of Salt-N-Pepa, Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, Lil’ Kim, Sister Souljah, and Flavor Flav. Former Mayor David Dinkins and Arista Records founder Clive Davis also attended.

The rapper’s estranged wife, Faith Evans, sang at the service, while the eulogy was delivered by Sean ``Puffy″ Combs, producer of Notorious B.I.G.’s record company, Bad Boy Entertainment.

``A young life, taken away just like that ... he will be missed,″ said Felicia Daniels, one of about 50 fans who stood across the street behind police barricades.

The fans cheered when their favorite performers entered the funeral home. Some played B.I.G.’s music, some held pictures of the entertainer whose given name was Christopher Wallace but who also went by the stage name Biggie Smalls, a reference to his hulking 6-foot, 280-pound frame.

Later, the casket was loaded inside a hearse, which was followed by two black cadillacs filled with floral arrangements. ``To Daddy,″ read the yellow ribbon around one of them.

Many of the mourners then joined a funeral cortege of black limousines that carried the rapper’s body for a final tour of his old Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Thousands of fans lining the block where Wallace was a familiar presence before and after his recording success screamed and applauded when riders in the motorcade held pictures of Wallace out limousine windows.

Several skirmishes erupted between the crowd and police, who used pepper spray to disperse the group.

Four people _ including a reporter for The New York Times _ were arrested on disorderly conduct charges, Detective Mark Patterson said. The reporter said she was arrested after complaining to an officer about being hit with the pepper spray.

Reports have suggested the dispute between Combs’ company and West Coast rap impresario Marion ``Suge″ Knight’s Death Row Records may have played a role in the March 9 slaying. Tupac Shakur, a rapper for Knight’s label, was gunned down in similar fashion in Las Vegas on Sept. 7.

But the Los Angeles Times reported today that the primary suspect in Wallace’s slaying is a Crips gang member involved in a financial dispute with the rapper, who had two children. The Times, citing unidentified law-enforcement sources, said authorities have found no connection to the Shakur slaying.

Wallace moved from slinging crack on Brooklyn street corners to topping the Billboard charts. His often-violent tales of ghetto life even forecast his slaying.

Wallace, who most recently lived in Teaneck, N.J., was leaving a party celebrating the Soul Train Music Awards when a gunman pumped several shots through the passenger door of a GMC Suburban with the rapper inside. He died a short time later at a Los Angeles hospital.

Lenny Person, 42, knew Wallace when the rapper was growing up in Brooklyn. He was impressed by Wallace’s efforts to stay in touch with his community, even after his huge success.

``When they shot him, they shot a lot of people in Brooklyn as well,″ Person said. ``He lives on, because a guy that’s helping his community affects a lot of people.″

On top of a parked car on the block where Wallace once lived, three small children held a sign that showed Wallace’s death might not be in vain.

``We love you B.I.G.,″ it read. ``Stop the violence. From future stars of tomorrow.″

Wallace’s body was to be cremated in New Jersey.

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