By M. Letterlough, Jr.
Voletta Wallace has no problem saying what’s on her mind. She’s been speaking out about everything from youth violence and the special relationship between she and her son Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace, to the Los Angeles Police Department’s lack of a proper investigation to find his killer and bring them to justice. Even in her book, Biggie, which was released in 2005, Voletta continued to speak on even more than just a corrupt LA police force. Now, with a major motion picture released based on her son’s life, which Volleta served as executive producer, she still hasn’t quieted her tune and only wants the same thing now as she has since that fateful day in March of 1997: truth.
“I decided to do a book because I felt I had a book in me,” she says in a soft voice. In an instant, I recognize the West Indian accent I’ve become so familiar with from television interviews and the equally well portrayed role played by actress Angela Bassett.
“I felt I had a story to tell, I had things to say and I didn’t want to put it in a magazine or the newspaper. I felt it was enough for a book.”
In the book, Ms. Wallace takes readers on a journey of her life growing up in Jamaica with her continuing fantasies of heading for the United States to live out her picture-book life of the American dream. But aside from recounting all the precious moments with her son and the struggles of being a single mother, she calls out all the people in hip hop who were closely associated with her son and how she really feels about them and their relationship with Christopher.
“Kim listens to people. Kim is a follower. Kim is not a leader. I look for the day when she can look me straight in the face and say, ‘Wow. I’ve done this. I was not thinking.”
“It’s my story,” she says. “It’s honest, it’s straight forward. Some of the characters that I mentioned in the book, yes, there are things in the book that maybe (they) never knew. But I don’t think it exposes hip-hop. And even if it does, I think it sheds a light (on it) in a good way.”
But let’s not mince words. When it comes down to it, Ms. Wallace is dishing the dirt. In the end she hopes that people will learn from it, rather than get offended by it.
“People will read it and they will reflect, and hopefully the characters in the book that I talk about, they’ll realize what they did was wrong. Because sometimes people do things they felt was all right and all good. (But) if nobody corrects them or brings it to their attention, (or) to the forefront, they’ll (continue) to think it’s all good. But (if they read the book) they’ll say ‘God, what have I done?’”
So whom exactly is she talking about? Well, there’s Christopher’s “best friend,” Sean “Diddy” Combs. While he professes and maintains adamantly his sincere and undying commitment as Christopher’s dearest friend, Sean can easily be classified as joining the ranks with those who have used her son to benefit themselves. In Diddy’s case, it sometimes appears that even he used Christopher to propel his own career and multi-million dollar company.
“Puffy does his thing,” she says. “Puffy’s in a class by himself. Puffy tries to do his best. He tried. Yes, we would like for him to try a little harder, but like I said, he tries. He and my son, they were in business,” she says, “and I didn’t like the contract that my son signed. Sean is a businessman. And I’m not gonna say I’m disappointed. I’m not. He may be a nasty, mean, ugly businessman, but he’s doing his business. And I don’t know if I was in his position if I wouldn’t have done the same thing.”
She says that while Sean might not do things the way she likes, or vice versa, they still maintain a great deal of respect for each other. But Sean joins the company with many of Christopher’s friends and associates Ms. Wallace says she sometimes wishes he wouldn’t have met at all.
“Puffy made him strong,” says Ms. Wallace. “I’m sure when my son was here with Puffy he was comfortable with him. I’m sure he may not have been a Bad Boy today, he would have gone…” She pauses for a moment. “God knows where he would have been. Maybe he would have been in prison! I don’t know. But at the time I’m sure my son was comfortable with him and my son loved him to death.”
According to Ms. Wallace, the number one culprits wrongfully using her son’s image since his death, ironically, have not been his hip-hop companions, but the photographers and various companies that use his pictures without permission to make a profit. There’s also the artists, she mentions, that use Christopher’s music without compensating her, or receiving permission from Bad Boy—who still owns the rights to all of Christopher’s music.
Then there’s Christopher’s female protègè, Kimberly “Lil’ Kim” Jones. Her counts of their relationship, which she has publicly asserted as an eternally devoting love, contradicted with stories of abuse, has not only been under speculation by the public and hip hop aficionados, but Ms. Wallace as well.
“I don’t know (about Kim),” she says sharply. “I know my son called her an Indian-giver once, and that’s the only thing I knew about the relationship with him.”
In her book, Ms. Wallace recounts a time when Kim lied to her and used her home for an unauthorized photo shoot —going through her personal things in the house and posing with clothes and jewelry, saying they were hers—all without Ms. Wallace in attendance.
While this may sound a little uncouth to most of us, Ms. Wallace’s biggest problem was that Kim never apologized.
“That’s the thing, Kim does not apologize,” she says. “Kim let her people apologize, and see, that’s the downfall of our relationship. Kim lets somebody speak for her and whenever she speaks for herself, it doesn’t make sense. I don’t think she is woman enough to say, ‘I am deeply sorry, I was not thinking.’ Kim listens to people. Kim is a follower. Kim is not a leader. I look for the day when she can look me straight in the face and say, ‘Wow. I’ve done this. I was not thinking. I shouldn’t have done it.’ Not as much as sorry, ’cause I don’t think she’s sorry.”
And as far as Kim’s relationship with Christopher, Ms. Wallace says, “I’m sure they were friends. I’m sure for Kimberly Jones to have such deep love and reverence for my son there has to be something there. Maybe it’s her alter ego talking now. I honestly don’t know, because I’ve never seen (their relationship). I’m hearing things after-the-fact, after my son’s death. Everybody loves my son to death and everybody does this and that…I can see you loving him now, but I did not see how you loved him years ago. I didn’t see that, and that’s the truth.”
The lack of honesty, according to Ms. Wallace, is also another reason why Kim found herself facing and serving jail time in a Philadelphia Federal correctional facility in 2005 for lying to a grand jury in an effort to protect her “friends,” which were involved in a 2001 shootout outside of a Manhattan radio station.
“She wasn’t supposedly protecting her friends,” Voletta says. “She was acting stupid. She didn’t speak the truth. She listened to something other than her heart. Thetruth will set you free!” With all this to deal with, I’m amazed at Ms. Wallace’s strength and courage to keep fighting on.
“Would you believe the truth,” she says. “I mean, I’m a Christian. I believe…” She sighs. “I have a strong faith in Jehovah, and what keeps me going is my hope that I will see my son again in the future and the hope that the truthwill come out. I want to find the truth, and that’s what keeps me going.”
Suddenly her voice softens again as she starts to reminisce with me about her son.
“I miss his smile,” she says. “I miss just seeing him with those open arms and that big bear hug. That’s what I miss most. I miss the voice on the phone saying, ‘Hey Slim. Are you straight?’ I miss that a lot…I really miss that a lot.”
But Ms. Wallace is not alone. Christopher’s manager, Wayne Borrow, still calls her everyday to check on her and make sure she’s comfortable, she says, as well as rapper Lil’ Cease of Junior Mafia, who remains a constant figure and care-taker in Ms. Wallace’s life. And then there’s Faith Evans, who, despite she and Christopher’s short-lived marriage and divorce, Ms. Wallace says will always be her daughter-in-law.
“We have a wonderful relationship and I think we are stronger now becausewe have Christopher Jordan Wallace, Jr. to look forward with,” she says. “We reached in our relationship now where if anything happens, we can talk and that’s the good thing. We can communicate and we can say, ‘Let’s do this,’ or ‘Let’s do that.’”
His son—who, ironically, played the young version of his father in the movie adaptation of his life—she says, has no aspirations at the moment of being a rapper like his dad. Although he knows all the words to his legendary father’s songs, she says, “He’s a football player, and he’s very happy doing that right now.”
At the moment, Ms. Wallace just wants to focus on continuing to put her son’s music out and keeping his legacy alive.
“He was a great poet; a great storyteller that put his story behind the music,” she says. “Everybody could dance and laugh about it and know the story is imaginable. His funeral was the day, sad to say, that I found out that my sonwas such a figure in the community. Everyone loved him because he was real. They loved him because he was honest. They loved him because he was kind. They loved him, because he was just a gentle giant.”