NOTORIOUS B.I.G.’S LEGACY CELEBRATED WITH TRIBUTE MURAL IN ATLANTA
The Notorious B.I.G. is still one of the most admired and emulated rappers in the rap game even after death. In honor of the 25th anniversary of Biggie’s classic 1994 debut album, Ready to Die, Optimo Cigars created an art project that celebrated the late rhymer’s life and music.
The Biggie Inspires art contest attracted over 170 artists who created and submitted artworks inspired by B.I.G.’s musical legacy. Two first-place contest winners, Hoa Hong, a Seattle art teacher, and Cinque Smith, a Dayton, Ohio artist, had their vibrant illustrations converted into life-size murals in Brooklyn, N.Y. In September, Hong’s artwork was on display in Biggie’s Brooklyn hometown of Bedford–Stuyvesant while Smith’s design was showcased in the Brooklyn section of Williamsburg.
But Optimo Cigars took it a step further. Understanding that B.I.G.’s influence wasn’t just only in New York, the popular cigar company commissioned a Biggie Inspires mural in Atlanta. Created by Brian “Jeks” Lewis, a renowned North Carolina muralist/graffiti artist, his work was presented in East Atlanta because of the city’s love for Biggie Smalls and its vibrant art scene.
His spray-painted mural is featured on the side of the Banshee ATL restaurant located at 1271 Glenwood Ave. SE in Atlanta. The artwork features Biggie Smalls flashing his blinged-out pendant with two B.I.G.s sitting on his left and right shoulders. The image represents the two sides of the Brooklyn rapper.
“The inspiration came from [The Notorious B.I.G.’s] dialogue of talking to himself about himself and it gave me the idea that everybody has a good and bad on their shoulders whispering in the ear but in the end, it’s all the same Biggie,” Jeks said of his mural.
It took Jeks several hours to complete the mural and it was a great accomplishment for him. “I always considered portraiture like the highest honor to paint somebody giant on a wall,” he continued. “It’s an amazing feeling to capture them.”
Overall, Jeks salutes Optimo Cigars for giving artists an outlet to express themselves through their Biggie Inspires art contest. “It’s really dope for people to get exposure and to show how much an impact—whether it’s the art community or just the world itself—Biggie is an inspiration to many, many, many people,” he shared.
Watch Jeks talk about his Biggie Inspires mural curated by Optimo Cigars below