Ms. Voletta Wallace is a martyr to the casualties
of hip-hop. No mother raises a child to be slain over greed, pride, and envy.
Ms. Wallace has endured that cruelest of fates, and still is willing to share.
Almost six years to the day after he son was
gunned down on the lawless streets of Los Angeles, Ms. Wallace speaks. Her tone
is a blend of joy and agony. With a soft-spoken nature, one can hear reflections
of our favorite rapper in his mother: She has the same confidence, the blunt
approach, and commands the same respect.
In celebration of her son’s life and success,
Ms. Wallace and the Christopher Wallace Foundation are planning the BIG Night
Out event in Atlanta this week. After the storm, comes the calm. While we reminisce
over a wide spectrum of topics and events concerning Big, you can’t help
but sense of what’s missing.
AllHipHop.com: What are doing with your time
Voletta Wallace: Well, these [days], I spend
with my grandkids. I take care of the Christopher Wallace estate. I take care
of the Christopher Wallace Foundation. I do a lot of gardening. I’m working
on a couple of children’s’ books, and I’m working on my own book.
So I’m extremely busy.
AHH: You were a teacher, have you always wanted
to do children’s books?
VW: I started writing I would say about seven
years ago. I never took it seriously. But after Christopher died, I decided
that I since I had nothing more to do than weep, and over the years I’ve
read a few Caldecott Awards, I would say to myself, “I can do it too.”
I focused kids books around happiness, around love, around friendship. I just
started writing. Last year I contacted a few publishers and so far someone is
looking at my book and they said it’s very very good.
AHH: As a mother, what moment in your son’s
life made you the proudest?
VW: The moment that made me the proudest was
when his album sold half a million copies. And I saw the smile in his face,
and I [knew] it was something that he loved, something that he worked hard at,
something that he had accomplished without my help. And that made me the proudest.
AHH: In sports, they used to say there was a
trend. Great fathers produced great athletes. I think hip-hop is maternal. Every
well-respected hip-hop artist seems to have an immensely strong relationship
with his mother. As one of the driving images to that philosophy, how do you
feel on this idea to the role of the modern poet?
VW: Well as far as my son is concerned, I taught
my son to love, to care, respect, to put his heart into whatever he did and
do it with great honesty. And as a mother, that’s how I feel. I don’t
know if it’s a contribution to him, or if it’s a contribution to me,
but every word from that pen that my son put down, I am proud of his work. I
don’t care if he defamed women, defamed an idea or a culture, you know,
the fact that half a million people bought his album made me proud. That makes
me very very proud.
AHH: Let’s talk about the Christopher Wallace
foundation? From what I’ve read, it’s a great charity with reachable,
and very impacting goals. How do you incorporate your son’s vision into
VW: Well, he was a giver. He gave his art, he
gave of his time. And that’s what the foundation is all about. They’re
thinking big! The acronym for BIG is ‘Books Instead of Guns’. Because
my son shared a love for life in his heart, I would like to share something
with all youths of tomorrow. To give some love, to share a book. Yes, reading
is art. Knowledge is a form of art. If I can get one book into a child’s
hands, to me, the foundation has accomplished what I wanted to accomplish: sharing.
And it’s sharing and it’s love and it’s art.
AHH: There’s a lot of giving in Atlanta
too, and I know you have the BIG night out this weekend. Why did you take the
event outside of New York?
VW: Well out of New York City, all over the country.
This year we’re not focusing on education, we’re focusing on these
mothers. Their children [are gone], they lost a lot! In height of all that,
these mothers were never acknowledged, not of all of them, nobody acknowledged
their loss. They have given a lot to the hip-hop community. They have given
a lot to the world. They have given their sons and their daughters. And their
daughters and their sons aren’t here. It’s a foundation made of appreciating
them for their children and for what their children have contributed to society
and the world.
AHH: Our site has a lot of dedicated readers
and activists. Where can supporters go to make a contribution to the foundation?
VW: If you wish to make a contribution to the
foundation, all you have to do is make it to the: Christopher Wallace Foundation
PO Box 834
Brooklyn, NY 11238
AHH: As an MC, my mom used to find my poetry….and
I’d be furious. How did Big approach his lyrics with you?
VW: (Laughing) Well, I’ve read a couple
of his things and I listened to certain things, certain halfway rhymes, and
I know the bleep bleeps were profanity. When I asked him about it, he said,
“Mom, you know you’re not supposed to be listening to that. My music
is not for anyone over thirty five.” So, I tried to stay away from it.
AHH: Was there a specific song or lyric that
BIG really reflected a lot of you in him, or you could hear your own voice in
VW: It might be everything. So far, I don’t
know all of my son’s songs. But it’s what he said, but how he said
it. And the way it was penned I believe. All of his songs. The first one was
“Juicy”, and the second was “Big Poppa”, the next one was
“One More Chance”, and we cannot forget “Hypnotize”. When
you think of the words, those are not words that I would write, a recitation
that I would recite, or poetry that I would pen, but it was his heart and it
was beautifully, beautifully, orchestrated in pen.
AHH: As a woman of West Indian decent…you
were the generation that carried hip-hop to US and to the streets. My mother
was very understanding of my love for hip-hop…did you help introduce Chris
to the culture at all….were you accepting of it?
VW: I had to, yes. I couldn’t force him
to become a doctor. I couldn’t force him to become a teacher. I couldn’t
force him to become a dentist. So he said that’s what he wanted, and that
would make him happy. It would make him a good public figure in our community,
and that’s what I wanted for my son. I wanted him to be happy, I wanted
him to have a decent life, and that’s what he chose, and I respected him
for it, and I gave him my [support].
AHH: Your son is probably the most respected
figure in hip-hop history. Still in terms of heritage, what do people misunderstand
VW: Of course, people saw my son’s figure.
People hear the profanity in my son’s music. And right away they think
he’s an abuser of women. They thought whatever his lyrics were, he defamed
women, defamed the Black culture. Not everybody likes hip hop music. We have
to be realistic about it, not everybody likes rap. To me, I would say sixty
percent of the population, maybe seventy. They hear a rapper and whatever they’re
saying and they turn their nose up. They don’t know the meaning of what
they’re saying. Many of these rappers, whatever they’re saying, stems
not only from their culture, but their neighborhood, their lifestyle, their
community. And that’s what they see, that’s they’re being around,
that’s what they talked about. And I have to respect it. I might not like
it, but I have to respect it.
AHH: A couple weeks ago Lil Kim made some shocking
allegations of beating that really angered the community. Do you have any comment
VW: No, I don’t.
AHH: One of the most pivotal moments of closure
to us all was seeing you and Afeni Shakur at the Grammy’s five years ago.
Do you stay in touch with her?
VW: Yes. The last time I spoke to her was about
six months ago. We’re not in touch every month, but we do keep in touch.
I know what’s going on with her, and I’m sure she knows what’s
going on with me.
AHH: Is it a friendship, support system…?
VW: It’s a support system, it’s not
a friendship. I guess we are friends at heart because we are parents. But we
have a wonderful support system.
AHH: Your son’s contribution to hip hop
culture was awe-inspiring. People today are re-using his lyrics. As a mother….do
you appreciate that, or do you wish that they’d just let the original art
speak for itself?
VW: No, I don’t mind them sampling his lyrics
because Christopher sampled others’. But I think it’s a sharing, to
me, that’s what hip-hop should all be about. I think that’s what friendship
[and love] should all be about [too]. Yes, we’re getting paid for it. I
do not resent [it]. All I ask them to do is not sample it and then tell me after
(laughing). They need to ask me, and then sample it.
AHH: A well known rapper [Ghostface Killah] who
wasn’t always close with your son while living, stepped up and said people
need to pay you for using his legacy. Are people being pretty fair?
VW: Uh, they’re not being fair! They’re honestly not being fair. But
that’s what the lawyers are for. We’re fighting some, and then some
are being very honest about it and fair about it. Some of them are not being
very fair. Some of them use it and when I [hear] it, I have to investigate it,
and that’s when they come clean.
AHH: Your son had a lot of friends, more than
I can ever imagine. Do they still keep in touch with you?
VW: I’m a very very private person. My son’s
friends were and are not my friends, we’re simply associates. And once
in a while if I see them, we will hug, and say hello. But those are young kids
and business is business, friendship is friendship. I’m an old woman, my
friends are my old friends.
AHH: I haven’t seen the DVD. I don’t
really want to right now. I have watched the VH1 specials…and I’ll
tell you that it hurts to see you agonizingly plea for justice. After all the
books, the investigations, etc. are you shocked to see that man, and I won’t
say his name out of respect for your sons legacy…are you surprised to see
that he can walk around, and live a free life?
VW: I am excrutiatingly shocked that they’re
out there. But I know that I have time and justice will be served.
AHH: There were rumors of you putting out some
early BIG material. Is this true?
VW: Yes, it’s true. [It will be available]
in the Summer.
To learn more about the Christopher Wallace Foundation,