Biggie's crown sells for $595,000 at hip-hop auction


Achieving an overall total of $2 million, the auction was a celebration of the history and cultural impact Hip Hop has had on art and culture from the late 1970s through the "Golden Age" of the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, and up to the present.

"With the tragic events that unfolded just days after the photoshoot, this image of a crowned Notorious B.I.G. became much more than a portrait - the image transformed Biggie Smalls into an aristocratic or saint like figure, forever immortalized as not only the King of NY, but a king of hip hop music and one of the greatest artists of all time", the photographer said. The other-the crown he wore-had to be altered to fit Biggie: Claiborne removed its interior foam cushioning. Claiborne provided the crown to Sotheby's, who auctioned it off for a whopping $594,750 alongside a pair of prints from the session, plus a photo contact sheet. "I was mostly shooting celebrities and reportage".

Notorious B.I.G. aka Biggie Smalls performing at Meadowlands, New Jersey, 29 June 1995.

The plastic crown worn by rapper Notorius BIG during a photoshoot just days before his murder sold at auction for $594,750 in NY. "The time before, I photographed him in a white suit - instead of the tracksuit that most rappers were wearing back in 1997".

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Claiborne recalled that Diddy, then the owner of Bad Boy Records, objected to the concept, telling the Post, "He said it would make Biggie look like Burger King.But Biggie didn't listen". He wore it anyway.

And, all because the crown was worn by B.I.G. - plus, the fact it's gone on to become a fixture in pop culture.

At the auction house's first hip-hop memorabilia auction - which featured a one-of-a-kind Def Jam Recordings jacket, a triptych of pioneering DJs painted by Fab 5 Freddy and Judith Leiber's crystal-encrusted handbag inspired by a boombox - the crown's original purchaser said he didn't buy the royal-rig for its gold content and embedded jewels.

The Tupac letters were sent to Kathy Loy during a two-month relationship at the Baltimore School for the Arts in the 1980s. For the headlining lots-Biggie's crown and Tupac's letters, they are set to get $200,000 to $300,000 and $60,000 to $80,000.