Wallace was born and raised in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. His debut album Ready to Die (1994) made him a central figure in East Coast hip hop and increased New York City's visibility in the genre at a time when West Coast hip hop dominated the mainstream. The following year, he led Junior M. A. F. I. A. —a protégé group composed of his childhood friends—to chart success. In 1996, while recording his second album, Wallace was heavily involved in the growing East Coast–West Coast hip hop feud. On March 9, 1997, he was murdered by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. His second album, Life After Death (1997), released two weeks later, rose to No. 1 on the U. S. album charts. In 2000, it became one of the few hip-hop albums to be certified Diamond.