People danced atop parked cars as the hearse carrying his casket, followed by stretch limousines, passed a makeshift memorial of candles, flowers and teddy bears in front of B.I.G.'s onetime home--a grimy, gray brick apartment building.
The crowd cheered wildly when two black Cadillacs filled with flowers--with the letters BIG spelled out in red carnations--first appeared on the street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant district. Some mourners in the motorcade rolled down limousine windows and held up pictures as fans cheered and applauded.
At least seven people were arrested for disorderly conduct in the crush to join the procession carrying the rapper, whose gritty lyrics about ghetto life presaged his own slaying.
Earlier, rap stars turned out en masse for funeral services on Manhattan's posh Upper East Side, where B.I.G., born Christopher Wallace, rested in an open casket amid a bower of flowers.
Faith Evans, the rapper's estranged wife, sang at the service, while Sean "Puffy" Combs, head of Notorious B.I.G.'s record company, Bad Boy Entertainment, delivered the eulogy for the 24-year-old rapper, who was slain this month in Los Angeles.
Mourners included members of Junior M.A.F.I.A., Queen Latifah, Sister Souljah, Flavor Flav, Lil' Kim, Dr. Dre, Pepa of Salt-N-Pepa, Spinderella and former New York Mayor David N. Dinkins.
As they entered the funeral chapel, an organist played, "I Will Always Love You."
"I think it's sad that someone else had to die in the rap industry. It's a poignant thing," said Joy Williams, 17, reflecting for a moment before resuming her shouts of delight at seeing so many of her favorite recording stars.
Wallace was gunned down as he left a party at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles on March 9 after the Soul Train Music Awards. Investigators believe the motive for the slaying may have been a financial dispute with a gang member.
With that slaying in the background, New York police took no chances, providing very heavy security at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel. Fans were kept behind wooden barricades across Madison Avenue from the funeral home. Community relations officers in light blue jackets stood by the front entrance, checking guests.
A block away, around the corner on a side street, several police emergency service trucks containing a variety of weapons were parked.
But all was peaceful.
"It wasn't all sorrow," said Juanita Preudhomme, a family friend who was one of the invited guests at the service. "Everyone was hugging and kissing, just like Biggie would have wanted."
"They took the wrong man out. They took a good man out," said Carl Taylor, a security guard who was one of the spectators. "He gave us love. His music just went through your body. It gave us chills because he talked nothing but the truth."
On St. James Place in Brooklyn, where Wallace once lived, mourners waited hours for a glimpse of the funeral procession.
In front of 226 St. James Place, his old home, neighborhood residents erected a small shrine. "Love yourself. Stop the violence. Rest in peace," proclaimed a hand-written sign set amid candles, flowers and two teddy bears--one small and another larger with gold ribbon. A balloon with the slogan "You're one in a million," was tied to a nearby railing.
"He always respected me," said Bush Benjamin, who said he has lived in the neighborhood for 47 years. "I have nothing bad to say about him. He always treated me nice. 'Hi, Mr. Bush. How are you doing?' He never hung around here very much. He would come to see his mother."
"He was a good person because he rapped about a lot of things that we felt and how other people felt," said Camesha Barton, 13.
"He started from scratch and he didn't have no money and he built himself up, maybe using narcotics or stuff," the teenager said. "But he got what he needed to get and he did what he had to do and he was a good person to a lot of people. . . .
"If you walked down the street and you were not happy and you saw Biggie, he'd cheer you up. He made your day. He said pleasant things," Barton said.
The police precautions in Manhattan were matched in Brooklyn, where thousands of fans cheered the motorcade. Half a dozen police officers suffered minor injuries in melees as people tried to join the procession.
"It is just sad he is gone so early," said the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, pastor of the House of the Lord Pentecostal Church in Brooklyn, who sought to calm the crowd before the motorcade appeared on the block.
"The way he went represents the way so many of our young people go--the violence that proliferates in our community. . . . It is a time for all of us to pause, a time to say what have we created in our society that has spawned so much violence."