In the 1990s, before Brooklyn was a brand, there was a singular bard of the borough, and his name was Christopher Wallace.
At 6 feet 2 inches and nearly 400 pounds, Mr. Wallace, known as the Notorious B.I.G., was a larger-than-life figure in the rap scene. A masterful raconteur with a forceful flow, he chronicled neighborhood street life in stylized, almost cinematic detail, from corner drug deals to fractured family negotiations.
But more than 20 years after Mr. Wallace’s death in a killing that remains unsolved, the gentrification that has taken hold in the Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods has complicated his legacy. As fans and local activists have sought ways to preserve his memory on the streets that nurtured him, they have repeatedly been stymied by people who considered him too tolerant of violence, too misogynistic, even too overweight, to merit such public recognition.
Now, after several failed efforts to secure official recognition for Mr. Wallace, who also went by Biggie Smalls, New York City’s parks department has renamed the basketball courts at Crispus Attucks Playground, roughly on the border between Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant, in his honor. The dedication of the Christopher “Biggie” Wallace Courts was part of a $2.5 million renovation that overhauled the playground’s athletic equipment, fencing, flooring, garden and security features.
The work was completed just before an annual basketball tournamentheld in Mr. Wallace’s name to raise money for youth programs in the surrounding neighborhoods, which, after decades as predominantly African-American enclaves, have experienced an influx of white residents.
“This is about preserving the legacy of Biggie and hip-hop in a community that’s quickly gentrifying,” said Councilman Robert E. Cornegy Jr., a Democrat who helped secure financing for the project and led the drive to name the courts for Mr. Wallace. “Now, no matter how much this community changes, there will always be a record of the culture that lived here.”