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Rap auction: Biggie's crown and Tupac's letters

The Associated Press
Created: September 15, 2020 02:59 PM

Rivals in life, the rappers Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur are being united for an auction at Sotheby's, the first-ever dedicated hip-hop auction at a major international auction house.

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Bidders will be able to vie for the crown worn and signed by the Notorious B.I.G. during a 1997 photo shoot held three days before he was killed in Los Angeles. They'll also get to bid on an archive of 22 autographed love letters written by Shakur at the age of 15-17 to a high school sweetheart.

"This is the first time any major international auction house has done a sale focusing on hip hop. And something that I want to make very clear is that it's not just a musical genre, but the sale focuses on how it is actually a cultural movement," said Cassandra Hatton, Sotheby's Senior Specialist.

The auction will be held Sept. 15 and features over 120 hip-hop-related lots. The items can be viewed in person — reservations are required during the pandemic — at Sotheby's in New York City and the exhibition will also be available to the public online via its digital gallery.

The estimates for the headlining lots — $200,000 to $300,000 for the crown and $60,000 to $80,000 for the letters — are low, with the hope that the auction house can attract first-time bidders and show it is not just a stuffy place for multi-million-dollar watches and paintings.

Onetime friends who became rivals in a hype-fueled war between the East and West Coast rap scenes, Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. — also known as Biggie Smalls — were gunned down within months of each other. Both crimes remain unsolved.

The crown has been in photographer Barron Claiborne's possession since he captured Biggie for the cover of Rap Pages magazine. Claiborne had provided the prop, hoping to portray Biggie as the king of New York. Sean "Diddy" Combs, owner of Biggie's label Bad Boy Entertainment, was with the rapper on the photo shoot.

Shakur's letters — many on lined stationary pages with neat hand-lettered script — were written in 1987 and 1988 to Kathy Loy, a fellow student at the Baltimore School for the Arts. The 42 pages chronicle their approximately two-month long romance, including a letter of regret for breaking up sent a year later. Loy provided the letters for auction.

The auction continues Sotheby's recent trend toward embracing items prized by popular culture, including hosting the first dedicated sneaker auction at one of the big auction houses in July 2019.

A pair of Michael Jordan's signed, game-worn Nikes was recently auctioned by Christie's for a record $615,000.

Credits

The Associated Press

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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