Chris Wallace, better known as The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls or Big Poppa, lived up to his various nicknames. He was a force to be reckoned with in the rap world and remains an enormous influence a decade after his death. Brooklyn born and bred, Wallace dropped out of school at age 17 and turned to a life of crime. He spent nine months in prison for dealing crack. Soon after getting out in 1992, he parlayed his amateur rhymes into a record contract and started working with some of the biggest names in the business: Sean "Puffy" Combs, LL Cool J, Mary J. Blige and Tupac Shakur.
His 1994 album "Ready to Die" came at a time when the East Coast/West Coast rap rivalry was going strong, and according to Rolling Stone, Biggie shifted the focus back to New York. This created tension with Shakur, who was leading the West Coast rap scene at the time. When Shakur was shot to death in September 1996, rumors swirled about Biggie's involvement, though he denied all allegations. In March 1997, while in California to promote his upcoming album, Biggie, 24, was shot to death while riding with his entourage in a GMC Suburban. His murder remains unsolved, and in 2007 his relatives filed a second wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles. A movie chronicling his life is due out in 2009.
Tupac Shakur, 25
Like Wallace, Tupac Shakur's death was a tragedy of the East Coast/West Coast hip-hop rivalry. Though he hailed from Harlem, Shakur began rapping in California in the early 1990s. He released his first solo album, "2Pacalypse Now," in 1991 and formed the group Thug Life in 1993. As he gained fame, Shakur ran into legal troubles: He was accused of sexually abusing a woman in '93 and convicted of attacking a former employer in 1994.
In November 1994, Shakur was shot five times and robbed in the lobby of a New York recording studio. While serving a prison sentence for sexual abuse charges, Shakur released "Me Against the World," which went to No. 1 on the Billboard 200. After getting out of jail, suspicious that former friend Biggie Smalls set him up for the '94 shooting, Shakur railed on Biggie and his associates on the track "Hit 'Em Up." On Sept. 7, 1996, while driving through Las Vegas with his entourage, Shakur was shot 12 to 13 times in a drive-by shooting. He died six days later of internal bleeding. Shakur's death remains a mystery, though some speculate Biggie was involved in the murder. Biggie's family has vehemently denied those claims. More than 10 years after his death, Shakur remains a hip-hop legend. He's been named the highest-selling rap artist by the Guinness Book of World Records, with more than 75 million albums sold worldwide.
Kurt Cobain, 27
Cobain, frontman for the iconic grunge band Nirvana, was a symbolic figure during the shift from the glam/pop rock of the 1980s toward early 1990s alternative rock with the song "Smells Like Teen Spirit," considered by many to be the anthem of Generation X. Some viewed him as the unofficial spokesman for '90s teens and 20-somethings, but Cobain turned to drugs and alcohol to help him cope with the pressures of the media, years of depression, chronic bronchitis and mysterious stomach pains. Cobain committed suicide in April 1994, shooting himself in the head in his home on Seattle's Lake Washington after leaving a one-day stay at a rehab center in Los Angeles. He died at age 27, leaving behind wife Courtney Love and daughter Frances Bean Cobain.