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    Rap Stars Say Farewell to Notorious B.I.G.

    Hip-hop's royalty said farewell to the Notorious B.I.G. Tuesday morning in New York, nine days after the rapper was gunned down in a Los Angeles drive-by. Queen Latifah, Flavor Flav, Nas, Busta Rhymes, Sister Souljah, Mary J. Blige and members of Run-D.M.C., Salt-N-Pepa and Junior M.A.F.I.A. joined Arista records boss Clive Davis and former New York Mayor David Dinkins at the private memorial service honoring the slain rapper, whose given name was Christopher Wallace. His estranged wife, Faith Evans, sang in tribute and his producer, Sean "Puffy" Combs, delivered the eulogy.

    Outside the Upper East Side funeral home, dozens of fans kept vigil, playing music and carrying pictures of Wallace. A thousand more thronged the streets chanting "B-I-G, B-I-G forever," as the body of the 24-year-old rapper was paraded through his old Brooklyn neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Bedford-Stuyvesant--where he went from crack peddlar to hip-hop superstar.

    The procession bearing his body was led by four flower-filled cars, one with the letters "B.I.G." spelled out in red carnations. Nearly 20 limousines followed the hearse.

    Although he boasted of his gangster exploits in his music, the Notorious B.I.G.--who also went by Biggie Smalls thanks to his 6-foot-3, 280-lb. bulk--was portrayed as an angel in death, dressed in white from hat to shoes in his wooden casket.

    Meanwhile, police are discounting the idea that the bi-coastal hip-hop wars played a role in Biggie's murder, which eerily echoed the fatal attack on rival rapper Tupac Shakur. The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that the primary suspect in the March 9 shooting is a Crips gang member. Quoting unnamed investigators, the Times said the gang member had a financial beef with the rapper and was acting alone.

    In a strange twist, the suspect is believed to be a member of the same gang, known as the Southeast Crips, that Biggie had hired to protect him on recent trips to Los Angeles, the Times reported. An alleged member of the same set, Orlando Anderson, is the key suspect in the Tupac Shakur murder, police have said. Anderson was involved in an altercation with Shakur, Death Row boss Marion "Suge" Knight and their bodyguards hours before Shakur was shot off the Las Vegas strip.

    However, Los Angeles police have said there is no apparent connection between the murders of Shakur and B.I.G. When contacted today, a police spokesman refused to comment on the Times report.

    Also on Tuesday, the NAACP annouced it was launching a national non-violence campaign, in the wake of the rappers' murders and the killing of Ennis Cosby. It will culminate with a National Day of Non-Violence on April 4.

    (Updated 5 p.m. PT)

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