Everyone who loves hip-hop, will know a little something about one of the games most talented lyricists, Christopher Wallace better known as Biggie Smalls or Notorious BIG. For example it’s not too difficult to find out that he was born on May 21 1972 to Voletta Wallace and George Latore who left them when Biggie was only two. However, did you know that Biggie kept all of his rhymes in his head until freestyling them on the spot? His mum used to call him ‘Chrissy Pooh’ and that he also attended the same highschool as Busta Rhymes and Jay Z? You probably knew none or some of the above but all bar the latter fact are just a few of the points portrayed in NOTORIOUS, Fox Searchlight Pictures depiction of the remarkable rise and untimely death of Christopher George Latore Wallace.
Directed by George Tillman Jnr (producer of such films as Roll Bounce, Barbershop and Soul Food), NOTORIOUS was in fact the creation of a joint collaboration between some of the people that knew Biggie the most intimately. From his mother Voletta Wallace to Sean ‘P.Diddy’ Combs, and screenwriter Cheo Hodari Coker who had not only had hours of one-on-one interviews with Biggie himself, but also had in-depth conversations with many of the principle figures in Wallace’s life, NOTORIOUS offers a no-holds-barred portrait of the A-Class student turned on the corner crack dealer turned innovative rapper from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
Beginning with scenes from BIG’s last moments on March 9, 1997 just before he became the second fallen victim to one of hip-hop’s most controversial and conspired about fallouts, the audience is then taken back to Biggie’s younger and more innocent years, played by his son, and mirror image CJ Wallace. Here we learn that Biggie was sheltered from the Brooklyn streets he grew up on as much as possible by his stern, yet loving mother who would walk him to and from school and then forbid him to leave the front stoop from thereon out. However, learning that the good kids were easy targets for the gangsters and longing for all the flashy things in life, it wasn’t long before Biggie turned to drug dealing to make money, something which in turn led the straight A-student to be a high school dropout.
In between drug dealing, becoming a father, serving time in jail for drug dealing, beginning an intimate relationship with Lil’ Kim and drug dealing some more, Biggie would freestyle quick witted tales about life on the streets amongst friends which gained him great respect and led to his demo tape falling into the hands of upcoming producer Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs. Wasting little time in signing him to new label Bad Boy records, it wasn’t long before Notorious BIG was a globally recognised artist and one of the major players in the hip hop game. Young, popular, successful and recently married to artist Faith Evans, it was at this point as prophesised by friend and fellow artist Tupac Shakur that things started to go badly.
November 30 1994 saw the beginning of the Eastcoast Vs Westcoast rap war between Biggie and Tupac as Tupac blamed Biggie for his attempted murder whilst visiting his recording studios. Spiralling out of control, NOTORIOUS illustrates the events that followed including the released diss songs ‘Hit Em Up’ by Tupac and ‘Who Shot Ya’ by Biggie, which in turn led to the untimely deaths of Tupac Shakur in 1996 and Notorious BIG in 1997.
Understandably favourable at times, NOTORIOUS depicts an all round vision of Biggie from a mummy’s boy to a street dealer to a heartless player to a true friend, lover and innovative rapper. Coupled with a great cast, from a near identical Biggie, crouch grabbing Lil’ Kim and of course two stepping Sean Combs, NOTORIOUS is a must see movie for all hip hop fans, providing the perfect opportunity to understand the life and death of the late, great Biggy Smalls.
NOTORIOUS is out now. So ‘if you don’t know, now you know’. For more information go to http://www.biggiebible.com
Words by Susanne Singh