Rating: Dig it
“Mo’ money, mo’ problems.”
The words of Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. Biggie Smalls, have been echoed countless times by rappers after him, though no one besides Biggie himself truly understood the meaning of his own rhymes. Born in Brooklyn and raised on the streets, Biggie made his way to the top by starting at rock bottom. This drug dealer with a fascination and talent for rhymes broke though the hip-hop scene in the mid ’90s, delivering powerful lyrics that told how life really was living on the streets. Although alive for a mere 24 years, Biggie left behind a legacy that earned him the title of the greatest rapper of all time.
Notorious tells the story of Biggie as the Notorious B.I.G., from his early childhood of experimenting with rhymes to his death by the hands on an unknown gunman in Los Angeles. The film is a dramatized biopic that does a fairly good job at keeping the facts of his life straight. We first see Biggie at 12 years old, round and bespectacled (played by none other than Biggie’s real life son, Christopher Jordan Wallace) gawking at magazine pictures of early ’80s rapper Kurtis Blow.
From there, Jamal Woolard takes up the role as a matured Biggie with a resemblance to the real Biggie that is stunning, making it seem as though Biggie is still alive today and telling his own story. Woolard captures every angle of Christopher Wallace, from the emotional momma’s boy, to the sly ladies man, to the con artist and drug dealer. Woolard sees Biggie through his rise and fall — from poverty to millionaire, and from prison to the red carpet.
A large portion of the movie centers on the relationship between Biggie and his mother, played by Angela Bassett. Bassett does a superb job capturing the emotional highs and lows of raising Biggie and puts on one of the best performances of the film. Other supporting acts come from Naturi Naughton as Lil Kim, Derek Luke as the energetic and arrogant Sean (Puffy) Combs, and Antonique Smith, who plays Biggie’s true love, Faith. The work of all of these actors in the film prove that an A-list cast is not needed to produce a powerful performance in this emotional salute to the most talented lyricist in history.
Notorious does not hold true to every minute detail of Biggie’s life and career, nor is it completely unbiased. Instead, it finds a happy medium between film and documentary, entertaining its audience as well as clearing the slate of hip-hop’s most beloved and missed artists.