Still ‘Notorious,’ B.I.G. Biopic Hits the Mark
The life and untimely death of rapper Notorious B.I.G. is resurrected in the film 'Notorious,' executive produced by Sean "Diddy" Combs. Known to the public as B.I.G. his rap persona takes a backseat to the man many knew as Christopher Wallace. A chubby kid from Brooklyn, who was as lyrically nice as he was charming.
Newcomer Jamal Woolard plays the lead role so closely that it's almost chilling. "The mannerism, the behavior, the walk, the chin up high...," he says of how he studied B.I.G.'s movements. "That's what I really had to get." The result is a performance that is not just physically uncanny but multi-layered in character portrayal as director George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food, Barbershop) jam-packed a snap-shot of a decade of B.I.G.'s life into a 38 day shoot.
The movie's opening scene is in the Brooklyn neighborhood where a young B.I.G., played by his real life son and namesake, is intrigued by the street life. Voletta Wallace (portrayed by Academy Award nominee Angela Bassett) unsuccessfully tries to steer her son, whom she affectionately calls "Chrissy Poo," away from criminal activity. With a curiosity as big as his wide-rimmed glasses a young Christopher finds that a life of drug dealing to buy "fresh" white sneakers and gold chains makes more sense than doing well in school. It's not until after he gets sent to jail once, has a child and is in jeopardy to return to the penitentiary that he gets a lifeline. A friend takes the blame for a gun possession charge so that he may pursue his obvious talent of rapping.
A child of hip-hop's '80s and '90s takeover era, B.I.G. and then unknown producer "Puff Daddy" (played by Derek Luke) embark on a journey that though short in time span was massive in effect. Luke who was hand-picked by Combs to play the part found a connection to the characters core characteristics. "Neither him (Puffy) or Biggie were perfect but what they had in common was that they were human," he says.
The women in B.I.G.'s life are as integral to the man that he grew to become as any other part of his life. Both his relationship with rapper Lil' Kim, whom he eventually gave a platform for her own career, and his marriage with Faith Evans, whom he married after knowing for only three weeks are main causes of drama in B.I.G.'s life.
For her performances former 3LW group member Naturi Naughton makes up for looking nothing like Lil' Kim by playing up her raunchy yet insecure vulnerability; opening the door to understand Lil' Kim the woman that much more. The role of Faith Evans played by actress Antonique Smith lifts the veil on the infidelity and jealousy that Evans had to go through by being the woman on B.I.G.'s arm.
Even in a film where you know what the ending will be the viewer can't help but find themselves enthralled in facets of B.I.G's life previously unknown to the public. How he goes from a "nobody" in the rap world to one of the biggest "somebodies" finding himself smack dab in the middle of the "East Coast West Coast beef." Regardless of over-worked scenes where the film tries to squash all notions of B.I.G.'s beef with Tupac Shakur after he is shot in a New York recording studio, 'Notorious' is a concrete endeavor that brings Hip-hop fans and those unfamiliar with his legacy back to where it all began. B.I.G. made history in music leaving a lasting impression on rappers 10 years after his death and for that the 'Notorious' mantra still rings clear.