By Grace Rodriguez
Director Emmett Malloy explores a new, heart-warming angle of the complicated life of rapper Christopher Wallace, AKA the Notorious B.I.G., in his film “Biggie: I Got A Story to Tell.”
Growing up in the heart of Brooklyn in the ‘80s, the film shows the many pressures Wallace faced when it came to making a name for himself.
The film gets up-close and personal, showing clips of random moments in Wallace’s life. It humanizes him in a way no other documentary has.
The film introduces Christopher Wallace as a person, not as a rapper. Wallace is shown to be a shy, insecure, young adult who was a sponge, learning everything about music.
It’s easy to write this film off as a recap of everything fans have learned about Wallace. But, straight out the gate, it begins with a video recording from 1995, the peak of Wallace’s music career, just two years before his death. This video automatically makes the audience question what more can be learned about Wallace, but the documentary finds more to explore than most would think.
The film promises rare footage and it delivers. From exclusive interviews with friends and family of Wallace, to rare videos from the day of his death’s announcement. Each moment creates a bigger picture of who Wallace was. These memories are captured perfectly and stitched together seamlessly.
P. Diddy, the rapper and producer who discovered Wallace and helped jump-start his career, talked about the day he first came across a ‘Biggie’ tape. He commends him and says, “he was the greatest rapper of all time.” P Diddy is asked about the day he received news Wallace was shot and killed, to which he responds, “I never knew that you could feel so sad, feel so hurt, feel so empty, feel like everybody wanted to give up and then when we came over that bridge in Brooklyn nobody was crying, everybody was celebrating. Their memories of Biggie were like the joy, the dancing, of seeing somebody that came from their neighborhood make it. And it just gave us a lift. This story doesn’t have to have a tragic ending.”
Malloy shows footage of the funeral and quickly juxtaposes it with a sea of fans not crying, but celebrating. He spends time interviewing both Wallace’s mother and grandmother. His mother shares memories of their yearly trips to Trelawny, Jamaica, his mother’s home country.
Fans are shown how protective his mother, Voletta Wallace was over him, especially being a single mother. A clip from the interview shows his mother criticizing Christopher’s music, deeming it “vulgar and filled with profanity.” However, while not liking his music, she respected him enough to let him do his own thing.
The film focuses on the importance of Wallace’s “Ready to Die” album. It explains that the album was a statement piece, a “do-or-die” statement on behalf of Wallace. While the album explores suicide and mental health, Wallace explains that he did not want to die, but more so “he was tired of not living.”
Without any real intention, Wallace was exposed to different music genres. The film makes the connection between these influences in his life with how his music eventually sounded. Most often compared to R&B, Wallace’s music was more versatile than he imagined. He had Jamaican roots, a Jazz mentor and his mother’s love for country music- all factors that may have contributed to his unique sound.
Toward the end of the film, the mystery surrounding his murder, is briefly addressed, but not in excess. Malloy makes a good call keeping this part short, as many other documentaries have already addressed the “East Coast, West Coast beef,” that Wallace felt was too divisive. The film even implies Wallace’s attempts to end this rivalry may have caused his death. The purpose of the film instead, is to celebrate his life and legacy in a unique and dynamic manner.
“Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell” is trending on Netflix at #3 as of Wednesday. The film is emotional and inspirational. It remains centered on Biggie’s life, with a fresh perspective, making it a must-watch for rap and hip-hop fans.