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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Life + Arts

Breaking The BIG story

The life and legacy of The Notorious B.I.G. are being revisited through film and music. In Notorious, the film depicts the rise of Christopher Wallace as a Brooklyn drug dealer to realizing his dream as becoming one of hip-hop’s most beloved icons. Besides being a biographical picture, the film serves a larger theme in chasing one’s dreams.

With Ready to Die and the eerily-titled Life After Death, his only proper full-length albums released, Wallace’s story is a prime example of a life and career that ended too soon. The Notorious B.I.G’s raw rap style helped solidify New York as a mecca of hip-hop and added instant credibility to the flashy, ambitious style of Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs’ Bad Boy Records.

Jamal Woolard stars as Wallace (or Biggie Smalls), closely resembling the late rapper in appearance and performance. The film accurately portrays Wallace as an emcee and a person, equally showing his strengths and flaws.

Director George Tillman Jr. chronicles the life of Wallace through his childhood to his publicized relationships with Lil’ Kim and Faith Evans, signing to Combs’ Bad Boy label and the East versus West coast feud with Tupac Shakur and Death Row Records, a feud that many people believe to Wallace and Tupac Shakur’s violent deaths. A supporting cast includes Angela Bassett as Voletta Wallace, a worthy performance as Wallace’s mother, and newcomer Derek Luke as Combs.

One of the film’s more poignant scenes includes real footage from Wallace’s funeral procession that passed through the streets of his native Brooklyn. The silence was interrupted by a fan blasting the hit ‘Hypnotize’ out of an apartment window, sending the thousands of fans into a frenzy and celebrating the larger-than-life impression left by Wallace.

Even in death, his music is just as important today as in his heyday to the world of hip-hop and every aspiring young emcee.

The Notorious B.I.G. is a shoe-in for the list of the most influential hip-hop artists of our generation. If you’ve ever considered yourself a fan of The Notorious B.I.G., chances are you’ve already heard most of the material on the soundtrack for the biopic Notorious. However, if you happened to catch the movie and found yourself inspired to have a refresher course on his discography, then it’s a good starting place.

The soundtrack includes some of Biggie’s biggest hits, as well as underrated classics ‘What’s Beef,’ ‘Juicy’ and ‘Party and Bullshit.’ The release also features a couple of new tracks, including Jadakiss’ ‘Letter to B.I.G.,’ featuring Biggie’s infamous widow Faith Evans. The track is heartfelt and vulnerable, something many hip-hop artists may be afraid to express.

Also on the soundtrack is the incredibly disappointing ‘Brooklyn Go Hard,’ which features Jay-Z, a well known apprentice of Biggie, and Santogold, recent blog/hipster favorite. It seems unlikely that a song featuring this collaboration on a Kanye West beat would disappoint, but the three fail to deliver.

Perhaps the best things about this soundtrack are the three unreleased tracks from Biggie’s earlier years – ‘Microphone Murderer,’ ‘Guaranteed Raw’ and ‘Love No Hoe,’ which stays true to the promiscuous and lighthearted Biggie that everyone has grown to love.

However, the soundtrack misses a few steps. It kicks off with ‘Notorious Thugs,’ definitely a fan favorite, but not heard in the movie. Likewise, there is a slew of unreleased material that could have been surfaced through this release, but the team decided on only three tracks.

Notorious is probably not worth what you would have to shell out at the mall, but is overall a cohesive backdrop for the movie’s theme and serves its purpose well. For anyone who hasn’t been exposed to any of these influential and genre-defining tracks, it would be well worth your time.

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