Not since Eminem convincingly played the central character in the story of his own life has anyone made a decent hip-hop biopic. And that includes 50's Get Rich or Die Trying.
The story of Christopher "Biggie Smalls" Wallace hits theatres Friday, and, shockingly, it looks watchable.
Talking about Brooklyn music was a different conversation in the 90s. Before hype-trailing indie bands became synonymous with Brooklyn, it was Biggie Smalls representing the borough. Notorious is a jolt back to that era, which seems like a simpler time in misty retrospect, but in fact probably more violent than hip-hop today.
Or maybe it feels that way because B.I.G.'s murder just over a decade ago remains unsolved, as is Tupac's.
But unlike Nick Broomfeld's weirdly compelling, if ultimately hollow, investigative doc Biggie & Tupac, Notorious isn't solely focused on his frustrating, unexplained death. It follows Wallace from a pudgy, street corner hustler in Brooklyn to a speedboat riding, white suite-wearing rap kingpin, and accounting to early reviews, played with deft accuracy by acting newcomer Jamal "Gravy" Woolard (pictured at the premiere below).
It's produced by Wallace's mother Voletta and Puffy, among former managers, so you know there's isn't any dramatic twisting of the facts for entertainment value (see Broomfeld). The crux, however, of having mom overseeing the project is you're not getting any unearthed dirt.
Whatever, between his rock pedaling, baby mama, affairs with Lil Kim, marriage to Faith Evans, embattlement with East Coast-West Coast beefing and selling millions, Wallace had enough drama in his short 24 years to fill a mini-series.
But it's not just his storied young life that will be pulling audiences in. Step into any Richmond Street nightclub on any weekend and at some point in the evening you'll definitely hear a Notorious B.I.G. tune. Likely Juicy or Hypnotize but maybe Sky's the Limit or One More Chance. Clearly, the mass love for Small's music is not ready to die.
Of course Notorious' cinematic release raises an important question: where's the Tupac bio joint? That's bit trickier because Tupac was a skilled actor himself, which makes it even more intimidating than Gravy's challenge. And more imposingly, the rights to Pac's music would be a major obstacle, as anything involving Death Row Records usual is. But where there's G-money there's a way, and Pac had the more eventful story.