‘Notorious’ Hits the B.I.G. Screens Hard

Based on the life story of East Coast rapper Christopher Wallace (also known as Biggie Smalls or Notorious B.I.G.), “Notorious” captures Biggie’s rise to fame from a Brooklyn street hustler to a legendary MC. The film begins in the clubs of Los Angeles on the night of Biggie’s death and transitions with a flashback to his childhood in 1983.
Raised by his strict mother, Voletta Wallace (played by Angela Bassett), Big (played by Jamal Woolard) proves himself an exceptional student with a natural talent for songwriting. After an encounter with his father, however, Big soon succumbs to the pressure of his friends and chooses the ill-destined path of New York street hustlers. Notorious for his drug dealing transactions, Big finds himself sentenced to three years in prison, in which he dedicates himself to spitting rhymes and composing lyrics. Once released, Big is determined to get off the streets with his music and succeeds in doing so with the help of his agent and friend, Puff Daddy, proving that no dream is too “B.I.G.”
Transcending the average hip-hop movie stereotype, “Notorious” is all-inclusive, capturing the 90s hip-hop vibe with its Nike high-tops and Coogi sweaters. Although the film follows a predictable plot, Woolard delivers a “hypnotizing” performance portraying Big’s character. Between the lip-syncing and appearance, Woolard is convincing in every aspect and represents the notorious rapper well.
Produced by both Puff and Biggie’s mother, however, “Notorious” romanticizes Notorious B.I.G. Despite the hustling, drug dealing and playing, the charm and charisma of the “Big Poppa” keeps the audience rooting for Big, making “Notorious” as evocative of a film as it is explicit.
For an R-rated hip-hop biographical film lasting over the two-hour mark, “Notorious” rightfully earns its explicit rating with its drug content, pervasive language and graphic sex scenes.
“Notorious” also brings attention to the relationship between Big and fellow rapper, Tupac Shakur, taking the role as a witness to rumors and accusations regarding Tupac’s murder. While several remain ignorant to the real relationship between the two rappers, “Notorious” does a fair job in serving the facts, while letting the audience infer what they please.
As a biopic commemorating the life of Notorious B.I.G., “Notorious” boasts an impressive soundtrack, but lacks diversity, serving as more of a “greatest hits” tribute to Big. Including only a few outside artists such as Jay-Z with his new single “Brooklyn Go Hard,” the soundtrack goes hand in hand with the film, as the movie captures scenes from Big’s life that inspired his lyrics. While the film is completely relevant to Big’s music, the director forces some corny dialogue to accommodate direct quoting from Notorious B.I.G.’s lyrics.
Although the film may not have been as notorious as Big himself, “Notorious” proves itself to be a well-executed film in tribute of the rapper who knew how to live life “B.I.G.”