By Sandra Kraisirideja
Christopher Wallace a.k.a Biggie Smalls, the Notorious B.I.G. and Big Poppa, is getting the Hollywood treatment in a new movie about his life directed by George Tillman Jr. and produced by Sean “Puffy” Combs.
Wallace spent his youth dealing drugs on the streets of Brooklyn while nurturing a talent for rhyming. He went from street hustler to world-wide phenomenon in just a few short years.
Musical performances are integral to the story, but this is not a movie musical. It’s closer in spirit to “Purple Rain” and “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” The movie stars mostly up-and-coming young actors who somewhat resemble the real-life rappers they portray. The filmmakers must be particulary proud of how close they were able to get given the closing title sequence, which juxtaposes photos of the actors with photos of the actual people.
The movie is entertaining, but it also feels structured to fall into the mold of a Hollywood movie. It doesn’t match the grit, despair and hopelessness that was probably the truth at that time.
Screenwriters Reggie Rock Blythewood and Cheo Hodari Coker wrote a version of Wallace’s life that would be palatable for Hollywood audiences and missed an opportunity to tell a more meaningful story.
Biggie Smalls’ rise on the music scene led to a bitter rivalry between West Coast and East Coast rappers, which some insiders believed was fueled by the labels to increase sales. In the end two of each regions most visible players would be murdered. Tupac Shakur, from the West, was the first one slain, followed by Biggie Smalls less than a year later. Their untimely deaths has turned each rapper into an icon.
The impact these two rappers had is only hinted at, which is a shame because Biggie Smalls’ music is still influencing rappers today.