Rap legacy brought to screen

“Notorious,” the life and death story of hip-hop icon Biggie Smalls, was enlightening. The young Christopher Wallace played by actor Jamal Woolard presented the audience with a memoir of his life. The movie begins where it ends, in the moments of Biggie’s death. The movie gives us pieces of Biggie’s life in the ghetto as a sheltered child to his rise to rap stardom.  

Biggie’s mother, Voletta Wallace, played by Angela Bassett, was captivating as she portrayed the fear and joy of bringing up a young black man in a crack infested neighborhood in the 198os. Like many single parents, Voletta did her best to provide for her child, only to watch him go down the wrong path. Still supportive, she forced her son to grow up and except his responsibilities.

At a very young age, Biggie got involved with dealing drugs with his best friend, D-Roc, played by actor Dennis L.A. White. At 18-years-old, Biggie fathered a child with then high school sweetheart Jan portrayed by actress  Julia Pace Mitchell. Biggie is then inspired to seriously work on his rap career after becoming a father and facing a second prison sentence.

Actor Derek Luke portrays Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs, the producer who gets Biggie on his label and motivates him to leave his risky lifestyle behind. His character’s words kept the movie encouraging and energetic.

Actress Naturi Naughton was taken along for the ride as Biggie’s lover turned rapper Kimberly ‘Lil Kim’ Jones. She became one of the first of many hip-hop artists to be inspired by Biggie’s music.

Biggie effectively uses his smooth charm and sense of humor to sway another love interest, singer Faith Evans, played by Antonique Smith. Biggie’s marriage to Faith is a turning point in how he deals with his relationships.

The movie also shows Biggie’s legendary friendship and clash with rapper Tupac Shakur, played by actor Anthony Mackie.  The industry changing altercation of the east coast-west coast rivalry and the death of Tupac proved to be a heartrending milestone in Biggie’s life.

It was only at the end of his brief life that Biggie realized what he had been learning all along. After a rough start, even when he made it to the top, there was only an abrupt ending awaiting him. Nothing in his life was made for him to be successful; it was only through his talent and determination that he was able to make it at all.

“Notorious” was a visual version of Biggie’s musical legacy. Even though many of the accounts shown in the movie were no secret to moviegoers, the film was still revealing and refreshing to see that young man, whose life was cut so short, come so far.