Notorious B.I.G.’s legacy is extended to Hollywood

By by Justin Jacobs

‘ ‘ ‘ As a tiny, Jewish suburban white boy growing up in Amish country Pennsylvania, I always… ‘ ‘ ‘ As a tiny, Jewish suburban white boy growing up in Amish country Pennsylvania, I always felt that Notorious B.I.G. spoke directly to me. ‘ ‘ ‘ When he would rap, ‘It was all a dream, I used to read Word Up Magazine,’ I would substitute Newsweek and nod along, occasionally saying aloud, ‘Bay-beh, Bay-beh.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ Like a giant father figure, his slow, syrupy voice came through my stereo speakers and told me to get off my boney ass and make something of myself. And I took his advice to heart, quickly rising to prominence as the premier hip-hop superstar of my generation, selling millions of records about hustling the streets, being kind to my moms and getting with mad bitches. ‘ ‘ ‘ OK, so that last part isn’t exactly the truth, but Notorious B.I.G.’s influence on music, hip-hop fans and (truthfully) me was undeniably huge ‘mdash; bigger than the man himself. ‘ ‘ ‘ And now, 12 years after he was tragically gunned down in L.A., he’ll be further immortalized in the new biographic flick ‘Notorious,’ which opens this week. ‘ ‘ ‘ Biggie isn’t the first famous music star to have his story told through film, and he certainly won’t be the last, but his flick is an interesting case. ‘ ‘ ‘ First off, his story is certainly one of the more recent ones to be committed to the silver screen. ‘Ray’ followed Ray Charles through his childhood and young adulthood in the pre-rock ‘n’ roll South. ‘Walk the Line’ saw Johnny Cash shrouded in black through the late ’60s, but went no further. ‘ ‘ ‘ Now there have been semi-biographical movies portraying more recent stories ‘mdash; most notably Eminem’s ‘8 Mile’ and 50 Cent’s ‘Get Rich or Die Trying.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ But here’s the difference as I see it ‘mdash; the older-story biopics work because they portray a world far removed from where we are now. ‘ ‘ ‘ The country music touring circuit in the 1950s, for example, is a far cry from that of today. The newer-story biopics, thus far, have portrayed artists before they made it big, similarly portraying views of the artists that are far from our conceptions. 50 Cent’s flick, for example, attempted to realize the near-mythic proportion back story he’d been writing about for years. ‘ ‘ ‘ With ‘Notorious,’ though, we’ve got a slight change ‘mdash; sure, the movie does portray Biggie’s background and upbringing but also his success, and in doing so shows characters that are still in the spotlight today. Can we take seriously a flick with an actor playing P. Diddy, the confidante and producer before he became the media whore that we know so well? Can we take a Lil’ Kim character seriously, or will it be tragic to watch her pre-fame character knowing that today, she’s all but washed up? ‘ ‘ ‘ Will the movie be good? ‘ ‘ ‘ Sure, probably. Biggie’s story of rise to fame from a childhood of drug deals and ghetto life is inspiring, no doubt, and the mystique surrounding the man is, while not as vibrant as Tupac’s, certainly intriguing. ‘ ‘ ‘ But wouldn’t we believe the flick more if filmmakers had waited a few more years, or, say, 10, to release it? Not because Biggie isn’t a legend already ‘mdash; he is ‘mdash; but because so many of his surrounding characters are still in the news daily. We need time to separate ourselves from the world of Biggie so that when his movie does drop, it is, like ‘Ray’ or ‘Walk the Line,’ an entirely different world full of nostalgic references, musical memories and a soundtrack of ‘I remember that track!’ moments. ‘ ‘ ‘ On the flip side, Jamal Woolard, an actual Brooklyn rapper who plays Biggie, is eerily right on. His penguin-like swagger, his slow drawl and deep voice are like the ghost of Christopher Wallace hitting the screen. He’s not the problem here ‘mdash; it’s the secondary characters that worry me. ‘ ‘ ‘ The movie will probably kill at the box office, launch the career of Woolard and boost the already successful post-mortem career of B.I.G., but I can’t help but wonder ‘mdash; are we ready to see Mr. Making the Band as Mr. Making the Biggie? ‘ ‘ ‘ Head to Justin’s music blog,, for concert reviews, more music musings and breaking news.