Notorious on the B.I.G. screen

By Hana Nobel, News Correspondent

The much-buzzed-about biopic ‘Notorious’ was released Jan. 16, with fans lined up to witness the story of Chris Wallace, better known as Notorious B.I.G., Biggie or Biggie Smalls. He is often called one of the greatest rappers of all time. The film opens with Biggie’s premature death:’ He was shot to death in Los Angeles while trying to bring peace between the sides of the East Coast-West Coast rap battle.

The story then rewinds to Brooklyn in 1983, where an elementary school-aged Wallace is being raised by his single mother, Voletta (Angela Basset). Young Wallace is played by Biggie’s real-life son, Christopher Jordan Wallace.

Although, as a child, Wallace pledged to become successful, he gets caught up in drug deals. It’s only after Wallace (now played by actor Jamal Woolard) is released from prison that he adopts the B.I.G. moniker to’ pursue his dream of becoming a rapper. With help from Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs (Derek Luke), Biggie begins to realize that dream, but as he laments in one of his most popular songs, with ‘mo’ money’ come ‘mo’ problems.’ He butchers relationships with ‘Lil’ Kim’ Jones (Naturi Naughton) and singer Faith Evans (Antonique Smith), and neglects the two children he fathered.

Though Biggie tries to turn his life around, he is caught up in the murder of friend and fellow rapper Tupac Shakur (Anthony Mackie). The film depicts that Biggie had no involvement in the death and shows it was the media that blew up the East Coast-West Coast rap battle that ultimately lead to Biggie’s untimely death ‘- a highlight for some fans of hip-hop history.

Jamal Woolard was a convincing choice as Biggie. A first time actor, Woolard put on weight for the role and carefully studied Biggie’s swagger, style and signature speech. Luke’s rendering of Puffy was unexceptional, though, especially considering Combs was executive producer of the film. Basset shone in particular as Biggie’s mother.

During Biggie’s childhood, a little girl told him that he was ‘too fat, black and ugly’ to be in a magazine. She would be shocked to see fans lined up to celebrate the story of his life. Throughout the country, parties were held to celebrate’ the release of Notorious. At Om Restaurant and Lounge in Harvard Square, for instance, fans came dressed as characters from the movie. Both fans of Biggie and the movie Notorious showcase Biggie’s status as an idol:’ the hero of East Coast rap.

But does he deserve to be celebrated as such?

‘Heroes should be people like Dr. King [Jr.] and Malcolm X,’ said Meghna Patel, a freshman pharmacy major, echoing an idea presented by Tupac in the movie.

Instead, Biggie is a former drug dealer who is involved in gang violence and adultery.

‘ ‘That’s what pop culture revolves around,’ said freshman pharmacy major Alexi Plantamuro.’ ‘It’s not necessarily a good thing, but that’s what it is.’

Plantamuro said she doesn’t understand the hype surrounding Biggie, but other Northeastern students said they disagree.

‘B.I.G. was an insanely good freestylist and amazing writer,’ said Dave Kaherl, a freshman music industry major. ‘There have been a lot of movies about artists who have died young, including Tupac.’ It was Biggie’s time to shine.’

‘ Part of what makes Notorious work is that it deals with Biggie’s flaws as well as his success.’ This was primarily because Voletta Wallace, Biggie’s mother, was a producer of the film and wanted to ensure a fair view of her son.

‘Consider where he came from, selling crack. He made it to be successful, he must have done something right,’ said Andrew Cutting, a freshman marketing major. ‘Every hero has his flaws.’

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