REVIEW: Netflix's "Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell" Is about Christopher Wallace, Not the Notorious B.I.G.
On March 1, Netflix released the documentary Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell, based on the life and death of iconic Brooklyn emcee The Notorious B.I.G.
The film captures the man born Christopher Wallace as he rose to Hip-Hop superstardom through never-before-seen home video footage and untold stories from the people closest to him.
There have been many films, TV series, and documentaries that touch on various aspects of B.I.G's life. Many of them focus on his tragic unsolved murder on March 9, 1997, in Los Angeles, or his rivalry with his former friend, Tupac Shakur. However, Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell delves not only into B.I.G's past but also into the lives of influential figures who helped him become one of rap's biggest legends.
Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell | Official Trailer | Netflix youtu.be
The documentary particularly focuses on B.I.G's mother, Voletta Wallace. We learn about her migration from Jamaica to New York, her relationship with B.I.G's father before he abandoned them, and her many years spent working to provide for her son while living in the drug and crime-infested neighborhood of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.
Ms. Wallace always saw her son as Christopher, never The Notorious B.I.G. Although she was aware of her son's fame and fortune, she mostly just enjoyed that he no longer had to resort to illegal means to support the family.
B.I.G's childhood friends and members of his drug-dealing crew took a vested interest in his musical talents. They felt he possessed the potential to make it in the music industry and that his talents were God-given; all he needed to do was leave the street life and focus on honing his craft as a Hip-Hop artist.
B.I.G's intelligence and natural musical aptitude is another heavily explored theme in this documentary. His inspirations came in the form of his musician uncle in Jamaica and neighboring Jazz saxophonist, Donald Harrison. Their guidance prompted Chris to discover his love for music at a young age, which ultimately led to his obsession with Hip-Hop and rapping.
Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell is probably one of the first looks at who Christopher Wallace was at his core. Hip Hop fans are over-exposed to tales of B.I.G's exploits as a charismatic, charming once-in-a-lifetime talent in other films about him. In contrast, I Got a Story to Tell is a candid, non-sensationalized version of a naturally talented introverted prodigy.
Admittedly, the documentary makes B.I.G. out to be a hero with few flaws, despite his past in the drug trade. His tumultuous relationship with Lil Kim is glazed over to the point that her only acknowledgment is brief clips of her during Biggie's ascension. Whether or not her lack of a mention is done on purpose to preserve B.I.G's integrity, Lil Kim's erasure is only telling half of the story.
Still, the documentary is a refreshing depiction of a figure in Hip-Hop that fans thought they already knew everything about. Seeing how willing people were to nurture the Notorious B.I.G's talents adds a layer of depth to the King of New York and the aura surrounding him even two decades after his death.