Words: Giulia Lombardo
On March 9th, 1997, the American rapper Notorious B.I.G was pronounced dead by the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Hollywood, where he had been rushed to rescue him. Four gunshots to the chest coming from the window of a Chevrolet Impala prematurely enshrine the end of a life at barely twenty years old, in which the echo of death seemed to resonate left and premonitory already at the time of his lyrics from the albums ‘Ready to Die’ (1994) and ‘Life After Death’ (1997). But like other musical myths that disappeared at a young age, death is the fatal element that makes them such, a tragic prelude but – alas – essential to make the artist a sacred image to hang on the wall of legends.
In the aftermath of Notorious B.I.G. ’s historic induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and just before his 50th birthday, ‘Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell’ reviews the story of one of the greatest and most influential rappers ever through the eyes of those who really knew him. In a circular narrative, which finds in the end the infinite prolongation of his musical and human heritage, the documentary by Emmet Malloy ‘Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell’ pays homage to the controversial existence of Christopher George Latore Wallace aka Biggie, and it tells the personal tale of a man who has remained at the center of the rap scene for over twenty years, from the rapid rise to tragic death.
Netflix’s musical narrative is strong, striking, straight, like the rhymes of B.I.G. It punches powerfully in the stomach of the spectator who – after learning to know and understand in part the songs of the universe of Poppa – freezes during the narration of the feud between West and East Coast. The hero of Brooklyn is everything that the creative inspiration wishes and dreams of being able to create: ability to adapt, read music, reinvent itself over the years. The maturity of Christopher’s writing, flow, genius is out of the ordinary, and it’s only a matter of time before everything melts like snow in the sun.
The rhythm of the movie is also delivered and perceivable by the continuous alternation of amateur movies (mostly made by his own friends) and official videos between TV, awards and radio, that match and align with the flow the movie aims to convey.
The modulation in the evolution of Netflix’s production is constant; the beat is the reflection of Biggie’s voice. Smooth but sharp. Among the memories of the childhood friends of The Notorious B.I.G., the images taken by a camera from D-Roc, because he wanted every moment of his life to be recorded, his interviews and his mother’s words, emerges Christopher Wallas, the human side behind the legend. From the beginning the movie is filled with raw and real anecdotes, offering us countless tastes of everyday life. The vision takes us into a world of delinquency, poverty, fame and success; a life dictated by the law of retaliation, depicted in the rawest way possible, leaving nothing to imagination.
The atonement, subconsciously, takes place on the stage while shouting at the crowd and singing at the microphone. The vibe is clear, even if most people didn’t live B.I.G in his success, didn’t witness it live, the message is transparent: Biggie’s not just a rapper, he’s the East Coast. He’s Brooklyn.
His style takes hold of the American scene, also managing to battle with monsters such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and, of course, 2pac. The big New York boy, in no time, has revolutionized everything, and everyone is incredulous of his talent.
With ‘Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell’ Netflix manages to fully center the focus: you don’t need to emphasize a story to tell an icon, just tell the truth.
The newly-released docufilm is a little gem of this world: an original product, fresh, seasoned by the gangsta rap style that has shaped the world. The stories and tales enter inside, while we are transported by the hits of ‘Ready to Die’ (both in the background and live) the album that consolidated the genius that is Biggie Smalls.
A bittersweet story, rich in lucid madness, brilliant ambition and creative art. A life on the edge, destined to forever rewrite the pages of music, becoming an icon; a narrative able to dispel some taboos, readjust the shot of many falsehoods and, above all, to raise again the legend of this incredible artist. Because Biggie was all this, a man of the people, spokesman for a world too deep and intricate to be explained, but perfect for rapping about.