Film Review: Notorious
Jamal “Gravy” Woolard as the Notorious B.I.G. in Notorious
Boss Lady was recently part of a select group of media chosen to attend a press junket held by Fox Searchlight in New York City for Notorious, the upcoming biopic about the life and death of the Notorious B.I.G.
The day began with a bus tour of Brooklyn in honor of BIG, hosted by the late rapper’s manager (and co-producer of the film) Wayne Barrow.
The first stop was Westinghouse High School, where Biggie first met fellow students Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes (“They used to battle in the hallways, stairways and outside”, commented Barrow):
Westinghouse High School
Next stop was Brooklyn favorite Junior’s, a restaurant renown for its cheesecake (“If you’re from Brooklyn, you’ve eaten at Junior’s”, said Barrow):
The bus then headed into Brooklyn and stopped at Queen of All Saints, Big’s middle school at 300 Vanderbilt Ave. Neighborhood kids starting throwing rocks at the bus and Barrow laughed, commenting “That’s how we say welcome around here”):
Queen of All Saints
Finally the bus reached 226 St. James Place (now considered Clinton Hill, formerly Bedford-Stuyvesant), the apartment building where Big grew up that’s also featured in the movie. This was the spot “where he used to hustle, where he used to eat his chicken wings and fried rice when he was broke”, said Barrow.
Voletta Wallace, Big’s mom, met everyone at the front of the building:
Wayne Barrow and Voletta Wallace at 226 St. James Place
Ms Wallace talked to the crowd of journalists about living on the third floor, about how Big used to throw parties at the Orient Temple across the street, about how he was a young boy growing up.
Wayne Barrow and Ms Wallace then walked the group over to the corner of St. James and Fulton Street, talking about how Big used to hustle on the corner. The onto Golden Krust, the Jamaican fast-food eatery where everyone was served free patties and Ting (grapefruit) soda:
Voletta Wallace and the media in front of Golden Krust on Fulton Street
Everyone was then ushered back onto the bus and headed to Magno Screening Rooms in Times Square for a preview screening of the film.
FILM REVIEW: Notorious
Notorious is a must-see movie for any fan of hip-hop music and culture.
The film begins with the emphatic strains of Biggie’s hit “Hypnotize”, where Biggie, Puffy and their crew are holding down the VIP at the VIBE Magazine party they attended on the tragic last night of Big’s life. It then flashes back to Big as a schoolboy (played by his real-life son Christopher “CJ” Wallace Jr). Angela Bassett plays Voletta Wallace, capturing her Jamaican accent and mild yet direct manner. Jamal “Gravy” Woolard is introduced as an older Biggie in a role that was meant for him; his resemblance to the title character in every way is simply eerie.
As Big grows up and starts hustling, it’s clear where his priorities lie (“Drug-dealing was like my wife. Rap was just a chick on the side” he says in the voiceover). But after he’s locked-up twice and his daughter T’yanna is born, he changes his tune. His natural lyrical talent and raw music soon end up catching the ear of upcoming music executive Sean “Puffy” Combs (played by Derek Luke, who will have viewers smiling from ear to ear with his flamboyant portrayal). Big says to Puff, “Maybe in the right hands…I could be one of the greatest” and from that moment on, the 90s-era reign of Bad Boy Records begins.
The film’s actors (including Anthony Mackie as Tupac Shakur, Naturi Naughton as Lil Kim, Antonique Smith as Faith Evans) obviously understand the historical importance of the characters they’re playing – especially Mackie, who possibly had the most difficult task of emulating one of hip-hop’s most beloved, debated and immortalized figures and who does a solid job.
Many infamous incidents are covered in the film, from Big and Tupac’s contentious friendship, to ‘Pac’s shooting at Quad Studios, The Source Awards where Suge Knight inflamed East Coast/West Coast “beef”, the tragic scene outside the VIBE party and more – all told from Big’s perspective of course.
The final scene is heart-wrenching, portraying Big’s funeral and the cavalcade of cars that traveled through Brooklyn streets afterwards. The streets are lined with thousands of his fans and the sombre mood turns into a joyous celebration of the man and his music as soon as someone decides to blast “Hypnotize” once again.
Notorious is a spirited, passionate, earnest tribute to one of the best to ever do it. Make sure you head out to the cinema when it’s released on January 16.