March 9th marks one of the most devastating days in hip-hop. The Notorious B.I.G., the rapper often referred to as one of the greatest lyricists of all time, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles in 1997 at 24.
Born Christopher Wallace, the rapper released two albums, Ready to Die and Life After Death, that would forever change the scope of hip-hop music. While many can repeat his vicious rhymes and recall his demanding presence, there’s so much more to the rap legend.
Netflix’s new documentary, Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell, captures B.I.G.’s fun, loving personality and explains the origin of his musical prowess. It features old interviews and video footage shot by his childhood friend, Damion Butler, including clips of B.I.G. clowning with friends in a hotel room and singing Jodeci’s “Freek’n” in a parking lot.
Sean “Diddy” Combs played an essential role in accelerating B.I.G.’s career in 1993 after releasing his first single, “Party and Bull—-” under Andre Harrell‘s Uptown Records.
“A hidden secret is that Biggie was like a R&B writer,” says Diddy in the film. “He was like a R&B singer so thats’ why you get the melodies. It was rare that he would be rapping, he would always be singing somebody else’s song.”
“This guy I don’t know where he came from with his cadence, his rhythms, with his sound, his approach [and] with his confidence,” Diddy continued. “You have no origins from what rap planet this guy came from.”
B.I.G.’s mother, Voletta Wallace, also appears in Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell to speak of her son’s life, which began with his childhood growing up on the gritty streets of Brooklyn, New York. The film also reveals B.I.G. lived down the street from legendary jazz saxophonist Donald Harrison, who recalls introducing Biggie to different percussion and drum sounds. “I was initially trying to groom Chris to be a jazz artist because he was so talented,” says Harrison.
Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell also reveals Biggie’s love for rock, reggae and country music, as well as his initial stage name, MC CWest. It also features old footage from performances with Junior M.A.F.I.A, the influential hip-hop group B.I.G. put together with rappers Lil Cease, Lil Kim and others.
Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell is now streaming on Netflix.
By Rachel George
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