Thursday, January 22, 2009
Notorious BIG: Bigger Than Life
"Poppa been smooth since days of underoos"
I was largely oblivious to the infamous East Coast/West Coast rap feud of the mid '90's, since it didn't seem very relevant to a white guy in Milwaukee. If my allegiance could be determined by record sales, I was pure West Coast. I owned a pair of Tupac CD's, and Dre's Chronic was on frequent rotation on my stereo.
Even so it was hard to escape the influence of East Coast rapper Biggie Smalls, a man widely respected by everyone in the industry, even Tupac. That last one says a lot, since the Biggie/Tupac feud was at the very center of the West/East Coast dispute that eventually led to both of their murders.
Notorious BIG: Bigger than Life is a documentary that traces the life of Biggie - aka Christopher Wallace. It is NOT the current feature film based on his life.
It doesn't focus soley on his music career, interviewing many of his pre-sucess friends and showing home movies of Biggie rapping at a street festival. The movie, which runs two and a half hours, also includes an interview with Biggie filmed shortly before his death, footage of the LA radio interview that may have triggered his murder, tape recordings of death threats, and actual fan video of his murder.
I took two things from the film. First, while his interview was only so-so, his personality as shown in candid moments and the home video revealed a friendly and entertaining man. Second, from all apperances he sought to avoid inciting the coastal feud, ignoring provacations and once talking himself out of a murderous ambush set up by a West Coast rapper. He rapped to escape the streets; it appears he had no intention of using his fame to meet the same predicatble end.
An aquired taste I'm sure, but if you have even a small interest in rap or the pop culture of the '90's, take a look at this documentary. Heck, it made me want to see the major motion picture of Biggie, but I'll wait for the DVD.
Here's a sample of Biggie's work, Hypnotize. Warning: sexual content and vulgar language. .
Note: some of the lyrics on the video are wrong. 'Speak my peace" etc is written as 'piece', and I believe 'Air Nike' should be "e'ery night"