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Reflecting on A Notorious Time In Hip Hop Jan 17, 2009

Reflecting on A Notorious Time In Hip Hop  Jan 17, 2009

Reflecting on A Notorious Time In Hip Hop Jan 17, 2009

By Matt & Craig Clizbe of Clizbeats.com

It was around 6pm on Wednesday night in north

Philadelphia. We made our way to the Pearl Theater right across the street from our old apartment at Temple University.

As we walked into the Philadelphia screening of Fox Searchlight’s film Notorious, the bio pic about the Bad Boy Entertainment rapper, The Notorious B.I.G., it was clear this night was all about memories for Clizbeats. Here we are across the street from the old apartment that Clizbeats.com was created in, about to watch a film about a man we grew up listening to. It was a night full of déjà vu from the beginning. Even though Clizbeats.com and Bad Boy Records regularly support each other now, we do not usually disclose how much of that era’s hip hop music influenced us as we grew up. So the Bad Boy Elizabet’s is well known for working with that includes stories about MTV, Day 26 and Donnie Klang is gone just for one night. This is because just for this night we were transported back to the place in the mid 90s where it all began. The kid in both of us was awakened, as Craig and Matt of Clizbeats.com were reminded how Hip Hop was once “Notorious.”

Reflecting on A Notorious Time In Hip Hop  Jan 17, 2009

Reflecting on A Notorious Time In Hip Hop Jan 17, 2009

As the film started it was easy to see that any fan can look at this movie as the well known story of their favorite hip hop heavyweight that would eventually clash in an east coast, west coast battle as if it was made just for them. One of the best parts of the story was a flash back sequence of B.I.G’s childhood likeness, played by his own son, CJ. The whole youth sequence of this movie made us smile.  This part of the movie had Voletta Wallace’s finger prints all over it. It was carrying the same warmth, kindness and nostalgia of the loving mother we see in any of her media appearances.  The memories of Voletta Wallace would remain some of the most detailed parts of the entire film.  The only criticism that would fall on Momma Wallace’s shoulders is the fact that their Jamaican decent, that most Biggie die hards knew as a strong musical influence was only mention through one ambiguous line of her, “coming to the States.”

The hustling and other activities were more then fairly represented as a large part of his story.  However, because B.I.G.’s mother wasn’t a part of it, most of the illegal activity Biggie was a part of was shown while omitting the detail and emotional reasoning. Even though anyone can walk away feeling like they got something from this movie, any audience member that wasn’t already well versed in the history of Biggie and/or Bad Boy Records, will not grasp the story to the same degree, due to lack of context.

The memories of Voetta Wallace, would remain some of the most detailed parts of the entire film reflecting the heavy production roles held by her and B.I.G.’s former manager’s Mark Pitts and Wayne Barrow. The film was mainly focused on the character of the man Christopher Wallace rather than the Rap star The Notorious B.I.G..  Even though it shows his success with the music industry, his actual Rap songs and albums were secondary plots to the film.

Reflecting on A Notorious Time In Hip Hop  Jan 17, 2009

Reflecting on A Notorious Time In Hip Hop Jan 17, 2009

Jamal Woolard’s performance as Biggie was one that had a lot of soul and was very believable. It was easy to see he had worked very hard on getting to know everything about Biggie, including the way he held the microphone and how he spoke. He truly showed us who the man was we all listened to on our radios. He also showed us Biggie the man, who grew emotionally from a young teen to a maturing young man embracing responsibility.

Reflecting on A Notorious Time In Hip Hop  Jan 17, 2009

Reflecting on A Notorious Time In Hip Hop Jan 17, 2009

Angela Bassett who played

Voletta Wallace led a strong cast of supporting females who were in B.I.G.’s life. Bassett’s portrayal of B.I.G.’s mother was one of the group of female roles that provided the film’s strongest foundation. It also showed us that even though there were some mistakes that were clearly made in his life, B.I.G. had a very honest and genuine heart when it came to his friendships. Bassett’s Ms. Wallace’s wide range of emotions throughout her son’s life on screen showed that playing her was no easy task. However with that said, Bassett does so in a way that appears almost effortless.

The other female roles in the film that helped it take shape were Lil’ Kim played by Naturi Naughton and B.I.G.’s wife, Faith Evans played by up and coming singer, Antonique Smith. Like the role of B.I.G.’s mother, these other female roles are some of the most difficult but important roles of the film.Naughton’s portrayal of Lil’ Kim was possibly some of the best acting and most emotional contribution to the film. It can be argued that Kim’s introduction in the film was a bit rushed, however, whenever on screen ….

Reflecting on A Notorious Time In Hip Hop  Jan 17, 2009 Pic 5Naughton embodied everything good and bad that was a young Lil’ Kim mentored by Biggie.  Her performance needs to be applauded! Last but not least was Antonique Smith as B.I.G’s wife and Bad Boy label mate, Faith Evans.

Reflecting on A Notorious Time In Hip Hop  Jan 17, 2009 Pic 6

Reflecting on A Notorious Time In Hip Hop Jan 17, 2009

It is no secret in B.I.G’s life story that he was a bit of a playboy, therefore to be able to play his wife can be an obvious challenge. Plus Faith Evans is also a very gifted soul singer who has a very distinct look to her. Antonique Smith nailed down the part in all ways needed. There were scenes when she would have conversations with Biggie and her voice even sounds like Evans’ speaking voice! Plus Smith is a singer herself, so in a scene in which she is in the studio with Puffy singing Evans’ single, “You Used To Love Me”, it was as if you were looking at the real Faith Evans singing to you in the recording studio. There were also some very dramatic scenes Smith had to play reflecting B.I.G. and Evans’ rocky but at the same time loving marriage. Everything about her made you want to know the real Faith Evans as you feel her joy and pain that was in the film.

The movie’s canvas of Bad Boy Entertainment was limited, but it was nice to see how the film did show the chemistry between B.I.G. and Puffy.

Reflecting on A Notorious Time In Hip Hop  Jan 17, 2009

Reflecting on A Notorious Time In Hip Hop Jan 17, 2009

Derek Luke did a wonderful job as the equally flamboyant and complicated young Sean “Puffy” Combs, with very little of his character’s background put into the proper context in the script. The essence of Puff came through mostly when the film showed how much fun they had together on stage. Luke brought a lot to the part of Puffy when performing alongside a larger than life Notorious B.I.G. on screen.

Reflecting on A Notorious Time In Hip Hop Dereck Luke

Reflecting on A Notorious Time In Hip Hop Jan 17, 2009

It is Important to mention, the music detail omissions are conspicuous.   Different, cue’s of music and unexplained chart montages were used to ambiguously signify the success of specific hit singles. But B.I.G.’s friendships with Jay-Z as well as his Bad Boy label mates, 112, The Lox or Mase, were not even in the film. The canvas of Bad Boy Entertainment was as if these people did not even exist. However everyone of those artists did appear on B.I.G.’s Life After Death album and Puff Daddy’s debut, No Way Out from that same year.

A lot of what is being brought up is common for any bio film.  Oftentimes the issue becomes how the writers of a film can fit everything in to everyone’s liking.  The time span that was being covered in the film had so much going on around B.I.G. and Bad Boy, that it was probably a very difficult task to cover everything. However with that said, it did bring Clizbeats down memory lane with convincing performances that reminded us of a time in Hip Hop that once was.

We encourage everyone who has ever listened to a Hip Hop song from today or yesterday to give this film a look. It is the first of its kind to tell the story of one of the most influential times in the genre’s history. As you watch the film you will find it hard to believe that this was all because of one man who helped make music Notorious.