On Monday, March 1, 2021, Netflix dropped a new Netflix Original Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell. Every legend has an origin story. Christopher Wallace, AKA The Notorious B.I.G., remains one of Hip-Hop’s icons, renowned for his distinctive flow and autobiographical lyrics. This documentary celebrates his life via rare behind-the-scenes footage and the testimonies of his closest friends and family. Netflix recommends that you watch this before watching the actual documentary.
Directed by Emmett Malloy, one of hip-hop’s most iconic figures Christopher ‘Biggie’ Wallace told his story in his own words. Produced by his mother, Voletta Wallace, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Mark Pitts, Wayne Barrow, and more. The film consists of testimony from those who were closest to him.
We have heard the story of Biggie being told to us since his untimely death. We have seen the story through the eyes of many different productions such as the 2002 documentary Biggie & Tupac, Notorious, and the limited series Unsolved. Never have we really heard the stories through the eyes of Biggie.
The documentary navigates through personal home-made videos dated back to 1995, and testimonies mostly from his mother Voletta Wallace, Diddy, his wife Faith Evans, and his childhood friend Damion ‘D Roc’ Butler.
When the documentary comes on the first home-video we see is a recording of Biggie in his hotel room before a show. D Roc provided the personal footage, as it was him that captured most of Biggie’s career. We saw Biggie through his eyes as a growing teenager that struggled with street life and selling drugs as well as his career growth. In a 90 minute film, we saw Biggie go from a corner-hustling teenager to the most famous rapper of his time.
Of course, we knew that P Diddy would be around to give his reflections of Biggie and his legacy. Diddy mentions how Biggie was really into R&B before rap.
“Biggie was really like an R&B writer, he was like an R&B singer. It was rare that he be rapping, he was always singing somebody song”.
Diddy continues to reflect on Biggie as he remembered him. He reflects on when he told Biggie that he had to choose between selling drugs or music but it couldn’t be both, Biggie chose music and never looked back. When Biggie released ‘Ready To Die’, Diddy described it as being straight from Biggie’s heart and that it wasn’t for the money.
Biggie’s mother, Voletta Wallace talks about bringing Christopher (as she always called him) to her native home in Jamaica as a child. As a child, Donald Harrison, a jazz artist who moved to the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn in the ’80s saw the potential in young Biggie his neighbor, the future rapper, and helping to shape his future. Ms. Wallace described how she listened to her son’s music once and was shocked by its content. After Biggie told her to “stay the hell away from his music”, she never listened to it again.
Biggie’s gift for lyrical storytelling showed his talent right from the start, with his singles like “Juicy,” “Big Poppa,” and “One More Chance” all racing up the charts. At just 24 years old, Biggie Smalls was on top of the world, with a Grammy nomination, critical acclaim, and millions of fans around the world. He later changed his name from Biggie Smalls after Tim Bigelow “Biggy Smallz” said he would sue Biggie for everything that he had if he didn’t stop using his name. From that point forward he went by The Notorious B.I.G.
There are some areas that do feel a bit rushed. Although there is some mention of it the film does not go in-depth about Biggie selling crack, his relationship with his daughter’s mother Jan Jackson, his wife Faith Evans, and his protégé Lil Kim. The film however does reserve about the last 20 minutes of the film to highlight the senseless feud between Tupac ‘2Pac’ Shakur and Biggie.
While things were on the rise for Biggie, his friendship with Tupac started to get shaky as the east coast and west coast beef started. Tupac was later gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. The film never really goes into much detail or tell what sparked the feud. If you don’t already know the story behind these two icons, then you will not find much of your answer in this film. The film shows some of Biggie’s last interviews before he was gunned down.
Biggie was killed in California on March 9, 1977, he was 24. At the time, he’d released all of one album, Ready to Die. Life After Death, which was released two weeks after his death.
It was nice to see the personal home videos of Biggie and to hear him tell his story in his own words. It will be natural to want more from this film. It left me wanting more stories from his 96-year-old grandmother Gwendolyn, as well as his uncle Dave, credited as being a key musical influence in ways that the documentary doesn’t really illustrate. The film does touch on a little bit of Biggie’s Jazz influence.
To this day, Biggie’s music continues to entertain and inspire, but for even the most dedicated fans of Wallace’s work, there is still so much to learn about his early life and career. I Got a Story to Tell is a film that doesn’t seem to really have a target audience. If you are a fan who is familiar with every aspect of Biggie’s life and career, then this film may not satisfy your Biggie needs. However, this film is a great introductory to someone who may not be as familiar with his story and how he changed New York hip-hop history as a whole.
Watch the film and share your thoughts. I give this film an overall 6/10 rating.
See the full trailer below.