To say that Biggie has had a huge impact on the music industry is an understatement.
The Notorious B.I.G’s (Christopher Wallace) influence is immeasurable and has inspired many contemporary rappers. As a result of B.I.G’s skill, triumph, and shock death, he has been the subject of many posthumous documentaries.
Biggie’s music was revolutionary. In the late 90s, it was a pivotal point where hip-hop was beginning to get increasingly commercial. This was fuelled by B.I.G’s talent and unique flair, but also the rise in the East/West Coast feud.
The death of Tupac Shakur was the subject of many conspiracies, which also rocked Biggie’s reputation; many speculating they were both involved in something a lot bigger than their music. As a result, many know of Biggie and Tupac due to the conspiracies of their deaths and their ‘feud’.
However, this latest Netflix documentary attempts to shed a different kind of spotlight on the hip-hop legend by downplaying sensationalised tabloid aspects of his life.
Getting to know the real Biggie
Instead of the production company feeding off the public’s interest in their deaths and the unsolved mystery aspect, they have used a different, more holistic angle of Biggie’s life.
We get to really know Biggie; from his ethnic background, economic background, and how New York served as the perfect backdrop that built him into the legend he was.
This documentary aimed to create a ‘set’ of the rough streets of Brooklyn during the late 90s. It replicated aspects that spurred Biggie’s creativity and life. There are interviews with his mother, grandmother, and old friends who were in the backdrop with him and saw his rise to fame.
Consequently, this documentary was built on a bed of honesty and integrity in comparison to the many previous documentaries. The film-makers wanted to capture every aspect of his life and immerse the audience in his world, such as Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.
This allows for a greater, more personal, scope on Biggie. Therefore aiming to celebrate him as a person, rather than a subject of mystery.
The importance of a change in narrative
This makes for a powerful documentary. Because as fans, we are tired of watching conspiracies and overly glamourised versions of people’s lives. We want to celebrate these legends for who they were and how they managed to build themselves up. Particularly those who lived in conditions that could have held them down.
We want to be inspired and celebrate a great life.
It’s a great ode to Biggie and his impact on the world. This documentary explains why his music was so important and what it helped him through. In fact, it explains what inspired him to devote himself to his music. It shows Biggie as a talented person who wanted better for himself and his family.
Despite Hypnotize being one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time, this documentary aims to stray away from the ‘real millionaire’ image he built during the height of his career.
My favourite aspect of this documentary is the journey we take with Biggie. We feel like we’re part of his rise to fame. The producers did not begin this documentary with the dark aspects of his fame. Instead, we start with history, context and culture. We get to know the influences beyond his rap career, such as his uncle, as well as the hurdles life threw at him to produce his iconic first album Ready to Die. We get to know how Ready to Die created worldwide shockwaves and how it still remains as spine-tinglingly powerful today.
Overall, this documentary is unique and has built on what people crave in a sea of conspiracy documentaries.
Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell is available to watch on Netflix.