Weekly Drawing Number Two: “Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell”
My second weekly drawing is inspired by the one and only Notorious B.I.G., known to his mother and friends as Christopher Wallace of Fulton Street in Brooklyn, New York. Songs such as “Hypnotize” and “Big Poppa” transformed and mainstreamed Hip Hop by incorporating musical influences ranging from Reggae to Jazz. The recent Netflix documentary “Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell,” released on March 1st, 2021, captures the life of Christopher Wallace through raw footage and interviews from his mother, family and childhood friends. While the documentary is explicit and raw at times, with descriptions of the street violence in the 1980’s in New York, the filmmakers skillfully use footage of Christopher and his mother to show his loving and caring personality.
Retracing his formative years, the documentary highlights Wallace’s early exposure to his Jamaican heritage, as his mother Voletta Wallace describes how his annual visits to Jamaica expanded his musical reputare. Additionally, his close neighbor and mentor is featured, with time devoted to how this musician and many others exposed Christopher to modern art in museums and jazz music, all of which shaped his lyrical rhythms and writing process. The documentary emphasizes how his desire to succeed musically allowed him to escape the criminal activity that surrounded him his whole life. As his street reputation and fame increased through rap battles and his feature on “Unsigned Hype,” he still remained faithful to his childhood friends, a group he refers to as the Junior Mafia.
Even if you only have a passing interest in rap, this deep dive into a formative figure in the history of hip hop will expose you to musical and social insights in a way that few documentaries have. Sadly, Biggie was killed at the age of 24, but his music left a lasting legacy and mark as 30 million of his albums were sold worldwide. He achieved greatness with the support of his family and community, in spite of being in the middle of The War on Drugs. In the words of Biggie, “it was all a dream.” He is still missed.