Last night (Aug. 17) in New York City at the Director's Guild of America, cable powerhouse A&E premiered the much-anticipated documentary "Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G."
While the life story of Christopher "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace has been documented in a slew of television shows and films, most recently Diddy's "Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A Bad Boy Story," this is the first documentary to be fully authorized by Big's Estate (the Estate also spearheaded the 2009 biopic "Notorious").
Faith Evans, Big's widow, and his mother Voletta Wallace serve as executive producers, and were both on hand at the screening, along with CJ Wallace (Evans and Big's son), Big's best friends Damion "D-Roc" Butler and Lil Cease, Busta Rhymes, Jadakiss, Murder Mook, Consequence, producer Easy Moe Bee, and Bad Boy Entertainment President Harve Pierre among others.
JAY-Z, Nas, and Diddy all appear in the film and give insightful perspectives on Biggie as a man, friend and entertainer, as do Ms. Wallace, Faith, Cease and members of the Junior M.A.F.I.A. However, the most gripping moments in the doc come from the words of its centerpiece, Biggie. Not only do we see archived footage from Big's interviews, but Cheo Hodari Coker - journalist, author and showrunner for Netflix's "Luke Cage" - opened up his vault and allowed A&E to use never-before-heard audio from interviews he had with Big that were used in magazines. Big actually acts as the narrator of his documentary, speaking on everything from not wanting to know his father who abandoned him, questioning Faith about the rumors she slept with Tupac, and his aspirations in music and business.
Director Mark Ford told the audience his goal was to make a "love story" with the documentary and "Biggie" certainly conveys and centers around that: Big's love fore his mother and children, his love for Evans and Lil' Kim, his love for Puff Daddy, Lil Cease and the Junior M.A.F.I.A. and his love for music. The love that propelled him to be one of the most genius MC we've ever heard.
JAY-Z talks about his and Big's friendship and their healthy , friendly competition when it came to music. Hov describe it as two basketball players who go at it on the court and then go to the movies afterwards. Nas described Biggie as being "the one," the total package as a hip-hop star. Ms. Wallace talks about listening to Biggie's music for the first time, in a moment that will have you bare minimum glassy eyed.
"Biggie" however is far from a somber journey, even though we all know how the trip ends. It captures Biggie's humor and charisma. The audience laughed loudly at some of the stories about his infidelity as, well as a part where Ms. Wallace throws away what she thought to be old, dried up mashed "potatoes." We definitely feel the love that Big tried to spread "the Brooklyn way" and how it was reciprocated by everyone. The late, great King of New York's fans are bound to fall in love with the rap legend all over again after seeing the doc, and those unfamiliar with the Notorious one will get enraptured for the first time.
Ford said one of the most surprising revelations about making the film was "The greatness of his lyrical ability."
"Not many people have that resonance for over 20 years," the filmmaker marveled.
Afterwards during a panel moderated by DJ Enuff (Big's DJ) with Ford, Cease, Evans and Ms. Wallace, they spoke further on Biggie.
When asked what Biggie would be doing today, Ms. Wallace said she really didn't know.
"It's very possible he could be in jail today," she said surprising the audience. "Ooh, I'm not done yet. Maybe he would be living in Bora Bora with 500 women. Maybe he would be hanging around in some paradise somewhere with his children and friends."
Evans said Big would be musically mentoring their 20-year-old son CJ, who is entering the entertainment realm.
Afterwards, a few doors down at Le Parker Meriden, there was after party on the rooftop where you could see Ms. Wallace and Biggie's manager Mark Pitts dancing to "One More Chance," Cease and D-Roc taking pics, CJ talking to Jadakiss, and Faith surrounded by friends.
"We're at the after party to the Biggie documentary," Cease said. "It's the best documentary you ever seen on B.I. and the whole family is here. We are celebrating B.I."
"Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G." airs on A&E on Monday, September 4.