Review: Notorious is Worthy of Biggie

"If you're a fan of hip-hop or rap seeing Notorious is probably an obligation."


Notorious has a rough start, much like Chris Wallace, aka The Notorious B.I.G., did himself. However, it gets smoother as the story moves along, and by the end you find yourself bobbing your head in your seat, hoping this movie has a different ending than real life did. Notorious is a worthy movie because it's honest, complicated, and interesting. It should be noted that I'm a sucker for good music, and Notorious is full of solid rhymes. So if you're not a fan of hip-hop or rap then you might have less of a fun time here.

We all know the ending to this story, and only a decade has passed since the tumultuous (at least for rappers) '90s. One thing I found particularly interesting about Notorious was the light it shone on the Tupac/Biggie relationship. I hadn't realized they were friends before the big east coast/west coast falling out. I'm certain many will say this story is told from the east coast perspective, but I thought the movie handled Tupac fairly too. I didn't think any less of Shakur (and I liked him going in) after the film was over.

Another item that's been in the news lately is Lil' Kim taking offense to the way she's portrayed in the movie. I didn't know much about her music going in, but I certainly knew of her persona, and I'll again say I found Notorious to be even-handed. Yeah, she comes off as slightly irrational and more than a little sexual at times, but those seem to me to be the characteristics she exhibits in her rap and interviews. She's a live wire, that's part of why she's been successful. I also think Notorious did a great job of showing where Lil' Kim wasn't at fault, because in many ways she's was as supportive of Biggie as a person could be.

The acting in Notorious really worked for me too. Everyone was above average, and a few of the folks were downright great. Jamal Woolard's take on Biggie rose above a simple impression. He owned the spotlight, seeming like the big man come back to life. Additionally Derek Luke's Puff Daddy had a lot of balance to it. Puff Daddy, to me, has always come across as a tremendous businessman who is not above expressing himself ... even when those particular expressions come out in odd dancing gyrations. I'll end my acting critique by going back to Naturi Naughton's Lil' Kim, which was very well done.

If you're a fan of hip-hop or rap, seeing Notorious is probably an obligation. I didn't love all of Biggie's music back then, but I have a greater respect now for the road he paved for those who came after. If you actively dislike rap you're probably not going to dig this. The themes the movie touches upon are much like the ones that fill rap lyrics. Domestic violence, drug usage, dealing, and a pretty solid look at a chronically unfaithful guy probably aren't going to be the things that win you over.

Grade: B