I don’t know if you’ve noticed but Angela Bassett is pretty great and as such, I was encouraged to see Notorious this week against my own reservations. Why so apprehensive? Hip-Hop movies can be amazing, but often fall embarrassingly short (c) Belly. Even still, Mahogs hooked me up and I ended up at the fancy screening on Wednesday, courtesy of our friends at Sprite Green. I swear the screening was like a hip-hop family reunion. I saw everyone I’ve ever worked with, fought with (via phone, email and aim, lol) and crushed on, it was like the Fugee’s “Killin Me Softly” clip. Throw some popcorn!!!
So what’d I think of the film? It was amazing. I sat next to my girl who used to work at Bad Boy, and briefly next to D-Roc, Biggie’s best friend from the block, when you see the flick, you’ll understand his importance. For once, the round the way cats were more exciting to see and meet than Beyonce, Jay-Z, Spike Lee, Cassie, Fabolous, Jadakiss, Angela Bassett, Courtney Vance and Mary J. Blige, all of whom were there. Watching Notorious, you got a sense of Biggie’s struggle and Puffy’s struggle to build something from not much after he was fired from Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records.
The acting: Obviously, Angela did an amazing job as Biggie’s mom, Voletta Wallace. I applaud her portrayal of a strong black woman in the hood who had a sense of value that she passed onto her son. It was also interesting that while she was such a strong role model, Big didn’t always choose women that aligned with his mom’s example (c) Lil’ Kim and how we all know that he treated her as the eternal jump-off. Even Ms. Wallace said recently herself that she didn’t teach him those ways and hopes to talk to Kim about her relationship with Big.
Faith’s character, played by Antonique Smith, was solid. My only beef was that she didn’t get pummeled the way we knew that Big beat her and the character never really developed as a rival to Lil Kim. Not that I wanted to see fight night, it’s just the principle. If you’re going to be honest about Lil Kim’s relationship with Big, you should be honest about his marriage as well. Fair is fair. But that’s what happens when Faith and, no disrepect, Ms. Wallace green-light the story, right?
Speaking of their influence and versions of the truth, Lil Kim’s character, played by Naturi Naughton formerly of 3LW (weird…), was also great. Naturi captured Kim’s round the way charm, adorable stature and brash rhyme style. She also captured…what it must’ve felt like to be second to everyone else in Big’s life. Example? As Kim, Naturi sleeps with Big before she even asks if he’s “seeing anyone” translation: ho, and then Big, who’s technically still seeing his first child’s mother, Jan, skips over Kim to marry Faith after knowing her for a total of three weeks. Ouch. In the bulk of the movie, Naturi was naked, topless or telling Big ‘Fuck you!’ I’m torn about Kim’s portrayal because 1) Kim was the jump-off, Faith was the wife 2) Kim’s routinely topless/naked in real life so…
As for Jamal “Gravy I got shot in the ass at Hot 97″ Woolard playing Biggie, he was dope. Folks can be mad and say that he was a wack ass rapper, worth a conversation, but as the character of Biggie, I heard people sitting next to me that knew Big saying ‘that’s n*gga is Big.’ From his charming jokes about Puffy’s dancing to trying to coerce Faith into staying with him after he’s cheated by beat-boxing, Woolard did a convincing job. I applaud him because I KNOW madd people are already gearing up their hate machines to stomp him into the ground.
Derek Luke as Puffy: He was really spot on. I initially heard that Derek sucked but he didn’t. Puffy has this blank stare where his mouth hangs and Derek had it perfectly. Same with Puff’s stupid 90’s shoulder dance, lol, and his insatiable energy to hype an otherwise pedestrian situation, ie. when Puff and Big trades jungle stories during their first meeting.
Anthony Mackie as Tupac: He was as good as he could’ve been. There were glimpses of Pac, forgive my Cali familiarity, but then there were also moments of ugh. Plus, he just doesn’t look like him at all and that bugged me.
Marc John Jeffries of People PC as Lil’ Cease: He played a good role, but I couldn’t shake him as the computer commercial kid or the screaming baby in Losing Isaiah. Argh. Comically enough, I saw he and the real Lil’ Cease walk out of the theater together and they’re actually the same size. LOL!
All in all- great times. Go see Notorious on Jan. 16 and judge for yourself, but I really believe that it will go down as one of Hip-Hop’s best films. And I’m a hater by nature- it’s what we critics do.
PS. I saw Notorious after a great time designing my own sneaker at the NYC Nike Bespoke store. JBakes and I designed ourselves some women’s shoes- WOMEN’S SHOES!!! I wear size 11 and I never have women’s sneakers because stores never have my size so if you see a chick in BK/Manhattan with Blazers that say PARLOURMAG– say hello! =0)
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