Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell review: a notably incomplete Netflix documentary
It isn’t tough to discover individuals with intriguing things to state about Christopher Wallace, the late rap titan much better referred to as The Infamous B.I.G., or Big Deal Smalls. He’s been commonly hailed as one of the best to ever support a mic, an MC with a cinematic scope that altered the noise of New york city City. Get almost any hip-hop avoid the street, and you’ll likely get a fascinating take on Big deal, his music, and what he suggests to New york city and hip-hop culture today. And almost anything they need to state will be much better than Netflix’s brand-new documentary Big Deal: I Got a Story to Inform.
Directed by Emmett Malloy, Big Deal is a paper-thin account of among hip-hop’s most mythologized figures, tracing the broad strokes of his unfortunately brief bio. Produced by his mom, Voletta Wallace, and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs — whose record label launched Big deal’s whole brochure — the motion picture informs Big deal’s story through statement from individuals who are solely thinking about depicting him in the most glowing light, for factors that are either apparent, like in Voletta’s case, or perhaps self-serving, as with Combs.
Combs’ contributions are a huge factor I Got a Story to Inform is so discouraging. The magnate and previous kingmaker is amongst the most popular topics spoke with, and he works overtime to preserve Big deal as a lot more of a divine being than he currently is. Combs is an important interview due to the fact that he existed, as an essential figure in Big deal’s meteoric climb and his intensifying disputes. However Combs is just thinking about framing Big deal as the Zeus of Rap Olympus, a title he states he understood Big deal would hold from the first day. Combs is less interested in divulging anything personal, and the context he offers would be better served coming from someone who won’t profit from the legacy he’s diligently burnishing.
Worse, I Got A Story to Tell spins its tale without even mentioning many of its characters. No one speaks of Faith Evans, a monumental artist in her own right who briefly married Biggie and had a child with him. Suge Knight, Combs’ West Coast counterpart and a key figure in the ’90s hip-hop turf war, is also ignored. Both of them are hard to extricate from Biggie’s story — they actually appear in the archival footage the documentary pulls from — but for Malloy’s purposes, they might as well not exist.
The just truly complicated figure Malloy acknowledges in I Gotta Story to Tell is Tupac Shakur, the California rap prodigy whose life was also cut short by violence. The film glosses over the conflict between the two, only briefly mentioning it in the final 20 minutes, and never really articulating what sparked it. That makes Big deal a story without a proper third act. The omission could be explained as a decision to ignore the violence that hangs over the rapper’s legacy, but it comes at a price, ignoring the context in which these men lived their lives and made their art.
In its best, fleeting moments, the movie gets frustratingly close to illustrating why Big deal mattered, and what hip-hop meant to his city. These moments come when members of Biggie’s entourage share stories of his come-up, talking about the neighborhoods they grew up in. During these segments, a map of New York appears onscreen, and their old stomping grounds are outlined in red. In those red lines, I Got a Story to Inform shows the scope of its subjects’ entire world, spaces that span three to eight city blocks. For men like Christopher Wallace and those who idolized him, leaving that world was dangerous, and daring to want more would lead to trouble. This is the appeal of every rapper who makes it big, and the longing in the heart of every hip-hop head: knowing how small your world is, and daring to make it a little bigger.
I Got a Story to Tell is a movie without a clear audience. It’s too thin for fans who’ve heard every beat of this story told over and over again, and too narrow to be a good introduction to anyone who’s less familiar with Big deal’s work and his role in New York City hip-hop history. It’s less a movie to watch, and more of something to play in the background at a party thrown to reminisce about the good old days. It’s a party with a small guest list, because most everyone you could invite knows those days were never so good, and never that simple.
Big deal: I Got a Story to Inform is now streaming on Netflix.
Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.