While I didn’t bring any ‘real world baggage’ in with me when I went to check out The Wrestler, I brought quite a bit in when I went to see Notorious.  I’m a very proud product of the ‘Golden Age of Hip Hop’, and a few of the memories from that time are as fresh in my mind today as they were when they happened…

When 2Pac was killed, I was playing ball with the boys in Robinson Gym.  That had to be my freshmen year, cause I rarely step on a basketball court at this point.  One of the guys came in to the gym and told us 2Pac was dead, and I’ll never forget my response: “Good.”  Back then, 2Pac was Terrell Owens before there was Terrell Owens.  I openly admit that it wasn’t until after his death that I gained my appreciation for the different directions he could go as a rapper (Dear Mama, How Do You Want It?, Who Do You Believe In?). 

I was driving down Quivira on a Saturday night the first time I heard ‘Hypnotize’.  Biggie was two lines in when me and my frat brother turned up the radio, jumped out the car and started party walking in the middle of the street.  (FYI: For those unfamiliar, ‘party walking’ is basically a type of line dancing that black Greeks do.)  Whoever’s been cutting the trailers for the movie should get props, because that song is still one of those great “Get off the wall and get on the floor!” songs of my lifetime.

I was sitting on the futon in my dorm room (I’m fairly certain it was a Sunday morning) when my boy Q (who ironically was the one who was with me when I heard ‘Hypnotize’) called me to tell me Biggie was dead.  I was dumbfounded.  I turned to MTV, and there it was.  The whole image of Death Row was built around ‘THUG LIFE’ so when Pac got killed it was surprising, but there was definitely a ‘the company you keep’ vibe to it.  The ‘revenge’ rumors had been out since 2Pac got killed, but when Biggie died, there was still a definite change in how serious all of us took the whole ‘East Coast/West Coast’ thing.

On one of my first trips to L.A., I made a point to go by where Biggie was gunned down.  On one of my first trips to Vegas, I went to the corner where 2Pac got shot.  Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but the first thing that stuck out to me about both places: these aren’t ‘back alley, out in the middle of nowhere parts of town’.  If there is a such a thing in America as a ‘public execution’, both of those brothers got it.  Anyway, enough with the editorial, and on to what I thought of the movie… 

Got to start with the kid they got to play Biggie.  When I first heard about the movie, I was excited but cautious.  I mean, how do you get somebody to play B.I.G.?  But this kid nailed it.  He had the size, he had the charm, he even all but nailed the voice, and was damn near close enough to his flow that you don’t feel you miss out when it’s the actor doing the rhymes instead of Biggie.  As a matter of fact, from a filmmaker point of view, the best part of the film to me was the casting.  The young sisters playing Lil Kim and Faith wore both beautiful and talented, Anthony Mackie held his own as Pac, and even Derek Luke nailed more than enough of Diddy’s mannerisms.  It may not sound like much, but it’s very easy when you’re playing a real person, especially a person who’s still alive, to just fall back onto mimicry, but all the principal actors acted and in all cases acted their tails off.  Do I even need to tell you Angela Bassett was solid as Voletta Wallace?

When I say the casting was the best part of the film, don’t misunderstand.  This was a very well crafted and entertaining movie all around.  I was in a sold out show with a lot of teenagers (i.e., kids who couldn’t have lived through all the key events like I did), and they rolled through the story, enjoying it as much as ‘oldheads’, who had quite a few “Yo I remember when that happened!” moments in the movie.  During the numerous concerts, if I didn’t know any better, I could swear I could smell the weed in the movie theater as if I was really at the concerts…

It’s still way too early in the game of course for me to add this to my 25 Most Important Black Films list, but I’ll tell you this was the most enjoyment I had a black film since probably Dreamgirls.   Much deserved PROPS from me for Notorious.

2 thoughts on “Notorious

  1. Great review. I was curious and haven’t talked to anyone yet who saw it. Thanks for sharing. Well done!

  2. Thanks for your kind words, sister. I enjoyed your blog as well. I’m really pulling for Taraji, she’s definitely paid her dues!

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