At The Coliseum: "Notorious"

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notorious.jpgIt may have been well below freezing last night, but that didn't stop teenagers and young adults from packing the Coliseum's sold-out 10:15pm showing of George Tillman Jr.'s Notorious, starring Jamal Woolard as Christopher Wallace a.k.a. Biggie Smalls. The show was so full that people were sitting on steps in the theater.

In the mid 1990s Biggie's music could be heard up and down the streets of northern Manhattan, and most of New York City for that matter, with people blasting his hits from their car stereos and boom boxes. The guy was the King of New York, after all. Though as the crowd settled in, I wondered how many of these kids were actually fans of the late Frank White? How many really knew and remembered his music, his life and its end?

For most of the film, it was crystal clear to me who was who and what was happening, but it felt like the movie was working its hardest to let you know that "this guy was Tupac," and "that girl is Lil' Kim." And I see why they did it. With the 90s now fading away, how could many of these kids be expected to remember who was in Junior Mafia or that Lil' Cease was sitting right behind Biggie when he was murdered?

The film takes you through the ups and downs of Christopher Wallace's career and personal life and gives you a sense of how his music evolved. The concerts featured in the film bring many of the rapper's performances back to life, and some people got right into it and were clearly fans. Those in the audience rapping along with Big to "Party & Bullshit," "Juicy," "Sky Is The Limit," and "Hypnotize" were in the minority, however. I got the feeling that had it been a Jay-Z or Lil' Wayne biopic there would have been many more pumped up by their knowledge of the music in the film, simply because they were too young to be fans of Frank White. Having said that, when "Juicy" was playing many knew and shouted out the infamous line (that is now often edited out of the song) "Time to get paid, blow up like the World Trade!" (referring to the bombing in the early 90s). It was nice to see that the film left the line in, considering the popularity of the song at the time and through the years.

Notorious does a great job of taking you right back to that period, and gives fans of the rapper a chance to learn a bit more about him and get a sense of what kind of person he was in his private life. Even though some parts of the film are clearly exaggerated and fictionalized, the movie is a nice ride back through the 90s with one of hip hop's greatest. 

Not a Notorious B.I.G. fan? Then listen to his music and become one. And then watch this movie.

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