Leave Biggie Alone!

Leave it to Hollywood to dig up an ugly hip hop beef a decade after the fact, when its cultural/artistic/social significance have faded, when everyone who calls himself a hip hop fan has hoped to let the past stay in the past, when people try to forget the fact that the beef prematurely killed two very talented rappers.

I speak, of course, of the upcoming biopic (reporting by the New York Times) about Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. Biggie Smalls, a.k.a., the Notorious B.I.G., one of the greatest hip hop talents of all time whose sheer skill for constructing intricate rhymes loaded to the brim with word play, creative delivery, and the knack for telling ghetto stories in technicolor and cinemascope has yet to find a modern day equivalent.

Nobody’s big enough to fill Biggie’s shoes, let alone a fucking standard-issue biopic.

The whole thing smells like a quick cash-squeeze, and the studios make no qualms about this:

““Notorious” will push Searchlight, best known as a perennial Oscar contender with films like “Juno” and “Sideways,” into a tougher kind of African-American storytelling than it has tackled before in films like “I Think I Love My Wife,” directed by Chris Rock, or the comedy “Phat Girlz,” with Mo’Nique.”

That’s Hollywood-speak for “I want to make some money off of black people.”

And it continues:

“Success would tap a vast urban audience and might catch the kind of broad-based business that made “8 Mile,” which starred the white rapper Eminem, a significant hit for Universal Pictures just over five years ago.”

So the picture emerges: Fox is trying to get the same demographic that made 8 Mile a hit, even though that movie came out ages ago, and hip hop is nowhere near its commercial viability now as it was back then, let alone its artistic viability.

Furthermore, there is something very suspicious about the movie’s release timing: the movie is timed to be released just when a trial about his murder is going to a jury trial.

“If Searchlight meets its intended release date of Jan. 16, however, the picture and its attendant promotions could well become a factor in the court fight.

They might, for instance, feed a Notorious B.I.G. revival while jurors are deliberating responsibility for his death or perhaps determining damages based on the presumed value of a career that was cut short. “It’s clear he had tremendous earning potential,” Mr. Sanders said.”

Blatant exploitation of Biggie’s death, all in the name of “earning potential”? This kind of shit gets me fucking pissed.

What really gets me though is the fact that the movie is claiming that it will try to “humanize” Biggie by softening up his “harsh” public image with that of a family man. Jesus fucking Christ! I hate it when movies do this to people after they are dead.

“Mr. Tillman said that the movie’s Notorious B.I.G. would sharply differ from that rapper’s harsh public image. “The major theme we’re working toward is family, being a man, what it takes to be a man,” he said. The movie follows Mr. Wallace from childhood in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn through his death, and various scenes will “capture the spirit and reason for certain things” without making detailed accusations, Mr. Tillman said.”

Biggie should be judged, first and foremost, as a rapper. And in that regard, few can ever rival him, because he is one of the greatest of all time. His skill and craft speak for themselves. Why does every black rapper who rhymes about the ghetto need to be “humanized,” to be made safe for mainstream white audiences?

Anyone who pays attention to what Biggie raps about in his songs should know that Biggie was a very complicated man (and only ones who knew him were his women, but I digress–SHAFT!). But on a serious note, Biggie is way more complex than your average gun-toting, mouth-running, fake-hustling modern rapper (Ja Rule anyone?) He was talking about growing up in the ghetto with no family, hustling on the streets to pay rent, paying the deadly spiritual and moral tolls of leading such an existence.

To say that Biggie is somehow a simplistic “thug” in need of an image make-over by some greedy Hollywood studio is to fucking insult the man’s life, intelligence, and art. I’ll leave you on this note, one of the illest verses commited to paper and rhyme in the history of the genre:

“If I wasn’t in the rap game/I’d probably have a key knee deep in the crack game/Because the streets is a short stop/Either you’re slingin’ crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot/Shit, it’s hard being young from the slums/Eatin’ five cent gums not knowin’ where your meal’s comin from/And now the shit’s gettin’ crazier and major/Kids younger than me, they got the sky grand pagers/Goin’ outta town, blowin up/Six months later all the dead bodies showin’ up/It make me wanna grab the nine and the shotty/But I gotta go identify the body/Damn, what happened to the summertime cookouts?/Everytime I turn around a nigga gettin’ took out/Shit, my momma got cancer in her breast/Don’t ask me why I’m motherfuckin’ stressed, things done changed”

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