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"Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell" Review

 Unlike my excessively long review of 69: The Saga of Daniel Hernandez, this review of the new Netflix documentary on The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell, will be much more concise due to the fact I got my annoyance at pop music out in the other piece and I don't have any major animus towards the subject. 

I was never a Biggie fan because he came out in the mid-1990s when I was starting to get bored by the listless G-Funk weed-out rap of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg after the bright ferocious rhymes of Public Enemy and N.W.A. I didn't care for his fat-tongued wheezy sound for the same reason Beastie Boys MCA (Adam Yauch) bothered me with his raspy growling style: I listen to rap to hear the words and diction is the most important thing. Chuck D, Ice Cube, LL Cool J, Ice-T, Run-DMC, etc. came out of the Eighties when making sure the message was heard; that seemed to become less important in the Nineties and beyond. Most current rap is unlistenable because it's unintelligible to me.

 So despite my benign apathy toward the subject, I found Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell an interesting primer on the earliest days of his rise into a legend of hip-hop. The big selling point is the wealth of video recorded by Big's best friend Damion "D-Roc" Butler. Flanked by interviews with his mother Voletta Wallace, widow Faith Evans, record label impresario Sean "Puff Daddy/P. Diddy" Combs, and others, we see how young Christopher Wallace came up on the streets of Brooklyn, participating in street corner rap battle and slinging crack, whatever makes him money.

 The doc goes into how neighborhood jazz musicians and trips to his mother's native Jamaica exposed him to musical influences which informed his musical styles. It barely touches on his major releases because that material has been covered extensively elsewhere, so this is more for the fans seeking rare footage than those needing a complete biography. The beef between him and Tupac Shakur is confusingly presented because it seemed like they weren't enemies, then it was more a WWE style act, then something more deadly serious, leading to both their deaths; Tupac's in September 1996 at age 25 followed by Big's in March 1997 at age 24, just two weeks before the release of his final album.

To be honest, I don't get the big deal about Biggie and his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2020 off two RAP albums is dubious to me. I mean, N.W.A. his also in and while their ONE meaningful album, Straight Outta Compton, one of the most seminal albums in any genre, let's be real, please. But I'm not going to knock this documentary for that. If you're a fan, check it out; if you want to learn a bit about him, it's OK, but there may be better primers out there.

 Score: 6/10. Catch it on Netflix.


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