Biggie Smalls: Rap Phenomenon

posted February 12, 2009 02:02:28 PM CST | 27 comments

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It is no coincidence that straight-to-DVD documentary release Biggie Smalls: Rap Phenomenon traipses after the big budget feature Notorious. Whereas the latter made something cinematic out of the life of Christopher Wallace for entertainment-seekers, the former takes a purists’ approach to the Brooklyn superstar’s life and art. Made by longtime friend, bodyguard and Junior M.A.F.I.A. affiliate D-Roc, the work features interview from The L.O.X., D Dot [click to read], R.A. The Rugged Man and others to tell the story of the realer side and impact to the Notorious B.I.G.
   
D-Roc’s personal collection of video, pictures and concert footage is what makes this documentary breaking. Although it’s presentation is at times disjointed, fans will have an opportunity to see Biggie interact with the camera and friends in a way different than frequently presented in the canned interview footage. The better moments include some on the road smoke chatter, some car bravado and other key glimpses. Perceptions of Biggie won’t change, but fans will get a chance to see some of the cars he drove – or was driven in rather, his Cuban link jewels, and his oft recounted sense of humor.
   
The interviews themselves vary. Although Snoop Dogg carries a nice profile, he’s unable offer much insight to his east coast ‘90s counterpart, besides stating flat anecdotes of respect. D Dot however, a frequent speaker on Biggie, sheds new light to the creation of “Hypnotize,” and how it solidified a pinnacle hit for his star mic controller, as well as a career for the mad rapping producer. The L.O.X., interviewed individually, don’t hesitate to indulge in smoke to state their commentary. While Sheek [click to read] fails to make an impression on his time with Biggie, it’s Styles P [click to read] that offers insight to why the man was such a great emcee. Equally, DJ Enuff, Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s deejay in the mid ‘90s, also speaks candidly as to why Biggie may be the best emcee ever.
   
While Notorious famously irked Lil Kim for her cinematic representation, Rap Phenomenon pays Kimberly a lot of compliments. For perhaps the first time ever, Biggie is credited for putting “ladies first,” as far as developing the star of his short-lived group. Although Diddy, Easy Mo Bee [click to read], Mister Cee and others are questionably absent from the production, Lil Kim is the only missing interviewee that's mentioned at all. Another odd thing, is how much all the guests champion D-Roc, a figure ignored in Notorious, is the supporting star here. This element appears to be a bit of narcissism, but in a manner just due for Biggie’s street right-hand.
   
Biggie Smalls: Rap Phenomenon picks up the elements that Notorious left out. Individual tracks are spotlighted, from “Suicidal Thoughts” to “Sky’s The Limit,” in a documented way that diehard fans will appreciate. At just over an hour though, this film’s utility emphasizes diehard, rather than viewers simply looking for entertainment. Without question though, taking away the drama in Biggie’s life, no better film has analyzed his lyrics and craft better, with impressive supporting testimony.

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