Notorious (2009 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by George Tillman, Jr.
Produced by Wayne Barrow
Edward Bates
Sean Combs
Trish Hofmann
George Paaswell
Mark Pitts
Robert Teitel
Voletta Wallace
Written by Reggie Rock Bythewood
Cheo Hodari Coker
Starring Angela Bassett
Derek Luke
Jamal Woolard
Anthony Mackie
Narrated by Jamal Woolard
Music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography Michael Grady
Edited by Dirk Westervelt
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release dates
  • January 16, 2009 (2009-01-16)
Running time
123 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20 million
Box office $44,371,751[1]

Notorious is a 2009 American biographical film about the life and murder of Christopher Wallace, an American rapper better known by the stage name The Notorious B.I.G. The film stars Jamal Woolard as Wallace.

It was released in American theaters on January 16, 2009, by Fox Searchlight Pictures.


The film opens at a party in Los Angeles, California on March 8 1997, and shows the drive-by shooting of Biggie Smalls.

The film then flashes back to Biggie's younger years in Brooklyn, where Biggie (now played by his biological son Christopher Wallace, Jr.) lived during his adolescent years in 1983. Biggie, (now played by Jamal Woolard) sells drugs at the height of the crack epidemic whilst hustling with his friends D-Roc (Dennis L.A. White) and Lil' Cease (Marc John Jefferies).

When his girlfriend, Jan (Julia Pace Mitchell), informs him that she is pregnant, he begins to take his drug dealing more seriously, "hustlin'" to make more money to support his upcoming child. Biggie eventually takes part in a rap battle, which he subsequently wins, but Biggie's mother, Voletta Wallace (Angela Bassett), throws him out of the house after finding drugs underneath his bed.

Biggie gets caught in possession of weapons and cocaine, and is sentenced to two years in jail but only serves nine months before making bail. Biggie meets Kim Jones (Naturi Naughton) and they have sex but Kim refuses to pursue a relationship due to her abusive past. After reconciling with his mother visiting his newborn child, Biggie records a demo called "Microphone Murderer" which catches the attention of Puffy, an ambitious producer for Uptown Records. Puffy promises Biggie a record deal but Biggie finds out that Puffy is no longer employed by Uptown Records, which frustrates Biggie. Soon after, Biggie and D-Roc are again caught with drugs, but D-Roc takes the fall for the both of them to allow Biggie to pursue his rap career.

Biggie becomes depressed when he finds out Voletta is suffering from breast cancer, but soon cheers up when Puffy signs him to Puffy's own record label, Bad Boy Records, where Biggie records his first album, Ready to Die. At a Bad Boy photo shoot, Biggie meets singer Faith Evans (Antonique Smith) and the two begin a relationship, eventually getting married. However, Faith catches Biggie cheating on her, and confronts him at his hotel room. The two later reconcile but the tensions between him, Faith, Jan, and Kim continue to grow.

Biggie begins a friendship with rapper Tupac Shakur (Anthony Mackie) whilst celebrating the success of his album Ready To Die. With Tupac, Biggie soon starts admiring the other rapper, whilst also questioning him for the nefarious people he associated with. When Tupac is robbed and shot five times in a robbery in the lobby of Quad Studios, he blames Puffy, Biggie, and Bad Boy Records for setting him up. At The Source Awards in 1995, Death Row Records executive, Suge Knight, makes a speech "dissing" Puffy and Bad Boy Records, claiming Death Row is the better label.

After altercations between the pair, the disagreement escalates into the East-West Coast rivalry and attacks are made on both sides. At the 1996 Soul Train Awards in Los Angeles, California, Biggie receives a death threat from an unknown black man in a call. At the afterparty, Tupac and Suge verbally assault Biggie, but leave when Biggie's security threatens them with a pistol.

A track called "Who Shot Ya?" is later released by Biggie, which is interpreted as a diss song directed at Tupac. Biggie and Puffy claim that "Who Shot Ya?" was recorded before Tupac was shot, but Tupac responds with "Hit 'Em Up" where he disses Biggie and claims a sexual relationship with Faith Evans. After seeing a magazine photo of Tupac and Faith hugging each other, Biggie confronts Faith but she insists nothing happened between her and Tupac.

The two attempt to reconcile after she tells him she's pregnant with his child as rivalry between the hip-hop coasts continues to escalate. Biggie goes on tour in L.A. and the crowd boos him, throwing up West Coast signs to show they are siding with Tupac. Annoyed, Biggie performs "Who Shot Ya?", which enrages the crowd even more. The rivalry between the two rappers continues until September 1996, when Tupac is murdered in Las Vegas, Nevada. Voletta tells Biggie that Tupac was probably killed as a result of their rivalry, which shakes him up. Biggie attempts to ease the tensions in his life by visiting Jan and their daughter more often.

Biggie and D-Roc renew their friendship after D-Roc is released from prison and Biggie confides that he wants out of the rap game. However, Biggie decides to go to Los Angeles to promote his upcoming album Life After Death, bringing D-Roc and Lil' Cease with him along with Puffy and Faith. Whilst there, Biggie receives several death threats. After calling Lil' Kim to apologize and to set up a meeting with her, the film returns to the opening scene, where Biggie is shot and killed in a drive by.

His funeral is held a few days later, with friends and colleagues grieving at their loss, along with hundreds of fans, who lined up to pay their respects. A member of the crowd turns on a radio which plays Biggie's song "Hypnotize" and the crowd begins dancing as Biggie's casket is driven down the city's streets.



Antoine Fuqua was originally set to direct[2] before director George Tillman, Jr. signed on to direct the project.[3] The film was distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.[4] Producers on Notorious include Sean Combs, Voletta Wallace and Biggie's former managers Wayne Barrow and Mark Pitts.[3]


In early October 2007, open casting calls for the role of The Notorious B.I.G. began.[5] Actors, rappers and members of the public all participated. Rapper Beanie Sigel auditioned[6] for the role but was not picked.[7] Eventually it was announced that rapper Jamal Woolard was cast as Biggie.[8] Other cast members include Angela Bassett as Voletta Wallace, Derek Luke as Sean Combs, Antonique Smith as Faith Evans, Naturi Naughton formerly of 3LW as Lil' Kim, Dennis L.A. White as D-Roc and Anthony Mackie as Tupac Shakur.[9]



Critical reaction[edit]

The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes noted that 50% of film reviewers gave the film a positive review based on a sample of 131 reviews, with an average score of 5.5/10 indicating "Rotten" reviews. Rotten Tomatoes' consensus is that Notorious is "a biopic that lacks the luster of its subject" and a "generic rise-and-fall fare that still functions as a primer for those less familiar with the work and life of the hip hop icon."[11]

At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received a 61 based on a sample of 31 critics, indicating "Generally favorable reviews."[12] Roger Ebert gave the film 3 1/2 stars (out of four), applauding the film focusing on Christopher Wallace and not his rapping persona.

Box office[edit]

The film was released on January 16, 2009 and grossed $24,000,000 on its opening weekend in 1,638 theaters in the United States on Martin Luther King weekend.[1] As of April 2, 2009, the film has grossed $36,843,682 in the United States alone and $6,207,865 internationally to bring the overall total to over $44,371,751 [13]

Criticism by Lil' Kim[edit]

Lil' Kim was not happy about how she was portrayed in the film, saying "Regardless of the many lies in the movie and false portrayal of me to help carry a story line through, I will still continue to carry his legacy through my hard work and music." She felt the producers were more interested in her "character" than her. Lil' Kim scenes in the film contained a lot of nudity and sexuality.[14] The film's producers, including Voletta Wallace, downplayed her comments.[15]

Comparison to actual events[edit]

In the scene where Biggie and Puffy meet for the first time, Biggie gives his age as 19. That is correct, as the two men met in early 1992. But during that meeting, Puffy talks about the West Coast's dominance of hip-hop, saying, "They got Snoop, they got Dre, they got Cube, they killin' it. The East Coast is just lookin' for someone to fill that void." At the time, Dr. Dre was known mainly as a member of N.W.A. and would not release his first solo album, The Chronic, until December of that year.

Snoop Dogg was also not widely known until his appearance on The Chronic, although he did appear with Dre on the Deep Cover soundtrack in 1992. At the time of Biggie and Puffy's first meeting, it is unlikely that anyone would have cited Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg as major players in West Coast hip-hop.

Also, there is a scene involving Biggie being kicked out of class, and meeting his girlfriend in a restaurant, where his girlfriend, Jan, says she's pregnant with Biggie's daughter in 1990, and born by the time Biggie is released from jail. In real life, Biggie's daughter, T'yanna, was born in August 1993, nine months after her father was locked up.

Also, a subtitle states October 1990, so Biggie would be 18 and later he does the rap battle. This is wrong, because he did the rap battle when he was 17 and it was in 1989. Also there are advertisements for the film Juice which was released in 1992.

The lyrics in Biggie's rap battle were changed in the movie from the original filmed in 1989, which surfaced on the internet in 2008.

DVD sales[edit]

Notorious was released on DVD on April 21, 2009. About 858,000 DVD units have been sold, bringing in $19.5 million in revenue, bringing the films total gross to $100 million.[16]


A 17-track soundtrack album was released to accompany the film, although only eight of its tracks feature in the movie. The following tracks which Christopher Wallace Jr. had input on feature in the movie:

  • "Born Again" (Intro)
  • "Hypnotize"
  • "Going Back to Cali"
  • "Ten Crack Commandments"
  • "Bed Stuy Brooklyn" (the film credits list this as the title, although the track appears on the soundtrack under the name "Guaranteed Raw")
  • "Suicidal Thoughts"
  • "Everyday Struggle"
  • "It's a Demo" (the film credits list this as the title, although the track appears on the soundtrack under the name "Microphone Murderer")
  • "Pimps & Macs"
  • "Party & Bullshit"
  • "Machine Gun Funk"
  • "Unbelievable"
  • "Juicy"
  • "Flava in Ya Ear"
  • "Big Poppa"
  • "Warning"
  • "I Love the Dough"
  • "Get Money"
  • "Gimme the Loot"
  • "Who Shot Ya?"
  • "Sky's the Limit"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Notorious (2009)". Box Office Mojo. 209-02-01. Retrieved 2009-02-01.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ Kym Balthazar (February 26, 2007) 360 We Gon' Make It XXL. Accessed November 28, 2007.
  3. ^ a b Director Selected for Biggie Biopic, Diddy to Executive Produce XXL (August 13, 2007). Accessed November 28, 2007.
  4. ^ at Fox Searchlight Pictures. Retrieved on 2009-01-16.
  5. ^ Melena Ryzik (October 8, 2007) Dreaming Big About Acting Big NY Times. Accessed November 28, 2007.
  6. ^ Beanie Sigel Auditions for Role of Biggie Smalls in New Biopic XXL (October 3, 2007). Accessed November 28, 2007.
  7. ^ Sean Kingston: Big, But Not B.I.G. Vibe (August 30, 2007). Accessed November 28, 2007.
  8. ^ Brooklyn Rapper Gravy to Play Biggie in Upcoming Biopic XXL (March 6, 2008). Accessed March 6, 2008.
  9. ^ Gravy for Biggie (March 6, 2008). Accessed March 6, 2008.
  10. ^ Snoop Dogg at Source Awards
  11. ^ Notorious Movie Reviews, Pictures. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-12-25.
  12. ^ Notorious Reviews, Ratings, Credits. Metacritic. Retrieved 2009-01-15.
  13. ^
  14. ^ TV Guide
  15. ^ AP Press Statement Video on YouTube
  16. ^

External links[edit]