*Directed by Mark Ford, “Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G.” is the first biography to be authorized by his estate and is the most personal and revealing documentary about the late Christopher Wallace that anyone has ever seen, including his former Bad Boy label mate and widow, Faith Evans.
EUR/Electronic Urban Report chatted with the singer ahead of the doc’s premiere TONIGHT and she reflected on one clip that’s featured in the special of Biggie gushing about her during an interviewer. It’s footage that not even Ms. Evans knew existed until she saw it for the first time while working on this project.
“I obviously know the bond that we shared and the love that’s still there. But I never heard him say how our conversations are stirring and how he knew he was never gonna find anyone like me. I never personally heard him say that in a interview. So, while I did know those feelings and I know how he felt about me, I never heard that. So that was refreshing for me,” she says.
Evans notes that “all the bits and footage that they were able to pull and things that I never saw or heard before” is what moved her and Big’s mother to fully endorse this project.
“It was either him telling his story” or Big’s kids “semi-narrating along with him, both of which felt right to us,” she added.
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Faith Evans married The Notorious B.I.G. in 1994, after having met him at a Bad Boy photo shoot. They had one child together, Christopher Jordan Wallace, born October 29, 1996. Their marriage was turbulent, due to Big’s infidelity. He reportedly had several affairs, including relationships with fellow rappers Lil’ Kim and Charli Baltimore.
And while the topic of Kim and Big’s relationship continues to resurface, Evans says that there was no animosity on her part toward Kim for years. Matter fact, she connected with Lil Kim and met her daughter during the Bad Boy Reunion Tour earlier this year. The Queen Bee even agreed to collaborate with Evans on her posthumous duets album to Biggie, titled, The King & I (which was released in May).
On March 9, 1997, Wallace was killed by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. Twenty years after his death, this intimate documentary also focuses on Evans as she embarks on an emotional journey to reconcile her own turbulent memories.
When we ask about her fondest memory of Big, she shares, “There’s several but one of them would be the day CJ was born. ‘Cause there was just like, so much going on in that hospital on that floor,” Evans laughs.
“I mean, I’m sure there were other kids being delivered but it was like, 25+ people with us, between Big and all of his friends and me and my friends and family. It was a lot going on in the hallway. Everyone peeking through the door and I just remember him being in a wheelchair, ‘cause this is after his car accident, and he had to pee and he did not turn the wheelchair around from the people to pee, he just kinda whipped it out and peed in the little container they gave him, and I just heard the pee dropping in the container like, “Oh my God. He’s crazy!” But, that was Big.”
Evans admits that it wasn’t until his death, and seeing the pain in his mother’s eyes, did she fully realize the impact that his life and music had on others.
“I think that had to be the ultimate realization. Like, even when you see Cease and them looking out the window (in the documentary), that was the whole processional throughout Manhattan. People out of office buildings, out of the projects — that was probably the defining moment for me. Like wow, they love him. People really love him.”
But even before his tragic death, the whole East Coast/West Coast rivalry that Big was at the center of had them both scratching their heads like, “Huh? Wow….”
“Although it was fueled by a bunch of bullshit — even he spoke on it like, “I didn’t know I was that powerful,” she states.
“Even though that was something that was not of his doing but the fact that just his popularity” was enough to be able “to shift people’s thinking or people choices or who they like.”
At the height of his fame, Wallace became involved in a rivalry between the East and West Coast hip hop scenes with Tupac. “Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G.” sheds new light on their so-called beef and helps clear up any misconceptions fans may still have about the duo. But Evans also wants viewers to know…
“I don’t think that there’s anything that anybody could clear up about it but the two of them,” she says. Adding, “I didn’t really know Pac and what I knew of him prior to me meeting him was all based on what Big said about him and there was nothing negative in it.”
Except for that period of time where “Big was very confused” about the status of their friendship.
“Up until shortly before Pac’s death,” Big believed, as Faith explained to EUR, “that they would be able to work it out because he really felt like they were friends.”
Not only does A+E’s Biggie doc explore this friendship, it also features interviews with those closest to him, including his mother Voletta Wallace, his close friend Lil Cease and members of Junior Mafia as well as hip-hop icons Sean “Diddy” Combs, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter and Nas.
“Ms. Wallace and I certainly thought it was important to try and reach out to people that were a part of it — that we know knew that side of him,” says Faith about those who contributed to the documentary.
“It’s not a job for us to keep his legacy alive. His music kinda serves itself. Greatness doesn’t expire. But there’s a certain part of him that people don’t know because that’s not what he portrays. He was able to tell stories but there’s so much contradiction in that. Some of those things that he did get into that were not so positive he had to kinda hide those things from his mom. And it’s that other side that people don’t really know about.”
Faith describes the documentary as another way to “extend” Big’s legacy. The film explores the people and places that shaped his life — from his days hustling on the streets of Brooklyn to his cultural impact and his shocking murder on the streets of Los Angeles.
And in case you’re wondering if Faith believes there’s a connection between Big and Pac’s murders, she says:
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily between their two murders because we haven’t delved up into the details of Tupac’s murder other than the people who at one time tried to say that Big was a part of that but we don’t really see them as connected. All I know is what’s been said in the press. I’ve only been in court related to Big’s murder and so it certainly wouldn’t be fair to relate the two at all.”
As mentioned in the documentary, Big was both “gangsta and political” and Faith notes that he also “gave hope to Brooklyn.”
“I love the fact that that spirit was reflected in the documentary. How just with Brooklyn, in general, he really felt like he was kinda carrying it on his back. Like, “If I make it then we all gonna make it and I’mma try to help the ones I know directly to make it from where I’m from.” I think that gives hope to people no matter where they’re from. So I think that’s important, the fact that he did talk about the bad things of life but he also talked about the hopefulness of not having that be what he had to depend on for the rest of his life — knowing that there’s something better that he could do for his children and give them something better to look forward to.”
Faith Evans became the first female artist to sign with Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs’ Bad Boy Entertainment recording company in 1994 and she released three platinum-certified albums between 1995 and 2001 including Faith (1995), Keep the Faith (1998) and Faithfully (2001).
A 1997 Biggie tribute single featuring P. Daddy and the band 112, named “I’ll Be Missing You,” won Evans a Grammy Award in 1998. In addition to promoting The King & I, the actress and published author is currently working on a biopic “based on my memoir” (“Keep the Faith”) which she plans to drop next year.
“I gotta keep these bills paid,” says Evans, while noting that “The most rewarding thing is to still be able to maneuver in this business and go get a deal and do an album and also still know that regardless of the change in the climate and the chart positions and the sales, I feel pretty confident that I’m consistent with making good music that my fans enjoy. So for me, that’s rewarding.”
“Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G” airs tonight, Sept. 4, at 8 pm on A+E.