The rapper Biggie Smalls grew up Christopher Wallace in Brooklyn with a hard-working, middle-class mom and sterling elementary school report cards.
At 17, he dropped out of school. Dealt crack. Did jail time. Made a hip-hop music demo. Signed with Bad Boy Records. Became “Notorious B.I.G.,” famous hip-hop star, and died in a hail of bullets at 24.
A new film looks at the life and death of Biggie Smalls. This hour, On Point: We’ll talk with its director, George Tillman Jr., and with hip-hop scholar Tricia Rose, about looking at Biggie and hip hop in the age of Obama.
You can join the conversation. Were you big on Biggie? Are you still? Have you seen the film? And where does hip hop go when there’s an African American in the White House?
From Los Angeles, we’re joined by George Tillman Jr., director of the new film “Notorious,” about the life and death of Biggie Smalls. Tillman was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and studied film at Columbia College in Chicago. His 1992 short film “Paula,” about a 17-year-old African-American single mother, won the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Student Academy Award and the Black Filmmakers’ Hall of Fame Award. He went on to direct the feature films “Scenes for the Soul” in 1995, “Soul Food” in 1997, and “Men of Honor” in 2000.
And from Providence, Rhode Island, is Tricia Rose, professor of Africana Studies at Brown University and author of the books “The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip Hop — and Why It Matters” (2008) and “Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America” (1994).
Update: You can read the latest on the release of the Smalls’ autopsy here.
You can watch the film’s trailer here: