Everybody’s got a story to tell, but few bios, memoirs or anecdotes are worthy of being rehashed like The Notorious B.I.G.’s for the better part of the last three decades. By now, plenty of us are well-versed in the cliff-notes and general details: Local Brooklyn hustler and underdog finds success as a rap star, puts his crew on, reaches unfathomable heights of fame and survives a high-profile beef before being gunned down in cold blood before reaching his prime years.
But, with an origin as layered and rich as Biggie’s, there’s always more to learn, particularly about the man behind the Versace frames and the music, which we’re reminded of with the release of Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell, the new Netflix documentary detailing the rapper’s youth and the events leading up to the release of his debut album, Ready to Die. Built around rare footage filmed by Biggie’s close friend, Damion “D-Roc” Butler, and interviews with his loved ones including his mother, Voletta Wallace; friends Suif “Gutta” Jackson and Hubert Sam; Junior M.A.F.I.A. members Lil Cease and Chico Del Vec; jazz musician Donald Harrison and more; Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell is a candid look into the life and times of a certified rap phenomenon that gives new context to his origins. The project was executive produced by close friend and Bad Boy collaborator Sean “Diddy” Combs, as well.
As the annual anniversary of The Notorious B.I.G.’s death looms closer, the doc arrives right on time to celebrate the life, music, and legacy of one of the greatest rap artists to ever step in a vocal booth or rock the mic.
Here are nine intriguing facts from Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell that even his most die-hard fans probably never knew. Peep them below.
1. His Connection To Clinton Hill
The Notorious B.I.G. may have represented Brooklyn as a whole to the fullest, but the late rap icon has long been synonymous with the borough’s Bedford-Stuyvesant section, one of the more notorious and crime-ridden neighborhoods in New York City. However, while Biggie frequented Bed-Stuy and became a local fixture during his teenage and adult years, he actually was raised in Clinton Hill, a working-class neighborhood bordering the Stuy that was infamous in its own right. St. James Place, the block Biggie grew up on, may have been a mere few blocks from the streets he ultimately rose to fame on, but as a youth, Clinton Hill and Bed-Stuy appeared to be worlds away from another in his eyes.
2. His Family’s Roots In Jamaica
Caribbean culture is embedded within hip hop — from the art to the figures in it — with The Notorious B.I.G. being among the most decorated rap artists of all-time with West Indian roots. Despite being born in Brooklyn shortly after her arrival in the United States, Biggie’s mother, a Jamaican immigrant, made an effort to keep him in tune with the culture of her homeland. Going on annual trips to Jamaica during the summer throughout his childhood, Biggie soaked up the lifestyle and the atmosphere of the island, where he attended local jams and concerts with his uncle, Dave Wallace, one of his earliest influences as a musician and creative.
3. His Love of Country Music
Hip Hop played a prominent role in shaping The Notorious B.I.G.’s identity, but his interests extended beyond that box due to sounds playing within his household. A lover of ballads and country westerns, Voletta’s musical taste was in stark contrast to what one may expect from the mother of one of the greatest rap artists to live, but rubbed off on her son, who once admitted to not being able to fall asleep without listening to country music, a revelation shared by close friend and classmate Hubert Sam.
4. His Favorite Rapper
Being “Your Favorite Rapper’s Favorite Rapper” is a cocksure claim that has been made numerous times on wax and otherwise throughout hip hop history. But, I Got a Story to Tell actually provides a large segment of rap fans with Biggie’s idol. During the documentary, close friend Suif “Gutta” Jackson reveals that The Notorious B.I.G.’s favorite rap artist was fellow Brooklynite Big Daddy Kane.
5. The Junior M.A.F.I.A. Member Who Introduced Biggie To The Crack Game
Within the music world, Junior M.A.F.I.A. is viewed as a rap crew, but according to several figures featured in I Got a Story to Tell, it doubled as the family that helped transform The Notorious B.I.G. from a timid, yet studious youngster into a street hustler. Chico Del Vec was key in that evolution, as he was the first person to introduce Biggie to the crack game and influence him to become a dealer himself during the late ‘80s.
6. The First Rap Albums He Owned
Coming of age right as hip hop was blossoming as a culture, The Notorious B.I.G. was an avid rap fan, as he and Sam consumed the music, fashion, and lingo every chance they could get. While Biggie’s mother was far from well-versed in rap, she inadvertently played a pivotal role in fostering his love for the genre with her purchase of the debut albums of Run D.M.C. and The Fat Boys in 1984. These tapes were the first two rap albums owned by the BK phenomenon, who took wrinkles from each act to eventually incorporate into his own style years after the fact.
7. Where He Recorded His First Demo As A Rapper
Back when he was rhyming under the name MC CWest, The Notorious B.I.G. teamed up with Sam to record a demo tape. With granted permission by their parents, the two combined their allowance money savings to book studio time at Funky Slice Studios, a local recording hub in downtown Brooklyn, where the pair recorded their first song. Rhyming over the Toto “Africa” instrumental, the recording, which was Biggie’s first as a full-fledged rapper, was an early indication of his talent.
8. Roland Young Being The Inspiration for “Miss U”
At the beginning of the Life After Death cut “Miss U,” Biggie pays homage to his late friend “O.” I Got a Story to Tell delves into the inner-workings of Biggie’s relationship with his deceased homie, otherwise known as Roland “Olie” Young, one of his earliest champions who inspired him to pursue a career in rap. Unfortunately, O, who was killed in 1992 in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn following a drug dispute with his uncle, Carl “I-God” Bazemore, was unable to see Biggie reach the pinnacle of fame. Nevertheless, he remained a central figure in his story.
9. The Backstory To Biggie’s Legendary Rap Battle On Bedford Ave
Prior to the internet, The Notorious B.I.G. went viral in the streets via the first clip capturing the then-teenage rapper verbally assaulting an unsuspecting foe on mic. The video, which was filmed on Bedford Avenue in Bed Stuy, features Biggie rocking the crowd and helped create the buzz that caught the attention of local DJ 50 Grand and legendary spinner Mister Cee. However, what many fans do not know is the opponent that he was facing in that particular battle or the backstory of how it started. After getting heckled by a local rapper named William “Supreme” McClune, whose rhymes are featured in the doc, Biggie rips his adversary to shreds, establishing his rep as the hottest rap prospect in Bed-Stuy.