Christopher Wallace, better known as the Notorious B.I.G., would have turned 49 years old this year, meaning that soon the late rapper will have been dead for longer than he was actually alive. Biggie’s still-unsolved murder at 24 years old remains one of the great tragedies of American music, an open wound for hip-hop that will never fully heal. His legacy is incalculably enormous, while his death has allowed him to become a powerful and endlessly malleable imaginative object in the firmament of modern pop.
Recent years have seen a growing classic-rock-ification of hip-hop history, a myth-managing industrial complex designed to goose merch sales, streams, box-office receipts, and catalog downloads. Biggie, who’s been the subject of a biopic, multiple documentaries, a small library of books, and at least one excellent podcast, entered this pantheon earlier than most. (Probably the only figure with a comparable industry surrounding him is the man with whom Biggie will forever be linked, Tupac Shakur.) The latest entry into this corpus is Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell, a competent if frustratingly thin documentary executive produced by Sean Combs and Biggie’s mother, Voletta Wallace, that premieres on Netflix on March 1.