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Notorious DVD Event

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Walking around Brooklyn, New York with Voletta Wallace, mother of the late Christopher Wallace (the Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls) offers some insight into the life and death of the legendary rapper, though there are many darker elements of his life she admits, she knew nothing about before the film (Notorious, available to rent on DVD now).

Immaculately dressed, and a poise you would expect from a mother in New York from a past era, it takes only a few minutes to realize Voletta Wallace is a remarkable woman. Arriving at the middle school where Christopher grew up, and just blocks from their old apartment, Voletta explains, “I have pleasant memories around here, I built my life here.”

While the area of Clinton Hill is now clean, gentrified (and expensive), it was once home to a thriving drug trade during the 80’s crack epidemic. Voletta recalls, “I walked to the bank early one morning, my son and myself. I think he was either fifteen or sixteen, and we were walking, and I saw these little vials on the street. And I thought they were perfume vials. And I said to him, ‘Oh these Avon people are doing a lot of business around here’. And he was laughing. ‘What’s so funny’? And about a block away, he said ‘Mom, those are not perfume bottles, they are crack bottles’. I said, ‘What is that’? He didn’t say a word.”

Voletta explained that she wouldn’t change her lack of knowledge of her son’s involvement in drugs if she had the opportunity, recalling the time she mistook a plate full of crack for mashed potato, “I’m glad I didn’t know because, if I’d known that was crack, maybe I would have killed him, and I would be in jail. Or I would have called the cops on him. He disrespected me a lot, and in our next life… I can’t even kill him! Boy oh boy am I gonna have some words for him.”

While Voletta may have been naïve about Biggie’s drug dealing, she was also unaware of the level of success he achieved as a rapper. “He took me to a concert once, it was my birthday. And he said, Ma, you’ve never seen me in concert, I want you to see me. We were going into the Mirage, and the crowd! And I’m saying, ‘This is just my son, for crying out loud!’” As we walk toward the home Biggie grew up in, Voletta tells of the first time she realized her son was as famous as he was, which was not until after his death, when the car pulled into their street following the funeral. “It was like an ant’s nest of people, all these windows, people on the fire escape. I mean people. My god, this is him.”

Producing the film with Christopher’s old friends Wayne Barrow and Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, Voletta deliberately chose to read only her part of the script and leave the rest to the crew who she trusted to tell an honest story. “I guess if I read the script, we wouldn’t have a movie. I (would be) like ‘hell no I’m not gonna do it’. So I said, I’ll read my part, and that’s all I’m gonna do.” Though spending all day on set, along the way, Voletta did learn about some of the darker aspects of her son’s life, like the drugs and his tumultuous relationship with Lil Kim. It was “very painful, some of the things that I never knew.”

Though happy with the outcome, for Voletta, it’s hard to say she ‘likes’ the film, and, “that night (of the premiere), I cried the whole time”, she said. Since the day of his death, Voletta has not stepped back in the Brooklyn apartment, which we’re now standing on the front stairs of. While she remembers her life here with her son vividly, life is now very different for Voletta Wallace, living upstate, out of the city, and without her son.

Notorious is available to rent on DVD now.

– Thanks to Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment for including me on the visit!

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Author: Tim Johnson
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