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, â€œI have pleasant memories around here, I built my life here.â€
While the area of Clinton Hill is now clean, gentrified (and expensive), it was once home to a thriving drug trade during the 80â€™s crack epidemic. Voletta recalls, â€œI 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, â€˜Oh these Avon people are doing a lot of business around hereâ€™. And he was laughing. â€˜Whatâ€™s so funnyâ€™? And about a block away, he said â€˜Mom, those are not perfume bottles, they are crack bottlesâ€™. I said, â€˜What is thatâ€™? He didnâ€™t say a word.â€
Voletta explained that she wouldnâ€™t change her lack of knowledge of her sonâ€™s involvement in drugs if she had the opportunity, recalling the time she mistook a plate full of crack for mashed potato, â€œIâ€™m glad I didnâ€™t know because, if Iâ€™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 lifeâ€¦ I canâ€™t even kill him! Boy oh boy am I gonna have some words for him.â€
While Voletta may have been naÃ¯ve about Biggieâ€™s drug dealing, she was also unaware of the level of success he achieved as a rapper. â€œHe took me to a concert once, it was my birthday. And he said, Ma, youâ€™ve never seen me in concert, I want you to see me. We were going into the Mirage, and the crowd! And Iâ€™m saying, â€˜This is just my son, for crying out loud!â€™â€ 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. â€œIt was like an antâ€™s nest of people, all these windows, people on the fire escape. I mean people. My god, this is him.â€
Producing the film with Christopherâ€™s old friends Wayne Barrow and Sean â€˜Diddyâ€™ 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. â€œI guess if I read the script, we wouldnâ€™t have a movie. I (would be) like â€˜hell no Iâ€™m not gonna do itâ€™. So I said, Iâ€™ll read my part, and thatâ€™s all Iâ€™m gonna do.â€ Though spending all day on set, along the way, Voletta did learn about some of the darker aspects of her sonâ€™s life, like the drugs and his tumultuous relationship with Lil Kim. It was â€œvery painful, some of the things that I never knew.â€
Though happy with the outcome, for Voletta, itâ€™s hard to say she â€˜likesâ€™ the film, and, â€œthat night (of the premiere), I cried the whole timeâ€, she said. Since the day of his death, Voletta has not stepped back in the Brooklyn apartment, which weâ€™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!