A&E’s “Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G.” is the first biography doc authorized by his estate.
Twenty years after the death of the Notorious B.I.G., his murder — as well as the death of Tupac Shakur — still hasn’t been solved. But his widow, Faith Evans, believes a spate of new TV projects could force the Los Angeles Police Department to reveal the truth.
Several projects timed to the anniversary, including A&E’s new documentary “Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G.,” Fox’s investigation special “Who Shot Biggie & Tupac?” and USA Network’s scripted drama “Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G.,” dive into the mystery. (The Johnny Depp feature “Labyrinth,” which also investigates the murders, is on tap for 2018.) Most of the projects have a clear point of view on who was responsible, yet there’s still no consensus.
Evans said she wasn’t familiar with the USA project, which is being produced without the involvement of the Notorious B.I.G. estate. (It stars newcomer Wavyy Jones as Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. Biggie Smalls.) “It may be that in there, may be something that… ultimately makes them do the right thing,” she said. “I truly believe at some point everything will be the way it’s supposed to be. If it’s not meant for the LAPD to finally resolve this and say this is what happened, then it’s not meant to be. All we can do is pray that one day they do.”
Evans has spent the last 20 years running the star’s estate, along with Biggie’s mother, Voletta Wallace. Both of them were executive producers and deeply involved in the production “Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G.,” which airs Monday night. The three-hour documentary, from director Mark Ford, is the first to be authorized by Wallace’s estate.
“Every day, every year, it’s a part of my duty to keep his legacy alive,” Evans said. “That’s the purpose me and Ms. Wallace serve as administrators of his estate. To make sure the [projects] coming to us are the right ones to make.”
“Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G.” includes rare archival footage of Wallace as a teenager, and freestyling raps on Fulton Street in his Brooklyn neighborhood. Besides Evans and Voletta Wallace, the documentary includes interviews with Sean “Diddy” Combs, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and members of Junior M.A.F.I.A. It includes audio from several interviews with Wallace in the mid-1990s.
Evans and Voletta Wallace helped secure several interviews for “Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G.,” but Evans also credits Biggie’s pal Damion “D-Roc” Butler for chronicling much of the artist’s rise on video. “His friend D-Roc, when he came home from prison, shortly after Big and I got married, [Big] told him we’re going to get a video camera, and that was going to be his job. He had [D-Roc] document pretty much every move they were making. Now it’s certainly serving a purpose.”
With so much archival footage, Evans believes audiences are finally getting a glimpse at Christopher Wallace — the real-life man behind the persona.
“His songs, his lyrics, some of the stories he told, and even the situations he was in, it didn’t necessarily give you this picture of this big teddy bear who was a mama’s boy and had to hide all of these things he was doing from his mother,” she said. “The person he was, was this person I couldn’t stop loving and couldn’t stay mad at. A lot of people have told me, ‘Now I can see why you felt that way, after seeing this film.’”
It’s no secret that Evans’ marriage with Wallace was tumultuous, but she very publicly put that behind her years ago. Lil Kim, who had a relationship with the rapper, even appears on Evans’ recent Notorious B.I.G. duets album “The King & I.” (That album, inspired by the Nat King Cole/Natalie Cole duets release “Unforgettable,” came out earlier this year.)
“Absolutely, documented and undocumented, there were a lot of tumultuous times but a lot of great times,” Evans said. “The fact is, it’s crazy we were only in each other’s lives for a few years. I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that ours was and still is a love that is real, regardless of how quick we were to get married. We were pretty spontaneous and didn’t deal with things in the most mature way because we weren’t very mature.”
Evans remains tight with Voletta Wallace, as they co-manage the Notorious B.I.G. estate. Evans said she ceded much of the decision making to Biggie’s mother (who is affectionately referred to as “mee-maw”), which has helped keep most conflicts to a minimum.
“I knew he wouldn’t have left this earth without making sure that his mom was OK,” Evans said. “From the beginning I decided to share my duties as administrator of his estate with her, and I decided early on to let her handle a lot of stuff and refer to her decisions. She ended up learning a lot about the business and about people, whom she probably previously thought she could trust. If there’s something I disagree with I’ll let her know, or if she has a question. But otherwise if Ms. Wallace is OK with it and wants to do it, that’s fine, I’m OK with it. It’s worked. Personally it’s never going to be anything but a good relationship.”
And now, Evans said she continues to feel that responsibility. “There’s a reason that when we lost him we were still married because I think me being the person I am, a lot of people would have handled things a lot differently if they were in my position,” she said. “I’ve definitely over the years come to terms with it being a blessing having been a part of Big’s life… There was a time when people asked, do I ever feel overshadowed by him? But no. Big is Big and he was a part of my life and that’s never going to change. That doesn’t take away from the greatness I represent.”
“Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G.” premieres Monday, Sept. 4 at 8 p.m. ET on A&E.