In the film Almost
Famous, the fictitious Rock band Stillwater refers to the Rolling Stone journalist as the enemy.
This is probably the most accurate definition of how a musician would identify
a music journalist. However, when the Notorious B.I.G. was at the peak of his
careera career that ended far too soon and is being honored with the
release of Notorioushis best
friend was in fact a journalist.
the first lady of The Source, VIBE veteran, filmmaker, and renowned author and
activist, walked with Biggie from the start of his career to the end of his
life. While dream was a friend of Biggies before either of them found their
respective fame, she still remained a confidant of his throughout his meteoric
rise and is probably one of the few who could paint a portrait of his life with
her pen. In fact, she was one of the only journalists allowed on the Notorious set to relive the tale for VIBE Magazine. As Notorious hits the silver screen, dream tells us what the movie
couldnt and what Biggies legacy really means for Hip-Hop.
off, what did you think about Notorious?
dream hampton: I
liked the film. I think that its going to open doors and that its going to be
a big box office success. I really do. Its still relevant. Sometimes when I
listen to the radio, which is rare, Im amazed at how present [Biggie] is on
the playlist. So theres the fact that hes present in our culture, but then
theres also the fact that when you go to the store the little sign to be legal
to buy tobacco is [born by] 1990 at this point.
So there are kids that really dont know the facts [about
Biggie]. Were really dealing with 90s babies now and the things that we take
for granted, they just dont you know, know all the facts. They dont sit
around with old VIBE magazines. Even
though VH1 did some documentaries that were out back in the day, they were like
eight years old, so theres a chance that the kids havent seen those. So
thats that. I think that the movie did its job.
For you its more personal, knowing Biggie. What was it like reliving that?
Some of it gave me goosebumps. I mean, definitely the scenes we were
at…George [Tillman] was really dedicated to detail, and he was very much
about the facts. I remember when we were in L.A. on Wilshire shooting the scene
[where Biggie was killed] to me it was the hardest to watch them
shootthe B.I.G. assassination. He had Puff on
the phone; he wanted to know exactly where Puff was in his car. He wanted to
know if he was in the passenger seat or if he was sitting behind the driver.
Like all those details were so important to George, and hes super dedicated to
getting that stuff down. I was actually able to help in that kind of stuff, you
know like Puff got out of the car before the sixth bullet was in the air and
stuff like that.
There are perceptions by different people that when
shootings happen, everyone kind of hits the ground. It surprises people that
Puff would be the person that would be on his feet in the air. And Ive seen
that at clubs with Puff. Of course New York in the 90s and you know how
everyones down and it would be one or two people standing and it would always
be Puff. So, George was super dedicated to details. I mean sometimes it was
great to be on the set and be reliving some of that stuff, and sometimes it
speaking with Voletta Wallace, she said that all the actors did a pretty bang
up job, but the one that she said was really on point was Naturi Naughton. Now
were hearing that Lil Kim is saying that she was falsely depicted. In your VIBE piece youre talking about how Kim
and Un were discussing how she wanted Christina Milian for the role. Then Kim
was saying she was never advised on the movie at all. What is it that you know
as far as the real deal in that whole situation?
dream hampton: I
think that whenever youre dealing with peoples life stories, its
complicated. Thats why people wait until people die. I mean Jacqueline Kennedy
wrote her memoir, locked it in a vault, and its not to be released until her
grandchild is 55. So there are different ways to go about kind of unpacking
history, particularly when it deals with private moments. Of course Kims going
to feel a way about that. But then a lot of their relationship was also public,
you know? Hip-Hop is an autobiographical form, allegedly, and theyve written
about their affair and their relationship and the volatility of it, so some of
that stuff is just public domain.
The quote that I have in my piece about Kim saying Naturi
was too Black, thats just cheap. I dont think whats going on with Kim in
terms of her own pathology around beauty is a secret. Shes kind of wearing
that. So what are you going to do? Its just sad when it comes to that. I hated
to include that quote because Naturis beautiful. I would love for somebody
with a body as great as Naturi to be playing me. I dont even know what to say.
I thought Naturi was amazing, I thought Jamal [Woolard] did a great job. I felt
that Antonique who plays Faith was amazing. In fact, she was really one of the
standouts to me. Its difficult.
The thing about Biggie is that whatever songs he had about
being ready to die, he wasnt ready to die. So therefore his affairs werent
really in order. When he left, he was the glue for his crew, and they havent
really been able to its not a self-sufficient situation, so youre kind of
seeing a little bit of the fall off from that.
the movie and weve learned this about B.I.G.he had this charisma
when it came to women. In one scene, hes meeting Kim, the next scene shes on
top of him asking if he has a girlfriend. Then Faith marrying him within a
dream hampton: No
it was within a week.
was a week?!
Nine days I think. Yeah. It was really wild. Out of all the three major
relationships in B.I.G.s lifeKim, Charli [Baltimore] and Faith Faith is the most
capable of representing him, of being an ambassador to him, of raising his
children, of handling the affairs of his estate. In that sense, at 22, he made
a really wise decision.
Did B.I.G. ever have that effect on you?
dream hampton: I
remember going to Cali. I was working on a Tupac article, and I was talking to
Biggie every night. You know, for the seven years that we were friends we did
talk every day. I remember missing him [while in Cali], and being like, Oh I
cant wait to get back to New York! I didnt have the thing of like, falling
for him he was more my smoking partner, my buddy, my best friend. He talked me
into having my daughter when I wasnt sure thats what I wanted to do. It was a
great relationship. He agreed to be my daughters godfather. He named his
daughter after me, Tyannas middle name. And [Tyanna] recently asked me to be
her friend on Facebook. I almost cried, and I looked at her info and its like
Tyanna Dream Wallace and her little interests skateboarding and bright colors.
Shes having a suburban life over in the Poconos. He would be so happy to see
his children right now.
Why do you think Charli Baltimore was taken out of the whole movie?
dream hampton: I
think if anyone has a reason to be complaining it would be Charli. I mean, of [B.I.G.s] relationships, Faith was his wife, but Tiffany
[Charli Baltimore] was definitely his longest relationship. I mean they were
together for years. She was always at the house in Jersey, making her little
chicken wings or whatever. When Biggie died, Ms. Wallace felt very disrespected
by some of the things that Tiffany did. She had one of Biggies trucks and she
kept getting parking tickets. I think she was parking in front of hydrants,
like that was just her thing or whatever. I dont know. I mean I really cant
tell you why. With a biopic you have to make a lot of decisions.
Like Ray Charles nine baby mothers became like two. I think
that you just have to make editorial choices, and Kim was obviously a public
relationship, Faith was his wife. Im not in the film at all and I asked not to
put me in the film. [Biggie and Charli] had explosive things too. Right before
he died he got kicked out of the Four Seasons because him and Tiffany had a big
fight and hotel security kicked them out. They had to go stay at the Sheraton
in Westwood. So who knows if she would have wanted what their relationship was
in there anyway. I dont know; she would have to speak to that.
Being so close to B.I.G. and knowing he had these three women in his life. We
always have that guy friend whos juggling a bunch of girls. Did you ever say, You
need to pick one?
dream hampton: I
remember saying to him, Whyd you even marry Faith, knowing that you were
going to keep f**king? He was like, I just wanted to lock it down. He just
kind of knew how special she was from the beginning. With Kim, I remember
saying, You need to stop f**king her. I was like, If youre doing business,
you gotta stop f**king her. He was like, I cant, shes the chronic. So it
was stuff like that. He and KimI remember he called me from the studio, they had gotten into it in front of Jermaine Dupri.
I was really mad at him.
If we talked every night for seven years, there were four
nights we didnt speak because he told me him and Kim had a fight. I was like
you dont have a fight with somebody whos 98 pounds. I was very upset with him
for that. Im always a woman, Im always a feminist, n****s know me for that. I
had Biggie do a fundraiser for Tupacs stepfather on some political prisoner
s**t. Biggie came and performed really drunk. I was always who I am with
Biggie, and it was tough as a female friend. I did try.
was strange that Jay-Z wasnt represented in the movie.
dream hampton: I
felt the whole 90s were missing in some ways. Thats one thing the glamour,
the money, the whole scene. I mean Wu-Tang isnt in the movie. In that sense
there are other films that and thats what I said in the beginning and I just
want to re-emphasize that this is going to open doors possibly. I mean the
Eminem film [8 Mile] didnt feel
connected to Hip-Hop in the way that this does. You know how Hollywood is, if
this film does well then other films will. Now there will be other films that
come along that get the feeling right, the emotion.
You wrote the Jay-Z autobiography and then it was never released.
Yup. Jay called and he said 30% of it was prosecutable and the other half he
just felt like his life was in their hands.
think a biography is being written now by Elliott Wilson [former
Editor-In-Chief of XXL Magazine].
Elliott yea I heard that they are doing something. That would be better
if its not first person. I mean Jay at his core, you know some people say oh Im
so private and then they tell you all their business? Jay truly is private. So
as his friend, at this point I was his friend for 13 years, I love that about
him. I dont feel like I can ever say anything or do anything around Jay and
hes going to judge me for it or repeat it, you know what I mean? As a writer
of course your ego wants it to be the book that you friggin almost died writing
in Barnes & Noble, but I wrote it.
I mean I didnt know I could write a book until I wrote
Jays book. It was hard. I thought it was going to be like a long article and
it wasnt, it was a f**king book. So you know, I was interviewing his mom. It
was stuff that he didnt know about his own parents marriage that came out in
this book. So if Elliott does the book, I think that would be good because it
wont be in Jays voice. Itll be more like a biography with access. Im not
mad at that at all. I just cant get caught up. Like its not my lifetime goal
to be a Hip-Hop biographer. I feel no way about it. Id totally read it and I
think its a smart move on his part to do something thats not first person.
Wallace said that after seeing the movie and finally getting to see all sides
of B.I.G., she didnt like what she saw. For someone like youbeing fortunate
enough to have seen all sides of B.I.G.after seeing Notorious, did your opinion of B.I.G.
change at all?
dream hampton: No
it didnt change. I think the one thing thats missing from the film is
Biggies incredible sense of humor. In some ways the movie suffers from a
recurrent amount of realness. You know, like these earnest conversations
between him and D-Roc about the whole hoods counting on you, man; they never
had those kind of conversations. They had very brief,
witty, hilarious exchanges that were brief because of their intimacy. Like they
were able to communicate a whole lot in a couple of words because their
friendship was that intimate and that trusting and that understood. That kind
of stuff is difficult to get in film. I do wish that more of his humor had gone
through. I think that with a mother like once your son starts having
sexyou probably dont want to know him. And sons do a good job of
protecting their mothers from who they are once they become men.
They put their mothers in a box, on a pedestal, whatever,
and then they show their mother that person and they are who they are in the
world. So I could see why [Voletta Wallace] would be surprised by that, but
Biggie was by no means like even the times that he got physical with Kim that I
was mad about with him, I wouldnt say that was something he did in his
relationships. I dont ever remember him being violent in any other
relationship for instance. He was just so warm.
One of the things that Puff said to me once was that B.I.G.
came into a room and made you feel better about who
you were. And thats so rare. Puff was like, I dont have that. I come into a
room and n****s get jealous, they start thinking about how they can run up on
me, whatever. They have different reactions, but its not like people are
feeling good about themselves. When Puff said that I was like thats a perfect
description of who Biggie was. He just was that generous spirit. So theres
nothing that Ms. Wallace should feel ashamed of. She had an amazing son. Thats
why were still talking about him today.
Photo Credit: Ernie Paniccioli