dream hampton: Thinking B.I.G.

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

career—a career that ended far too soon and is being honored with the

release of Notorious—his best

friend was in fact a journalist.

 

dream hampton,

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 Biggie’s 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

couldn’t and what Biggie’s legacy really means for Hip-Hop.

 

 

AllHipHop.com: First

off, what did you think about Notorious?

 

dream hampton: I

liked the film. I think that it’s going to open doors and that it’s going to be

a big box office success. I really do. It’s still relevant. Sometimes when I

listen to the radio, which is rare, I’m amazed at how present [Biggie] is on

the playlist. So there’s the fact that he’s present in our culture, but then

there’s 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 don’t know the facts [about

Biggie]. We’re really dealing with ‘90s babies now and the things that we take

for granted, they just don’t…you know, know all the facts. They don’t 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 there’s a chance that the kids haven’t seen those. So

that’s that. I think that the movie did its job.

 

AllHipHop.com:

For you it’s more personal, knowing Biggie. What was it like reliving that?

 

dream hampton:

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

shoot—the 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 he’s 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 I’ve seen

that at clubs with Puff. Of course New York in the ‘90s and you know how

everyone’s 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

just wasn’t.

 

AllHipHop.com: In

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

we’re hearing that Lil’ Kim is saying that she was falsely depicted. In your VIBE piece you’re 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 you’re dealing with people’s life stories, it’s

complicated. That’s why people wait until people die. I mean Jacqueline Kennedy

wrote her memoir, locked it in a vault, and it’s 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 Kim’s 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 they’ve 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, that’s just cheap. I don’t think what’s going on with Kim in

terms of her own pathology around beauty is a secret. She’s kind of wearing

that. So what are you going to do? It’s just sad when it comes to that. I hated

to include that quote because Naturi’s beautiful. I would love for somebody

with a body as great as Naturi to be playing me. I don’t 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. It’s difficult.

 

The thing about Biggie is that whatever songs he had about

being ready to die, he wasn’t ready to die. So therefore his affairs weren’t

really in order. When he left, he was the glue for his crew, and they haven’t

really been able to…it’s not a self-sufficient situation, so you’re kind of

seeing a little bit of the fall off from that.

 

AllHipHop.com: In

the movie – and we’ve learned this about B.I.G.—he had this charisma

when it came to women. In one scene, he’s meeting Kim, the next scene she’s on

top of him asking if he has a girlfriend. Then Faith marrying him within a

month –

 

dream hampton: No

it was within a week.

 

AllHipHop.com: It

was a week?!

 

dream hampton:

Nine days I think. Yeah. It was really wild. Out of all the three major

relationships in B.I.G.’s life—Kim, 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.

 

AllHipHop.com:

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

can’t wait to get back to New York!” I didn’t 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 wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted to do. It was a

great relationship. He agreed to be my daughter’s godfather. He named his

daughter after me, Tyanna’s middle name. And [Tyanna] recently asked me to be

her friend on Facebook. I almost cried, and I looked at her info and it’s like

Tyanna Dream Wallace and her little interests…skateboarding and bright colors.

She’s having a suburban life over in the Poconos. He would be so happy to see

his children right now.

 

AllHipHop.com:

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 Biggie’s 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 don’t know. I mean I really can’t

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. I’m 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 don’t know; she would have to speak to that.

 

AllHipHop.com:

Being so close to B.I.G. and knowing he had these three women in his life. We

always have that guy friend who’s juggling a bunch of girls. Did you ever say, “You

need to pick one”?

 

dream hampton: I

remember saying to him, “Why’d 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 you’re doing business,

you gotta stop f**king her.” He was like, “I can’t, she’s the chronic.” So it

was stuff like that. He and Kim—I 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 didn’t speak because he told me him and Kim had a fight. I was like

you don’t have a fight with somebody who’s 98 pounds. I was very upset with him

for that. I’m always a woman, I’m always a feminist, n****s know me for that. I

had Biggie do a fundraiser for Tupac’s 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.

 

AllHipHop.com: It

was strange that Jay-Z wasn’t represented in the movie.

 

dream hampton: I

felt the whole ‘90s were missing in some ways. That’s one thing…the glamour,

the money, the whole scene. I mean Wu-Tang isn’t in the movie. In that sense

there are other films that…and that’s 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] didn’t 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.

 

AllHipHop.com:

You wrote the Jay-Z autobiography and then it was never released.

 

dream hampton:

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.

 

AllHipHop.com: I

think a biography is being written now by Elliott Wilson [former

Editor-In-Chief of XXL Magazine].

 

dream hampton:

Elliott – yea I heard that they are doing something. That would be better

if it’s not first person. I mean Jay at his core, you know some people say oh I’m

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 don’t feel like I can ever say anything or do anything around Jay and

he’s 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 didn’t know I could write a book until I wrote

Jay’s book. It was hard. I thought it was going to be like a long article and

it wasn’t, it was a f**king book. So you know, I was interviewing his mom. It

was stuff that he didn’t 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

won’t be in Jay’s voice. It’ll be more like a biography with access. I’m not

mad at that at all. I just can’t get caught up. Like it’s not my lifetime goal

to be a Hip-Hop biographer. I feel no way about it. I’d totally read it and I

think it’s a smart move on his part to do something that’s not first person.

 

AllHipHop.com: Ms.

Wallace said that after seeing the movie and finally getting to see all sides

of B.I.G., she didn’t like what she saw. For someone like you—being 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 didn’t change. I think the one thing that’s missing from the film is

Biggie’s 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 hood’s 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

sex—you probably don’t 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 wouldn’t say that was something he did in his

relationships. I don’t 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 that’s so rare. Puff was like, “I don’t 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 it’s not like people are

feeling good about themselves.” When Puff said that I was like that’s a perfect

description of who Biggie was. He just was that generous spirit. So there’s

nothing that Ms. Wallace should feel ashamed of. She had an amazing son. That’s

why we’re still talking about him today.

Photo Credit: Ernie Paniccioli

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