The new film features archival footage and new interviews with Diddy and Biggie's mother Voletta Wallace

By Darlene Aderoju
February 15, 2021 02:45 PM
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Biggie Smalls is often credited as one of the greatest rappers of all time. Now, the world can take a glimpse inside the late icon's life.

On March 1, Netflix will release Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell, the first-ever estate-approved documentary about The Notorious B.I.G., né Christopher George Wallace. The official trailer premiered on Monday.

Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell chronicles the life of Wallace ahead of his rise to fame, as told by his loved ones — including his mom Voletta and his longtime collaborator and friend Diddy, who discovered the rapper in the '90s.

"My son was a very smart kid," Voletta says in the trailer, which also reveals there were talks of crafting him into a jazz star because of his musical talent.

Biggie Smalls
| Credit: Netflix

"Biggie blew up overnight, you have no origins for what rap planet this guy came from," Diddy says of the late legend.

Early in his life, the Notorious B.I.G. began selling drugs in efforts to help provide for his single mom (who had been raising him alone since his dad left when Biggie was a toddler).

"He disrespected my house, that wasn't my son," Voletta says of his decision to turn to the streets. When she believed he was at work, Biggie was making ends meet his own way.

Despite her disappointment at the time, Voletta says she ultimately felt proud of her son when he jumpstarted his career under Bad Boy Records (music magnate Diddy's label).

"I was happy that he was making something with his life," says Voletta. But his old ways continued despite being a distinguished rap figure.

"[I said,] 'You wanna do this? I need you to commit to this. No, you can't do both,'" Diddy says at one point in the clip — seemingly addressing Biggie's continued involvement with selling drugs.

Biggie Smalls and Diddy attend The 11th Annual Soul Train Music Awards

Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell was first announced in 2017. It was originally set to be named One More Chance, eponymously after Biggie Smalls' hit song which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in '95 and spent 20 weeks on the chart.

Director Emmett Malloy tells PEOPLE how he became the man behind the first-ever estate approved documentary on the late rap star. "The estate was setting out to make this film and were looking for a director," he explains. "My pitch to Ms. Wallace was that I was interested in making a film that focused on her son's life and not his death."

Malloy says that while filming, he was most surprised to learn about Biggie's lineage as a first-generation American.

"I think his family's Jamaican roots was something that really caught my attention," says the director. " I was not aware until the making [of the documentary] that Biggie spent a few months every year with his mom in Jamaica. So, that is where our film begins, traveling with Voletta to visit her mother and family in Jamaica."

Biggie Smalls
| Credit: Clarence Davis/getty images

While abroad, Malloy was able to meet the family matriarch, "We got some amazing stories from his 97-year-old grandmother about how special her grandson was."

Malloy tells PEOPLE he is hoping that after watching the film, viewers will learn "that Christopher Wallace was a visionary artist and [he is] one of the greats of our generation, worthy of the crown that has been put on his head [during his final photo shoot]. Also, [I want people to learn] that he was a great son, friend and father."

Wayne Barrow, Biggie's current estate manager is an executive producer for the new documentary.

"Big was always a visionary," Butler said in a statement to Rolling Stone. "There will never be such a crazy time in Brooklyn as the '80s and '90s, out of great struggle, comes great art and music. The Brooklyn kid rapping today won't have the same stories we have to tell."

And for the Notorious B.I.G, as said in Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell, "That's all it was, was a dream."

Biggie's son C.J. Wallace
| Credit: Willie Mack

The Notorious B.I.G. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year. Diddy paid tribute to him during the virtual ceremony. Biggie's son C.J. opened up to PEOPLE just days ahead of the induction.

"People often forget that he was human. He was a regular guy," C.J. said at the time. "He loved to make people laugh. He loved to care for his people and do as much as he could for his friends and family. ... If the world doesn't know anything about Christopher Wallace, it's definitely that he had a good heart and he was a great spirit."

The first-generation New Yorker was shot and killed in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997.

Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell premieres on March 1 on Netflix.