Jamal Woolard, a Brooklyn-based rapper best known as “Gravy,” has been tapped to play rap icon Biggie Smalls, in the upcoming biopic Notorious, which is set for a January 2008 release.
Derek Luke, Angela Bassett and Anthony Mackie have also been cast in the movie, Fox Searchlight studio said.
Luke (”Catch a Fire”) will play Biggie record producer Sean “Diddy” Combs, who off-screen is an executive producer on the film. Mackie (”Brother to Brother”) will play rival rapper Tupac Shakur, while Bassett (”Akeelah and the Bee”) will play Biggie’s mother Voletta Wallace.
Jamal Woolard is not a total unknown. He has released a number of albums, though he’s perhaps best known for being shot before a radio appearance outside the New York hip-hop station Hot 97 two years ago, after which he proceeded with the interview and became a part of hip-hop lore.
Christopher ‘The Notorious B.I.G.’ Wallace, who was heavily involved in the East Coast/West Coast rap rivalry that has been dividing hip hop music for decades, was shot dead by an unknown assailant on March 9, 1997.
Like Biggie, Woolard was a drug dealer before going clean and turning rapper.