Posted on 08 April 2009.
It’s no secret that I love hip-hop. Music. Culture. Whatever you want to call it, it is in me and I enjoy it. Of course that love and appreciation for hip-hop extends to film. I am the resident writer here for all things that involve hip-hop in movies. I find any way to share this with you that I can and incorporate it into The Film Nest. I was on the scene to review Notorious and The Wackness early. I gave you a Film-U-Missed covering the controversial 2pac with Tupac: Resurrection. I delivered a Classic Scene from Boyz N The Hood. I even recently posted a (loosely) film related post in the form of a new music video for Eminem’s “We Made You.” I enjoy sharing this passion with anyone who will listen. So, I decided to do a list on the 10 Movies The Hood Loves The Most.
Admittedly, this is a difficult task. There are tons of ‘hood movies. But what type of movies does the proverbial ‘hood love? Well, for starters, it has to incorporate some form of or connection to hip-hop. Whether it is with the actors, the lifestyle, or simply the music, a ‘hood movie needs that element to it, to bring enjoyment to the discerning eyes of those who stay up late at night and sleep during the day. It also has to be about the ‘hood in some way. It could be location, a character that is particularly gangster, something about the drug game (a prominent hood profession), or rising against all odds. All traits the ‘hood respects.
The movies that could fall into this category are many. A movie could be about cops and robbers (cops regularly are targeted with the hood’s angst). Action helps, but is not completely necessary for ‘the hood to be down with it. I need some inspiration here, so fortunately, I have my iTunes playing what is essentially 90% or more hip-hop in the background now to help me out. Finally, I must re-iterate that these are movies that the ‘hood loves. That doesn’t mean that they are the best movies by any means. Nor does it mean that they are in the order of the best made films within the list. The ‘hood doesn’t always think technically in that way. Hood denizens want to be entertained, just like anyone, and these movies clearly do the trick for them.
10. I’m Bout It (1997)
The rapper and entrepreneurial icon, Master P, wrote, directed and starred in this movie that practically started it all as far as rappers doing things themselves in movies. This movie was released straight to video and was taken as a serious attempt to make money with a foray into film. I admit it’s been years since I have seen this, and I remember being it nearly atrociously unwatchable, but for P and for the ‘hood, it is about the hustle. P played guinea pig while showing MCs the way to think for themselves and make their own money. The man is a business genius even if he can’t act or (really) rap at all. This film featured him and his whole No Limit stable acting in a film loosely based on the premise “if a man hasn’t discovered something to die for, he isn’t fit to live.” In a lot of ways I agree with the statement and even if the movie is so-low budget it was probably made for pennies, I am certain P cashed in from it. You don’t have to like P, or the movie, to respect what he is all about here. Making money and being self-made. The ‘hood can dig it.
9. Belly (1998)
Nas contemplates the plot while starring in "Belly"
Belly is essentially hip-hop video director Hype Williams’ answer to P’s I’m Bout It. Written in part by hip-hop icon Nas and starring both he and DMX, Belly is a stylish, if still largely disjointed film. Not an easy movie to sit through, but due to it’s stars, distinct style and set pieces, it sneaks by. With the plot about the drug trade and two friends going in opposite directions, the ‘hood has always felt strong about this movie. Hype does take the camera to some cool angles, and as a fan, it is marginally (only marginally) interesting to watch Nas and DMX try to act, but that’s about all there is to it. Nas is actually not bad, but DMX isn’t good as an actor, though if you recall at the time, he was a major star, as he followed this up with Romeo Must Die with Jet Li and Exit Wounds with Steven Seagal. It’s the plot that’s just wack, with a strange religiously twisted end. Trying to follow the jumping of scenes (are they even connected to one another?) isn’t easy but there is some violence, decent music, and enough style to perhaps make it watchable. Once.
8. Colors (1988)
The first good film on the list, Colors has Sean Penn and Robert Duvall as cops in the middle of LA where gangs are strongly at war. The acting is obviously excellent, the soundtrack is one of the first to feature nearly all hip-hop on a major film, and the plot works. The ‘hood begrudgingly respects Duvall’s Hodges as a veteran in the tough area, whereas Sean Penn’s “Pac-Man” is trying to learn the ropes. This shares alot of themes with Training Day, just 15 years earlier. The scene where they arrest all the Bloods and Crips and put them in jail cells next to each other is exciting, especially knowing that there were numerous real gang members involved there. Dennis Hopper (yes, him) directs. Look out for a young Don Cheadle as gang-member “Rocket” and Courtney Gaines “Whitey” cholo. For those who don’t know him, this is his follow up film after Can’t Buy Me Love‘s, Kenneth. “You shit on my house!” Don’t miss Colors, it’s strongly recommended.
7. Do The Right Thing (1989)
Spike's "Mookie" delivers the 'hood's 7th most loved film.
More about a neighborhood than the ‘hood, Spike’s seminal work (although 25th Hour fans might argue) is a classic that covers a sweltering day on a diverse Brooklyn block. This is much more focused on racial relations, but the ‘hood saw someone they felt they could identify with at the time in Spike. Strong casting and a plot with mounting tensions keeps this one moving towards it’s ultimate conclusion. Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” was a featured track on Radio Raheem’s boombox, and his unneeded death leads to a powerful climax. The complexities of this are worth revisiting over and over, as viewers and characters alike wonder why all the madness had to take place. Martin Lawrence makes his first big screen appearance as a local jackass and Danny Aiello, John Turturro and Spike hold down the fort as the main characters. Appointment viewing.
Interlude, Mobb Deep’s “Win Or Lose” is playing, I have to take a little break. The sample is off the hook! “Federal Note fetish”…classic.
6. New Jack City (1991)
Ice-T is cocked and ready in the classic "New Jack City"
The ‘hood loves Mario Van Peebles ode to Scarface with Wesley Snipes as drug kingpin Nino Brown. Snipes has never been better (except at evading taxes), Chris Rock as junkie “Pookie”, Ice-T as an edgy cop with Judd Nelson, of all people, as his partner. Allen Payne is “G. Money” who helped Nino build their drug empire, but sees tension over Brown’s recklessness and their crossing up over a girl, leads to their demise. The “Am I my brother’s keeper” line during the scene where their friendship ultimately fizzles, is oft-repeated and revered to this day. This one is not a great film, but has plenty to entertain throughout (several times over, if you are me) and you really can’t call yourself a ‘hood film fan without seeing it. “I want to shoot you so bad, it makes my dick hard.” Eat your heart out, Seth Rogen.
5. Friday (1995)
I partied with Deebo from "Friday" in Vegas once.
Ice Cube’s first comedy entry is easily his best comic film to date. The man who would have been gangster rap’s King shocked us all by going funny here, as the straight man opposite a young comic named Chris Tucker. Tucker has never been better; he can do as many Rush Hour‘s as he wants and never be this funny. What charisma and what an impression he makes. Tiny Lister as “Deebo,” Faizon Love as “Big Worm” and an appearance from the sultry Nia Long, make this the classic ‘hood comedy. An ode to marijuana. When Tucker’s “Smokey” declares about a woman, “The older the berry, the sweeter the juice,” Cube’s Craig replies “it’s the blacker the berry.” Not a moment too late, Smokey replies, “She’s blacker than a muthafucker too.” Hilarious stuff. One of the best experiences I have had watching a movie in a theater. The whole crowd was singing the songs when they were on. One of my great moments in my cinema going history is also the ‘hood’s indisputable most respected comedy.
4. Juice (1992)
Tupac Shakur makes an indelible screen impression as “Bishop,” a man with the “juice” once he gets a hold of a gun. Moments after securing the gun from his best friend, trouble ensues and said best friend loses his life. That’s “juice” for ya. Omar Epps is “Q”, a more morally grounded DJ in the crew, where Bishop fiends for power and Jermaine Hopkins’ “Steel” (Lean On Me‘s “Sams”) also hang. While Q is out to get a record deal, spinning in a contest hosted by Queen Latifah, in an early role, Bishop’s aggressive search for power haunts the crew and Pac’s charisma lingers long after the film ends. The climactic battle leaves a new man (I won’t spoil it) with the “juice”, but he doesn’t want it. Ernest Dickerson directs this great film about black youth struggling with their identities and peer pressure while growing up in the confines of a group. Oh, and the search for “juice.” Gripping stuff.
3. Boyz N The Hood (1991)
Cube in his iconic state during the "Boyz" shoot.
What has long been one of my favorite films ever, Boyz N The Hood succeeds as a great tale of “growing up in the ‘hood.” John Singleton, fresh out of USC Film School, gives us his best film to date (by far) with Cuba Gooding Jr. bursting on to the scene, and the aforementioned Ice Cube in his first film role (still rockin’ the Jheri Curl). Cube is the gun-toting hard ass “Doughboy,” Cuba the good guy raised by Furious Styles (a stellar Larry Fishburne) and Morris Chestnut is Ricky, the football prospect who is his families ticket out of the ghetto. Ricky’s football dreams are dashed as he ends up a tragic victim of local hoods leaving retribution to come in the form of retaliation, Doughboy style. Like all things Singleton, this is sometimes preachy but its ultimately a real and revealing film about the struggles of growing up and making adult decisions, perhaps before you are ready to make them. It echoes real life in that way. Good subplots and great music, with a brilliant score to boot by John Williams. A true classic.
2. Menace II Society (1993)
Caine & O-Dog stare down some marks.
Remember when I reiterated that this was in the order that “the ‘hood” places these films? Here is a classic example. The ‘hood loves “Menace” more than “Boyz,” deeming it the “real” version of life in the ghetto. I don’t concur entirely, but The Hughes Brothers did make a solid film that made a star out of Larenz Tate. Tate’s “O-Dog” is a gun-happy gangster and homie to Caine, a boy trying to be a man while raising a child with Jada Pinkett’s “Ronnie.” It’s a different film from “Boyz” that is still rooted in the problems of youth growing up in a tough area and making decisions sometimes beyond their capabilities. Allen and Albert hold it all together through unflinching visuals and yes, violence. The directing and story are solid but overall it doesn’t seem on par with “Boyz” and the two films will always be linked, regardless of time. While I enjoy the film, I have never held it in quite the same high regard as Singleton’s pic. Perhaps I will see it again (though I have seen it multiple times) to continue to try to uncover its layers.
1. Scarface (1983)
Pacino's "Scarface" takes his rightful place atop our list.
What were you expecting to see here, Deep Cover? Clockers? New Jersey Drive? South Central? No, there was never a doubt about the movie the ‘hood loves the most. Scarface is the epitome of a rags to riches tale. Tony Montana is a man who came from nothing to be king of the drug trade, only to see it all fall apart. Brian DePalma put Al Pacino in the lead in what should have won him the Best Actor Oscar, hands down. To not even be nominated is criminal. Hence the Academy hasn’t had credibility for years, here or in the ‘hood! Pacino may have taken some flack for his dialect, but it is perfect for the film and his depth shines throughout. Watching his reaction as his friend is ripped apart by a chainsaw or his heightened sense of theater when he is coked-out to the hilt in the final scene, you know Pacino was on his game. His Montana is the most quoted character in all of hip-hop history (and perhaps film history) and rightfully so. Living by a true code, all he has is “his balls and his word.” And he “don’t break ‘em for nobody.” A lesson for all men of any moral fabric to understand and strive for. Really, the world would be a better place if we all lived by that credo…just with far less violence. This pic may have been before hip-hop in large respect but it has defined the music and culture better than any film has since.
Thanks for finishing the list. If you feel something is overlooked, trust me I considered tons of movies but probably not all, please share. I’d love to hear your thoughts on some great movies that “the ‘hood” (or even you!) love. Peace.