’92 wasn’t a big year for Hip Hop oriented movies as far as I remember (which doesn’t really mean shit since I was 7), but ’92 did present two movies that I’ve remembered quite vividly throughout my childhood.
The first movie from ’92 that’s stuck with me pretty hardcore is “Juice”. I’m pretty sure “Juice” has been as memorable for me as it has been for any other Hip Hop fan especially since the plot of the movie surrounds growing up in the birthplace of Hip Hop and one of the genre’s favorite sons Tupac Shakur, had his first major and most memorable role, in the film.
Before I sat back down to watch “Juice” again for this post, all I could really remember about it was Omar Epps’ character Q’s initial DJ battle. I remember as a youngun wanting to be just like Q in the fact that he was so cocky and self sure standing above the crowd. He had that smug look across his face like he just knew that there was nothing his opponent could throw at him that he wouldn’t be ready for. As I sat watching “Juice” again I was really surprised how little instances of quality acting as such lent to the credibility and quality of most of the film. I say most, because as I sat there watching the film after so many years of it just being a memory, I realized how so many aspects of the film were just corny as hell. “You got the juice, now” the line uttered at the end of the film as Q walks away from the ledge in which he dropped his one time friend Bishop from, comes immediately to mind. Speaking of Bishop, Pac put work in as such an emotional and truly deranged character that it’s worth noting. He plays the role of a victim, who becomes hungry for respect or “juice”, when he gets the power of a weapon in his hand so well, that you could probably pull several character studies from the role (can anyone say, Hussein, Muhammad and Malvo, Bush!). A prime example of the amazing show of theatrics Pac put on is the scene in which the crew compromised of Q, Steel, Bishop, and Raheem are all sitting around watching the film White Heat. Pac’s Bishop goes insane with glee watching the film, whooping and hollering, and just loving it until, suddenly, he does a complete emotional 360 turning on his friends for not taking his enthusiasm seriously. I’m a huge fan of Pac’s role in the film Poetic Justice but I completely forgot how hard he held it down in Juice. If you’ve never seen the movie Pac’s acting makes it completely worth it.
As a fan of Hip Hop though, the film is wrought with the influences of the culture from the images to the sounds, which makes for one of the best Hip Hop soundtracks to this day. The OST was filled to the brim with the biggest names in Hip Hop including Big Daddy Kane, Too Short, Naughty by Nature, EPMD, and Cypress Hill. The soundtrack opens up with Naughty by Nature’s “Uptown Anthem” that is pretty damn close to being a perfect song, and as far as the soundtrack goes, it is a perfect submission. Kay Gee’s production is so hype that along with the ruckus spitting Naughty by Nature it makes for a pretty up-tempo track. Rakim’s “Juice – Know the Ledge” follows and is one of those tracks that’s essential to any Rakim fans collection. I’m huge on Ra’s lyrics with this one “smooth when I move like an army, bullet proof down in case brothers try to bomb me” and his production really shines on this one as well. I could sit hear and praise every single track on here from the classic Hip Hop singles like Cypress Hill’s “Shoot ‘em Up” to Teddy Riley and Tammy Lucas’ R&B smash “Is It Good to You” but it’s probably not necessary because I’m sure you already know that. If you don’t go ahead and peep “Juice” the OST cause it’s worth it, and if you already got it go ahead and give it another listen for ‘92’s sake.
South Central as a film means a little bit more to me than Juice. I remember my Dad sitting me down and telling me I needed to watch it and “pay attention!” South Central is essentially a father and son film about the struggles that so many youth face growing up with the lack of a father figure in their life. In retrospect, its not as good as it seemed back then but there are many themes such as that of growing up fatherless and the feeling of belonging found within a gang, that seem as important today as they were in ’92. A sad reflection on society’s inability to alter the negative roles and images that seem to persist throughout America’s impoverished cities and towns. South Central is a really good movie that cuts deep to the heart, by the end of the film.
By way of the soundtrack South Central takes it back with plenty of funky tracks for nostalgia’s sake and a few Hip Hop cuts to fire it up. Ronnie Hudson’s “Westcoast Poplock” which has made its way onto the MPCs of dozens of Hip Hop producers drops the setting for the film and serves to hold each of the soundtracks recordings together. A personal favorite of mine, Slaves “Just A Touch of Love” is on the soundtrack as well and like “Westcoast Poplock” you’ll no doubt recognize several tracks that have bit from the single over the years. Scarface’s “Street Life” sums up the entire film as well as the life of many individuals trapped in the streets to crime and loneliness. It’s the best song on the soundtrack and not only does Scarface come with some great lyrics but the production on here resonates with that West Coast sound and I always make sure that I play it a few times throughout the week when this Phoenix sun starts to beat down on the back of the neck. Despite what you may have seen on the faces of the Superbowl spectators the sun out here can quickly and quite ruthlessly to turn a smile into a sweat covered frown’ but its all good though, it forces women to wear practically zilch.
I think piece for piece both soundtracks are worth the time. Juice is essential to any Hip Hop collection and its one of those soundtracks that stands alone, as an innovative album that helped to bring Hip Hop to the ears of many who may not have found the genre worth a try. Juice takes it back and if you’re looking to get on that Westcoast tip, pop it in drop your windows and just ride…..-Spaise