There have been plenty of films that have hip-hop infused within them. Below are a few that stick out to me with some quick reviews and my rating of the movie. Top this intro.
Who’s the Man? (1993) – 3.5/5
In 1993 there was no way I was going to miss a movie like Who’s the Man? It featured the two hosts of Yo! MTV Raps, Doctor Dre and Ed Lover, and a slew of rap cameos from some of the biggest names of the early 90’s. I liked the movie, but based on some positive reviews (Siskel and Ebert, see below), I was expecting something a little better. The plot is pretty standard, two slackers that take nothing seriously try to make something of themselves and join the police force. Of course, they aren’t very good at that either, but they do eventually start to take things seriously when a good friend dies in an explosion. They start to uncover a conspiracy in the neighborhood involving mobsters or politicians, or both, I can’t quite remember who the bad guys were, but they were bad.
The film was directed by Ted Demme, who directed Yo! It was his first full length film and led him into a short, due to his untimely death, but successful film career that spawned films such as Life and Blow. The story itself came from Ed and Dre and Seth Greenland, with Greenland writing the screenplay. However, for rap fans, the cameos (and Ed and Dre) were the big draw here. Denis Leary is featured as a manic (believe it or not) police Sergeant that has the pleasure of trying to “train” Ed and Dre and countless rappers showed up, including:
Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth
And many, many more!!! (to sound like a commercial)
I remember this film getting “two thumbs up” (I believe) and that Roger Ebert had great things to say about Ed Lover and Doctor Dre, saying they could be made into a “… movie comedy team.” and stating that the film is “…ripe for sequels.” in his written review (http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19930423/REVIEWS/304230306/1023).
He also said “…Who’s the Man? could turn out to be a star-maker.” Pretty flattering comments, all of them, however, if you weren’t sure, this star-making transformation didn’t quite happen. At the very least, it must have made the duo feel good about their foray into film.
Overall, it wasn’t a masterpiece, but I think it’s something that non-hip-hop fans can enjoy, but it’s even that much more enjoyable to rap fans because of the number of cameos. I’ll admit, my rating is bumped up because of the time it came out (1993) and the people in the movie, otherwise, I might bump it down half a star. (Note: I will admit that I was a little shocked to see that it has a rating of 4.8 out of 10 on IMDB. People tend to be pretty liberal with their stars on IMDB.)
No donuts for Dre:
CB4 (1993) – 2.5/5
Amongst my friends and I, this was a heavily hyped movie. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to the hype, although it has its moments. Chris Rock (MC Gusto), Allen Payne (Dead Mike), and Deezer D (Stab Master Arson) are suburban friends that start the gangsta rap group, CB4. The group becomes wildly popular, even though they aren’t really gangsters and they eventually break up and then reunite. Chris Elliot is making a documentary about the group and follows them around and also interviews many real rappers for the “documentary”. The group goes through some changes and is found out to be much less gangster than they’ve been portraying themselves.
Chris Rock co-wrote the screenplay and it was directed by Tamra Davis, who is married to Mike D, the ladies choice, who would like to get next to you, like Rolls Royce. There are some decent moments in the movie and it gets more of a pass now than it did at the time from me, which maybe bumps it up from 2 to 2.5. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, so I might even enjoy it more now as a piece of 90’s hip-hop. However, at the time, I remember my friends and I being disappointed by it. Part of that may have been because we had such high hopes for it.
The one moment that always sticks out to me, besides the song Straight Out of Locash, is the hip hop old folks home and an elderly Flavor Flav yelling, “Yeeeeah Booooy!” I always crack up at that part of the movie.
Mash of Locash and Compton:
Juice (1992) – 4/5
This is probably one of my favorite hip-hop themed films. It stars Omar Epps and Tupac Shakur, along with that chubby dude that cries in every movie he’s in and some other guy. They play 4 friends from the inner-city skipping school and looking to get into some good-natured trouble, until Bishop (Tupac) decides that he wants to make some quick and easy money by robbing a convenience store. He gets his hand on a gun and convinces his friends that they should pull the caper and of course, nothing goes quite as planned.
Pac and Omar:
Besides starring one of rap’s biggest names (although not at the time the movie was released), one of the main characters, GQ (Epps), is a DJ and takes part in a contest hosted by Queen Latifah. There’s also a bit part played by Special Ed. He plays a rival of the 4 main characters. The soundtrack also features some great songs by Eric B. and Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Naughty By Nature and other huge acts of the 90’s.
Know the Ledge:
I would venture to guess that most people that visit this site has seen this movie, but if for some reason you haven’t, check it out.
New Jack City (1991) – 3/5
Okay, I haven’t seen this movie in a while, but I loved it at the time and Wesley Snipes’s Nino Brown quickly became an iconic gangster character, at least among rap fans. I’ll need to watch it again to see how it holds up as a film. I suspect it will look really dated because of the fashion and a character named Pookie (Chris Rock), but hopefully it’s still good.
Basically, this is a drug kingpin/gangster movie with Snipes playing the main bad guy. There’s a group, perhaps a ragtag group, of cops out to try and bust Nino and members of his organization. When this movie was being released, I remember thinking that the craziest thing about it was that Ice T was playing a cop, Mr. Cop Killer himself. You also has Judd Nelson as a crazy cop, a few years removed from any success that he had in the 80’s. Director Mario Van Peebles also stars in the film and we have another Allen Payne sighting as G-Money.
The Wackness (2008) – 3/5
Here’s one that might not be as well known. The Wackness takes place in New York during the year of 1994. It stars Josh Peck as Luke, a high school senior with a seemingly bleak future. To his peers, he’s just a weed dealer and he doesn’t really have any friends. He actually becomes quite friendly with one of his older clients played by Ben Kingsley and he has a crush on his step-daughter, who goes to school with Luke.
He ends up getting the girl for a few weeks, and he falls really hard for her. For how messed up Luke seems, it appears that his father is just as much of a screw up as he is. He loses his job and the family has to more to Jersey, which is a death sentence to Luke. Josh Peck does a real nice job with Luke. You can feel how lonely he is and yeah, he’s a drug dealer, but you never feel like he’s a scum bag. He’s just a kid that loves hip-hop, making some money and hoping to maybe make some friends as well.
The girl ends up breaking his heart after they spend a weekend together at her family’s vacation home. After some sulking, you end up getting the feeling that Luke will actually be alright and make something of himself. Overall, the movie is pretty solid, although it isn’t without flaws. I’ve seen the film once, and feel that I might appreciate it even more upon a second viewing.
The great thing about this movie, in my mind, is the time frame and location. I graduated high school in 1994, so I easily relate to that time period and the music that is featured in the film, which was a pretty great time for hip-hop. Method Man even has a cameo in the film as Luke’s supplier who hips Luke to some rapper named Biggie, while “The What” plays in the background. The soundtrack features A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang, Nas and others.
The review below is the kind of stuff that I like to hear about a movie soundtrack like this. I always wonder if people actually seek out older rap songs that are featured in films, when they weren’t already fans of the genre during that time frame. It’s nice to know that they do. I pulled this from a review on amazon.com from someone listed as C Dawson:
I loved this movie and I thought that every song choice was perfect. As soon as it finished playing I started downloading all the songs on the soundtrack one by one (I read here that every good hip-hop fan already has these songs in their collection; sorry, I’m new to the genre!). I found two different song lists for this album: this one on Amazon, and the one listed on Wikipedia. Unfortunately, both lists are missing songs!
I’m not sure if there are more missing, but the two that I’ve found are Bonita Applebum by A Tribe Called Quest (the subway fantasy) and Lost at Birth by Public Enemy (the scene where Luke is running around giving the middle finger to everyone in New York City). I hope this helps some fans who noticed the song list for this soundtrack is short!
House Party (1990) – 4/5
Kid and Play at the height of their popularity decide to throw a house party and hijinks ensue. The R&B group, Full Force, have a significant part as bullies of Kid, Play and the others. There are some classic lines in the movie and it’s a fun little hip-hop film. It’s not a masterpiece, but for people my age, it was a must see back in the day. You also have Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, Martin Lawrence Tisha Campbell and Robin Harris as co-stars. Two sequels were made, including House Party II, which featured a pajama jammy jam, which I just like to say, so that’s why I mentioned it. I only saw HP II, and it wasn’t as good as the first.
For those of you that have seen House Party, you have to see the edited version if it’s ever on TV, because it is hilarious. The editing of dialogue is classic, there are gems like this:
“I smell… SISSY!”
“We must smell like sissy, to a bunch of DORKS!”
“I’m just talking about kicking some monkey feces!”
If they release House Party on blu-ray, they need to add the edited version, because it’s that entertaining. I wish I could find some video of it.
Has anyone seen Fear of a Black Hat? I never did see that one, but it got great reviews back in the day. What else would you add to my list?