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  • 10 Essential Hip-Hop Films

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    The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AllHipHop.com

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    I was watching Paid in Full for the approximately 200th time when a thought occurred to me: They don’t make “hip-hop/hood”  movies any more do they?

    When it comes to “black” movies in today’s market place there’s pretty much Tyler Perry and that’s it. And yes, I’m aware of Ice Cube and all of his works but he hasn’t made a “hip-hop” movie in awhile. And by hip-hop I don’t mean a movie about hip-hop music. This isn’t Krush Groove or Russell Simmon’s The Show or Rhyme and Reason I’m talking about. I also don’t mean those vanity projects designed specifically to sell CD’s. So that excludes Cash Money’s Baller Blockin, Death Row’s Murder Was The Case, Rocafella’s Streets is Watching and State Property.  I mean an actual viable movie that just happens to be marketed to the hip-hop nation with an accompanying epic soundtrack. Hollywood inundated us with these movies in the 90’s and early 2000’s and while all of these movies weren’t classic there’s something to be said for a time when movies were made for black people. Because outside of Tyler Perry and some art house stuff that will never see wide release. We just don’t see young black voices in our movie theaters anymore.  So while they all aren’t cinematic masterpieces here are 10 movies (in no particular order) that embody what is missing in today’s theaters.

    Juice

    This movie needs no introduction. For the five people who haven’t seen it and don’t understand why it’s great I urge you to take a look. Many of the cameos would probably be lost on the younger generation from Queen Latifah dissing Flex’s mix to Special Ed stealing Raheim’s girl. But nobody can deny the Oscar-worthy performance of Samuel L. Jackson as aspiring pedophile/ high-school age speakeasy proprietor Sweets. Bonus Fact: This is the movie that made me want to be a DJ.

    Boyz N The Hood

    I confess every time I see Morris Chestnut in a movie I’m secretly afraid that just when something great is about to happen to him a car full of gang members will pull up and shoot him in the back. Based on the way his agent picks scripts though that scenario would probably improve most of the movies he’s starred in recently. But this is the movie that had Lawrence Fishbourne, Angela Basset, Cuba Gooding Jr, Nia Long, and Ice Cube. Sometimes you look at a cast of a movie and you’re amazed at all the talent combined. Also remember when John Singleton was relevant?

    New Jack City

    Nino Brown and G-Money are the most iconic crime duo in the history of black film.  This movie was released in 1991 and tells a cartoonish and simplistic version of the story of crack.  It’s a great movie that helped launch Wesley Snipes and Ice-T into stardom. (There was a time when putting Ice-T in your movie as streetwise cop was not a no-brainer).   And while over the top by today’s standards, Mario Van Peebles never completely veers into the Blaxploitation turf that his father helped establish. If anything this movie reminds us  of a time when crack was super scary.

    Paid In Full

    The only film in this list that wasn’t released in the 90’s. This is like the unofficial sequel of New Jack City telling the story of Harlem’s crack trade in the 80’s and the legendary story of Rich Porter, Alpo and AZ (here rechristened as Mitch, Rico, and Ace). Some details have been changed to protect the innocent. This is one of those movies that was bootlegged years before it’s official release and it’s easy to understand the streets impatience. The quality of this low-budget film and the performances of everyone involved make me wonder if Roc-A—Fella could have become as big a name in movies as it was in music. Hell Cam’ron wasn’t just passable in this film he was a bonafide actor.

    Menace II Society

    Speaking of classic movie characters. Kaine and O-Dog are two you can’t forget. The ending of this movie was my first “Sixth Sense” moment. Before this the idea that a movie could have a “bad” ending was foreign to me.  In retrospect Kaine was a degenerate who probably wasn’t bound for greater things. But his chances for redemption were cut short regardless.  The Hughes Brothers made you feel compassion for characters that moments earlier had committed a robbery/murder.

    South Central

    O.G. Bobby Johnson and Ray-Ray yes the trend of classic characters continue. This movie had more than a few shades of Boyz N The Hood as O.G. Bobby Johnson fights for the soul of his son. Watching it again recently and seeing the desperate situation of the characters involved makes me wonder about how little progress is being made. Why are there still so many poor people in America and why are minorities still relegated to second class citizen status?

    Above The Rim

    You forgot about Pac’s only truly gangsta role? Yeah I know he was a little crazy in Juice. But Roland Bishop was just a crazy confused kid who was probably in the beginning stages of becoming a thug. Birdy the character that Pac played in this film was an actual thug and I believe the basis for the post-prison version of Tupac that he presented to the world until his tragic demise. But I could spend days deconstructing Tupac I’ve had 17 years to think about it.

    Tales From The Hood

    You might think I’m  bugging by putting this movie on the list of essential cinema for the hip-hop generation. But you have to look at what this is. It’s probably the most exploitative film on the list. The one that cares the least about the plight of black people in America. And yet it’s horror/comedy vibe makes it entertaining and certainly less cheesy than other lame attempts like Leprechaun In The Hood. What this movie does though isn’t really a mockery of our culture. It’s social commentary disguised as pulp horror comic schtick. And Clarence Williams III’s black interpretation of the Crypt-keeper from Tales From The Crypt is more than worth the price of admission.

    Friday

    Finally a comedy. I’ll probably be crucified for saying this but the very first Friday probably isn’t the funniest one in the series. But it’s still the best one. The other movies in the Friday series take the original concept and pervert in ways to shamelessly milk the laughter out of the audience. This Friday in it’s pacing and characters that feel genuine with just a touch of the comedic effect was a lot more believable. A character like “Money Mike” could never exist in the universe of the first Friday Film he would stick out like sore thumb. And Chris Tucker’s role as Smokey is a lot more endearing than the obtusely crass Mike Epps in his portrayal of Day-Day. Go rewatch all three films in the series if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

    New Jersey Drive

    Probably the least recognizable name on this list New Jersey Drive is probably remembered more by hip-hop heads than any other group of people because of it’s epic two volume soundtrack. Featuring songs from Lost Boyz, Outkast, and Redman to name a few. I didn’t see the movie for years after it’s release. But one day I was up at like 3 in the morning and it was on TV. I watched it and enjoyed it. It’s a small movie and sometimes small movies are the best. It tells a very simple story of some misguided youth who live in North Jersey and steal cars. That’s it. It doesn’t turn into Fast and The Furious. It doesn’t turn into a convoluted social studies exercise. It stays in its lane (pun intended) and you ultimately feel satisfied with the story it tells.

    Those are my 10 essential hood movies. But of course there are more. If you want to get at me for not including your favorites remember the criteria. No straight to dvd rapper vanity projects. No documentaries. No movies that don’t directly deal with people in the hood.  Dis-Honorable Mentions: Dead Presidents (more of a Vietnam movie), Love Jones ( black women love this movie like black men love Scarface), Soul Food (I’ve grown to hate that movie though), Sunset Park (I forgot what the movie is even about), and that movie where Usher and Fredro from Onyx hold their school hostage (actually that movie sucked).

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  • Lil Wayne is a Better Rapper Than Tupac But He’s Not The ‘New Pac’

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    The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AllHipHop.com

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    Tupac was no lyrical assassin. Tupac was no “MC.” I can name twenty (20) rappers that would s#*t on Tupac’s rhyme-scheme—Nas, Biggie, Jay-Z, Big Pun, Rakim, LL Cool J, MC Lyte, Lauryn Hill, Canibus, Eminem, Twista, JadaKiss, Busta Rhymes, Chuck D, KRS One, Andre 3000, Big Daddy Kane, Kanye West, DMX—and yes, Lil Wayne aka Lil Tunechi! (Follow me and don’t get side-tracked by my list of rhyme-spitters!)

    Having said that—Tupac Shakur was the greatest rapper ever! Great, in terms of his effect on hip-hop culture/rap. He didn’t have the rapid-fire raps of Twista and Busta Rhymes. He didn’t have the punch-lines of JadaKiss, nor the metaphors of Andre 3000, but what Tupac did have was the spirit of a griot—a raconteur—a story-teller who had the ability to make you see his rap truths. (The saying, “Sometimes less is more” has never been truer.) Tupac’s rhymes were simple and to the point. He didn’t mince words or do subliminals or try to rap over our heads like Canibus or get historically deep like KRS-One.

    tupac-shakurWhen it came to diss songs, Tupac’s “Hit ‘Em Up” was probably the best tongue-lashing ever!

    Arguably the most influential rap artist the world over—Tupac was an iconoclast who seemingly knew that his lifespan would be cut short—eerily similar to Dr. Martin Luther King, who, so bravely told us that, “I’ve been to the mountaintop! I’ve seen the Promised Land. I might not get there with you, but we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!”

    Enter Lil Wayne aka Tunechi.

    Over the 2013 NBA All-Star weekend in Houston, Lil Wayne tried to convince us that he was “Tupac-cian”—“Tupac-esque”—yea, the “second-coming” of Tupac by boldly proclaiming, “I ain’t Tupac! I’m the new ‘Pac!” Listen to his braggadocious proclamation!

    “I Ain’t Tupac! I’m the New ‘Pac!” Wayne insists.

    The problem with self-proclamations is that they aren’t cosigned by the masses. A true iconoclast doesn’t big-up himself! The people big you up! The people proclaim your greatness! The people put you on a pedestal! The people invoke your name in the pantheon of (in this case) rap gods!

    I’ve never read of Jesus proclaiming to be the “next Moses” (or Abraham! In fact, Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am!”)—or Muhammad proclaiming to be the “next Jesus”—or in our modern era—Jesse Jackson proclaiming to be the “next MLK” or Malcolm proclaiming to be the “next Elijah.”

    And certainly Tupac didn’t aspire to be the next Rakim!

    With all the money, adulation, fame and poontang that Lil Wayne gets—he still strives for that which is unattainable in the physical realm—greatness. He fails to realize that it is only through death that the masses will consider your greatness. Even with Tupac, no one had put him in the pantheon of great rappers when he was walking the floor of the MGM Grand Casino and stomping niggas out! Tupac was just another rapper doing ig-nant rapper s#*t. Oh, but in death, Hip-Hop began to assess his place as a great rapper—and shortly thereafter—when the mythology, martyrdom and that romantic yearning for a ghetto hero kicked in—like a phoenix rising from the ashes of Hades—Tupac ascended to the top of the rap pantheon.

    “I Ain’t Tupac! I’m the New ‘Pac!” Wayne insists.

    Tupac was shot five times! Lil Wayne was shot once by a self-inflicted wound at age 12. Tupac had records that spoke the truth about ghetto life—“Dear Mama,” “Brenda’s Got A Baby” “So Many Tears,” “Keep Ya Head Up,” “Holla If Ya Hear Me,” “I Wonder If Heaven Got A Ghetto,” “Hail Mary,” “How Long Will They Mourn Me?”, “I Ain’t Mad At Cha,” “California Love,” “Thugs Mansion,” “To Live and Die in LA,” and ”2 of Amerikkka’s Most Wanted.” Tupac’s discography was solid! Tupac dealt with the ills, which plague the hood—teen pregnancy, black-on-black crime, ghetto life, gang violence, losing love, death, the spirituality of heaven & hell and the religiosity of things to come.

    [ALSO READ: Consequence: Helping Bucked-Teeth Brothers Out!]

    Tupac was an avid reader and through his reading of such subjects as the “apocalypse” and the reading of “Machiavelli”—Tupac was able to apply that to his own life and record classic albums like “2Pacalypse Now” and “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (Makavelli).”

    Juxtapose Tupac with Lil Wayne, who has a slew of hits and bangers, but most are club s#*ts that will be forgettable in the coming years. Lil Wayne probably has more collabos and hits than Tupac, but they are fluff. The only song that I can possibly think of as “Tupac-esque” would be Wayne’s feature on The Game’s “My Life.” That was some introspective and heart-felt sh#*!

    Tupac was in classic films like, “Poetic Justice,” “Above The Rim,” “Juice,” and “Gang Related.” He had great acting chops! Lil Wayne has been in what movies? (Crickets)

    Tupac had a Movement—Thug Life, which represented the everyday man struggling in an unjust world. Tupac had a philosophy—T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E.—”The Hate You Give Little Infants F#*ks Everyone.” Tupac had a mission: End gang violence and curtail drug dealing. Tupac had a street code.

    Lil Wayne, thus far hasn’t even begun to stick his big toe in Tupac’s shoe! He’s all about that party life, that f#*kin’ bitches life, that snitchin’ on his dick life (“I f#*ked Chris Bosh’s wife!” Did Wayne say that because Tupac said he boned Biggie’s wife?), that braggin’ about his wealth life and his skateboard life. Tupac has a revolutionary pedigree—being the son of a Black Panther and having lived in Oakland, the most revolutionary city in American history! Lil Wayne is a spoiled brat from New Orleans’s 17th Ward (Hollygrove).

    50 Cent is a far more worthy candidate of the Tupac legacy. He is feeding the hungry in Africa. Fiddy has thrown off the shackles of South-Side Jamaica Queens and is becoming a world-wide brand. To become “Tupac-cian”—one must transcend the rap genre and become a world-wide iconic figure—not simply a rap star. As it stands, only in death will Lil Wayne’s place in Hip-Hop history be cemented. But right now, he’s just a whining, childlike, immature, imbecilic little imp with a short man’s Napoleonic Complex the size of the Miami Heat Big Three!

    Lil Wayne’s first step on the way to becoming “Tupac-esque” is to clear his head. Put that lean-purp-promethazine-sizzurp down! Erry’body knows you’re on that styrofoam cup! All this “Pop a molly I’m sweatin’ whooo!” ish gotta stop! I don’t need a medical degree to know you’re killing yourself with these drugs. Stop it! Your recent seizures are a combination of that weed, lean and not getting proper rest. As a fan of your music and a man who speaks truth, I wanna see you win in the game of life, but I ain’t gonna give you that watered-down milquetoast convo like these other industry folk. I said, “Stop it or you’re gonna die!”  That’s the problem with fans–nobody wants to challenge your drug addiction until you’re taking a dirt-nap! I’d bet a pretty penny that Baby & dem are covering up ish and blaming Wayne’s seizure on “work”–as if what he does is harder than the man working two jobs to support his family!

    If you wanna be great–change your life, find a cause worth getting deep about and spit that ism! That’s what Tupac did!

    Yes! Lil Wayne is a better rapper than Tupac was, yet Tupac is the greatest rapper evaaaar! (A case of one plus one equaling three, eh?) It isn’t Tupac’s wordplay that made him great. Nay! It was his delivery and subject-matter that makes him great!

    Perhaps Lil Tunechi is right! “I Ain’t Tupac! I’m the New ‘Pac!” By his works, we have to assume that A.) Lil Tunechi is unaware of Tupac’s progressiveness and revolutionary mind or B.) that the “New Pac” is a self-absorbed bastard. What say you?

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    newyearskhalilKhalil Amani writes for DJ Kay Slay’s Originators Magazine & Straight Stuntin Magazine. He is the author of six books, including the ground-breaking book, “Hip-Hop Homophobes…” (iuniverse.com 07). Amani is gay hip-hop’s self-proclaimed straight advocate. Visit The Coonerific One at http://www.khalilamani.ning.com Follow on Facebook/Twitter @khalilamani. Youtube @ yahweh 12

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