As a young man and person of color, Hip-Hop music and culture have given me support for many things in a way that my single Caucasian mother could not.
Whether it addressed the importance of maturity (Nas’ “2nd Childhood”), voiced frustration about having it bad cause I’m brown (N.W.A’s “F**k Tha Police”), or even explained why I wore glasses (The Pharcyde’s “On the D.L.”), there have been numerous kindred spirits that I’ve come across as a result of the art form that DJ Kool Herc founded in the Bronx. However, the most profound influence I had was not on wax, but the silver screen.
Furious Styles, played by Laurence Fishburne, in the 1991 masterpiece Boyz N the Hood is a character that I will forever hold near and dear to my heart.
In honor of the film’s 25th anniversary, I pay homage to a father figure of mine that Mr. Fishburne himself has described as, “the father to a generation of fatherless children.”
Here are the finest examples of when Furious Styles had a truly positive affect on me and the respective subjects which he addressed.
I remember it was the last day of class my freshmen year in high school and, as usual, I took my dog for a walk around the block when I returned home in the afternoon.
On this particular day, my dog stopped to relieve himself while we were in sight of a parked police car.
The car proceeded to follow me for an entire block until finally a cop got out and approached me.
He asked if I lived in the area, if I had ID on me, and claimed that I was acting suspicious because I changed directions (referring to when the dog stopped to urinate on a plant).
When I returned home, my mother called the police department and we were invited down to the station to discuss our grievances.
We spoke to the chief of police who, like the despicable officer in Boyz N the Hood, was an African-American man. He told me, a then 14 year-old boy, point blank, that in addition to following and stopping me, he would’ve also run a check to see if I had a criminal record.
It spoke volumes to me about the institutional racism within the police department.
On the way home, I recalled the scene early in the movie after Furious’ house is broken into and the one where Tre and Ricky are pulled over years later.
And like in the former, I couldn’t help but imagine the cop saying, “Something wrong?” And then Furious saying, “Something wrong? Yeah. It’s just too bad you don’t know what it is. Brother.” While my mom couldn’t have done a better job calling out the cops for how poorly they handled everything, I know Furious’ words would’ve had a different impact.
The scene when Tre, at age 10, and Furious are fishing is powerful. “Any fool with a d##k can make a baby, but only a real man can raise his children,” Furious says.
As someone who is adopted, the potential results of sexual activity have always been clear.
“I wasn’t but 17 when your mother was pregnant with you ... Remember my friend, Marcus? He got into robbing people and wanted me come along and join him, but I was like, ‘Nah man, I’m getting ready to have a son,’” he continues.
While robbery is obviously wrong, I thought the more significant message was seeing an example of a man taking responsibility for becoming a father.
Had my biological father placed more importance on his actions, my life would have been a stark contrast compared to what it turned out to be.
In retrospect, that’s very logical.
However, seeing the movie at age 11 and hearing a man talk about being a parent for the first time was something I’d never heard before and so it left a lasting impression.
I couldn’t have asked for a better life than the one I have, but the information and experiences that my biological father’s choices took away from me are not unnoticed either.
This is something which manifests itself in a variety of ways throughout Boyz N the Hood.
From Furious having Tre do chores, recall the rules of the house, and break down the guidelines of being a leader as a boy to the scene when this issue culminates and Tre, as a teenager, walks out of his room in blood-stained clothes with a loaded gun in his hand and a decision to make, it all connects because those are things that define what it means to be a man.
Furious told Tre as a child, “You may think I’m being hard on you right now, but I’m not. What I’m doing is I’m trying to teach you how to be responsible. Like your little friends across the street, they don’t have anybody to show them how to do that. They don’t. And you’re gonna see how they end up too.”
He did. We all did.
The film's Academy Award nominated writer and director, Mr. John Singleton, put on an insert of the anniversary edition of the DVD stating that the film has a lot of messages in it, but his main message is that fathers have to teach their boys to be men.
In the words of Reva Styles, Tre's mother, "I can't teach him how to be a man."
Happy Silver Anniversary to my favorite film and respect due to Mr. Jason “Furious” Styles.