Hip-Hop has been a movement that has taken over every part of our culture to a point. Music being the obvious first, but within clothing, design, websites, art, speech, hell even politics now Kanye’s decided to have a run, the influence Hip-Hop has had is astronomical.
Another such medium we love is film. And there have been some absolutely fantastic Hip-Hop movies that have prodded, pushed and pulled us to places that maybe previously we wouldn’t have thought we’d go.
We’re counting films that use the culture as a backdrop or otherwise to tell vital stories that have become an integral part of movie history. Here’s some of our favourites (In no particular order):
- Boyz ‘n’ The Hood
A classic hood tale from the start. John Singleton’s tale of young men trying to navigate the pitfalls and danger of their areas, their family and their friends was an instant hit when it was released way back in 1991 and featured scene-stealing performances from Cuba Gooding Jr and Ice Cube, set to a snarling west-coat soundtrack featuring Too $hort, Main Source, Compton’s Most Wanted and Ice Cube himself .
2. Do The Right Thing
Spike Lee’s racially charged comedy was an enthralling and very real look at different communities struggling to live peacefully together within the urban mish-mash that is New York city. Set to a classic 80s first wave Hip-Hop soundtrack with none other than Public Enemy at the forefront.
2Pac’s acting career right here. This ’92 hit featured Makaveli at his prime, scathing, intelligent and dangerous. The movie itself featured Pac, Omar Epps, Samuel Jackson and more, and was a cautionary tale about being caught up in petty crime in your city.
4. New Jack City
Speaking of city crime, how could we not include Wesley Snipes’ iconic turn as king of the city Nino Brown in “New Jack City”. The movie chronicles his rise and fall and dealings with how badly the drugs he sells are affecting the community. Features a cracking soundtrack with Ice-T, 2 Live Crew, Keith Sweat and more, and an amazing performance from Dave Chapelle as a crackhead trying to get clean.
5. Menace II Society
Whoa. This is merciless to watch. If “Boyz ‘n’ the Hood” was a real look at inner city life and young men trying to get out, this takes it to the next level. “Boyz” had glimmers of hope, light at the end of the tunnel. The Hughes Brothers’ underground classic “Menace II Society” is just 2 hours of inner city teens falling deeper and deeper into trouble, with no-one to look out for them but themselves. Shocking, nasty and uncompromising, this is a real stomach-churner, with matching soundtrack to boot, with Pete Rock , UGK, Boogie Down Productions, Brand Nubian and more contributing.
“Kids” was banned when it first came out. It made a star out of Rosario Dawson and highlighted the dangers of being a teen in an inner city area. The film follows Tully, a young kid looking to deflower as many virgins as he can, unaware he’s actually contracted H.I.V. It’s down to his former lover, now a carrier herself, to stop him before it’s too late. Almost documentary-like in it’s manner, it’s graphic scenes of parties, sex and drug-taking had everyone talking, and became a favourite amongst students, including a popular soundtrack with Erule, Beatie Boys, Tribe Called Quest and Jeru Tha Damaja all contributing.
7. 8 Mile
Need we say more? Eminem’s own life is put to big screen, with box-office smashing effects. Marshall played “himself” in this fictionalised version of his life, with aspiring rapper Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith looking to make it as a star and leave his abusive mother and trailer park life behind. A classic soundtrack and big supporting cast made “8 Mile” a massive hit and cemented Eminem as a multi-talented artist who could just about do anything he wanted.
Ice Cube and Chris Tucker play Craig & Smokey, two friends who end up in a hell of a lot of trouble within the course of a single day. Angry drug dealers, relationship problems, neighbourhood bullies and more. Hysterically funny and boasts a ridiculously good soundtrack featuring Dr. Dre, Cypress Hill, Isley Brothers, Scarface and more.
9. How High
Another stoner comedy, this time from the Wu-Tang Clan, Method Man and Redman team up as two average joes who smoke some magical green, ace their college entry exams and wind up in Harvard. Just a bonkers amount of fun to watch, and boasts one of the best soundtracks ever, taken care of personally by Meth and Red themselves. Smoke Cheeba Cheeba.
10. Dave Chapelle’s Block Party
A.K.A funny man Dave Chapelle organizes a massive party in his neighbourhood with performances from Common, Kanye West, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and The Fugees. A real feel good documentary which is both funny and poignant and features some incredible performances, especially Lauryn Hill on “Killing Me Softly”. Goosebumps.
Special Mention: Wildstyle
The Godfather of Hip-Hop movies, “Wildstyle” is as iconic today as it was in 1983. Graffiti writing, scratch DJing, breakdancing, freestyling, it’s all gloriously here. With appearances from Fab 5 Freddy and Grandmaster Flash to boot and a revolutionary soundtrack that inspired many of today’s top Hip-Hop MCs and DJs, this is your go to movie if you know nothing about Hip-Hop and want to start from the beginning.