Wild Style: The most badass (and just bad) hip hop movies eva
Michael Larnell’s critically acclaimed biopic of female emcee Roxanne Shanté, Roxanne Roxanne, hit Netflix last year and has kept people talking.
Encapsulating 80s era Queens, the movie charts the rise of the real-life teenage rap prodigy (played with a solid performance by Chanté Adams), as she hustles to provide for her family while defending herself on the streets of NYC. All in all, you don’t want to miss this movie, which IndieWire declared “successfully cements the legacy of a female artist.”
The movie is truly a riveting portrait of the spunky 14-year-old and her rise to hip hop stardom. In celebration of Roxanne Roxanne’s release, we’re taking a look at some of the greatest (and some of the not-so-great) hip hop movies of all time.
Hip hop flop: Belly (1998)
Music video director Hype Williams made his feature film debut with this visually inventive urban drama. But while the cinematography was great, it was filled to the brim with clichés and pulled down with a lacklustre cast and mundane story, proving that music videos and movies are two completely different beasts.
Hip hop hit: Hustle & Flow (2005)
This honest drama starring Terrence Howard (Four Brothers) tells the story of DJay – a drug-dealing pimp from Memphis, Tennessee in the midst of a severe midlife crisis.
Channeling his troubles into a career as a rapper and set in the Memphis ghettos, the film’s dedication to authenticity is evident in every scene. The movie also won the Oscar for best original song – “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp” – by hip hop group Three 6 Mafia, who make cameo appearances throughout the film.
Hip hop flop: Cool As Ice (1991)
A rap-oriented remake of The Wild One (1953), Cool As Ice focuses on the character of Johnny Van Owen – a freewheeling, motorcycle-riding rapper who arrives in a small town and meets Kathy, an honor student who catches his eye. It was basically made as a vehicle for Vanilla Ice a.k.a. the Notorious D.B.A.G. to flex his severe lack of talent in every creative medium there is. Need we say more?
Hip hop hit: Friday (1995)
Friday remains one of the most important comedy cult classics ever made. Co-written by Ice Cube (Ride Along) and DJ Pooh (The Wash), the film balances between authenticity and lol silliness. Chris Tucker (Rush Hour) and Ice Cube give outstanding performances, and the entire film is held up by classic hip hop tunes from start to finish.
“I know you don’t smoke weed. I know this. But I’m gonna get you high today. Cuz it’s Friday, you ain’t got no job, and you ain’t got shit to do!”
Hip hop flop: 8 Mile (2002)
Controversial choice, we know, but 8 Mile made it to the list for the prime reason that it’s wildly overrated. Directed by Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential) and starring Eminem in his first major role, overall the film is decent, particularly the rap battle scenes and the ones in which Eminem is preparing for his lyrical battles.
The story itself is filled with clichés, many scenes are incredibly embellished, and some of the performers just aren’t that great. As Define Are Revolution put it, “A good film, but as time has gone by, it is definitely not as great as once thought.”
Hip hop hit: Wild Style (1983)
Widely considered to be the first true hip-hop movie, it’s also one of the greatest, following a young Bronx tagger named Zorro (played by street artist Lee Quinones) as he attempts to express himself in the burgeoning commercialism of the world of graffiti.
Although the story is fictional, the film features prominent figures of the early days of NYC hip-hop culture including Fab Five Freddy, Lady Pink, the Rock Steady Crew, The Cold Crush Brothers, Queen Lisa Lee of Zulu Nation, and Grandmaster Flash.
Hip hop flop: Notorious (2009)
While the casting in this fictional retelling of the life and death story of Notorious B.I.G. (a.k.a. Christopher Wallace) was on point, unfortunately their talents were held back by some weak af dialogue and simple narrative.
DAR wrote, “the script, with its stilted dialogue and borderline superstar treatment of everyone without ‘Wallace’ as a last name, it falters to give us the greatest Biggie Smalls story.” You know, the one that he truly deserves.
Hip hop hit: Tupac: Resurrection (2003)
There are so many biopics and films made about the life and death of Tupac Shakur, but we think Tupac: Resurrection is one of the most complete examinations of the hip hop icon. The film was particularly impactful because it was narrated by Shakur himself, which gives it an eerie feel as he tells his story from beyond the grave. Tupac: Resurrection is about rap music, the forces that created it, and the world it then created.
As the late, great Robert Ebert put in his review about the film, “Although rap is not music in the sense that you come out humming the melody, it’s as genuine an American idiom as jazz or the blues, and it is primarily a medium of words, of ideology; a marriage of turntables, poetry slams, autobiography, and righteous anger.