CinePile: 10 Fictional Rap Biopics We'd Like to Watch
Some untapped rap feature film potential out there, inspired by Straight Outta Compton's release.
Plenty of movies have done their best to capture the essence of rap and its surrounding culture (graffiti, breakdancing, gangsta crime, B-ball, race relations) during the past few decades. There's been some decent features (8 Mile, Wild Style, Boyz in Da Hood, Juice, Krush Groove, Hustle & Flow, Get Rich Or Die Tryin) some compelling docos (Dave Chappelle's Block Party, Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton, Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap, Style Wars, NAS: Time is Illmatic, The Black Power Mixtape, Tupac Shakur: Thug Angel) and some hip-hop driven sitcoms/fluff (Honey, Bad Boys, Love & Basketball, Brown Sugar, Beat Street).
The most recent addition to the rap feature film canon is Straight Outta Compton, a biopic telling the story of Eazy-E, Ice Cube and Dre Dre, the key members of one of history's most influential rap groups, the N.W.A.. The film, which hits hits cinemas on September 3, is set to introduce a whole new generation to the group's mindblowing music. Check Straight Outta Compton's incredible trailer below. We thought we'd use Straight Outta Compton's impending release to reflect on some untapped rap feature film potential out there - artists whose careers and lives deserve a silver screen legacy - pairing some influential rap/R&B figures who've yet to appear in a film with some rising dramatic talent and film directors that might, hypothetically, give a dramatic biopic about these talents a red-hot go.
A SIN CITY-STYLE WU-TANG FILM
There's a big crossover between the Wu-Tang clan and feudal Japan, in particular the Samurai. RZA of Wu-Tang Clan grew up watching kung-fu and samurai movies, and incorporated a tonne of samurai references into their music and videos - he's also done a tonne of film scores, including Kill Bill and Blade: Trinity, and has a cameo in the film Ghost Dog as 'Samurai in Camouflage'. Given the above, we'd like to see a biopic about Wu-Tang done in a highly-stylised manner, ala Sin City, mixed with a Marvel Comics animated aesthetic. RZA would do the score and Robert Rodriguez would direct.
A REALIST FILM ABOUT JAY Z AS A TEENAGER
Shad Moss (US actor and TV host, and also - Lil' Bow Wow) would play a 15 year old "Jazzy" (his nickname in his childhood neighbourhood), in a gritty, realist biopic, set in Brooklyn's Marcy Projects, that depicts his teenage hustle as a crack dealer, juxtaposed with his teen ambition (young Jay Z banging out drum patterns on the kitchen table). The film ends just as his career starts to gain momentum, as he begins to wow people with his strong street rap style, and starts to work as a hype man for Big Daddy Kane. We nominate Zoe Saldana to star toward's the film's end as Beyonce.
A MICHEL-GONDRY DIRECTED MULTI-NARRATIVE FILM ABOUT MADLIB
The Stone's Throw doco Our Vinyl Weighs a Tonne was a winner, but we wouldn't pass up the opportunity for a more in-depth look at the abstract producer and MC that is Madlib, one of the most prolific and critically acclaimed hip hop producers of the 2000s. Given that Madlib's known under a plethora of pseudonyms, the film could perhaps be a Michel Gondry style hyper-imaginative offering, switching between different time periods (kind of like the new film about Brian Wilson) with different actors playing him in each of his different musical phases,with Madlib's animated alter-ego Quasimoto appearing as a character that unites the characters across the film. Tahj Mowry would be great for present-day Madlib.
A STONER COMEDY ABOUT SNOOP DOG
This would be the perfect follow-up to the NWA film – a film about the guy who busted onto the scene in the early 90s and became Dr Dre’s protégé and a major player in West Coast hip hop - Snoop Doggy Dogg. Snoop got his feet wet through appearances on Dr Dre’s The Chronic album as a de facto co-star. These days, the Dogg is less into gin and juice and tha hustlers and more into reggae culture, having been baptised in the spirit of Rastafari as Snoop Lion. Since then, he’s also become an aspiring visual artist. We think a stoner-style comedy about Snoop's escapades called The Doggfather would be the shiznit.
A LIL WAYNE DRAMEDY STARRING EDI-GATHEGI FROM TWILIGHT
Gathegi, who plays Darwin in X-Men: First Class and stars as Laurent in Twilight, would play rap phenom Lil Wayne in a comedic biopic covering the singer's eccentric moves over the past few years - including his foray into rock'n'roll and leopard print jeggings, his jaimtime and lean seizures. The film would showcase Wayne's sense of humour, cleverness and style, and feature cameos from the entire Young Money/Cash Money family.
A HISTORICAL DRAMA ABOUT KENDRICK LAMAR STARRING ROBERT RI'CHARD
LA actor Robert Ri'chard - from Coach Carter and House of Wax - has exactly the same cheeky grin of Kendrick's, and the short curly hair to match. We think he'd be perfect in a history-drama style biopic about the Compton upstart, that, in keeping with the socialist concepts of To Pimp a Butterfly, flashed back and forward in some kind of clever parallel narrative between early American slavery days and the present day, taking in Kendrick's Black Hippy days with TDE, the success of g.o.o.d. kid, and his more recent maturation into funk and jazz.
A ROM COM WITH ROSARIO DAWSON PLAYING CIARA
R & B goddess Ciara recently became Mum to rapper Future's progeny - she's basically the coolest mum ever to lil Future Jnr, is a total MILF, and continues to make great music and kill it on stage. Rosario Dawson would star as Ciara in a romantic comedy about a sexy, slightly frazzled, but ass-kicking single mother (similar to the role Jennifer Lopez always plays in her movies) whose put aside her career as a successful R & B singer to raise her child, until she meets a wonderful guy who encourages her to start writing again, and get back out there on stage.
A GRITTY GANGSTA FILM WITH THE WIRE'S WOOD HARRIS AS 50 CENT
You'll be familiar with Wood Harris from films like Remember the Titans, and his role as the drug kingpin Avon Barksdale in The Wire. We think he's a dead ringer for 50 Cent, and we know 50 Cent is a fan of him, having tweeted praise for the actor before. Harris will also have some hip hop acting skills under his belt after he appears in forthcoming VH1 movie The Breaks, which is set in 90s NY and chronicles a pivotal era in hip-hop music through three friends looking to make it in the industry. We think, given his work as Barksdale, Harris would have no probs playing 50 Cent in a gritty, gangsta-style film about the Queens, NY rapper that rose to fame spitting hood tales. Drive's director Nicolas Winding Refn could make a vivid, fresh movie out of this with a great soundtrack.
A FORREST-GUMP STYLE EPIC ABOUT NICKI MINAJ'S LIFE STARRING DEMI LOVATO
With stints on the US kids’ show Barney & Friends, Grey’s Anatomy and Glee, Demi Lovato, who we mostly know as a pop singer, actually has strong acting chops. She’s got something that reminds us of Nicki in her physical presence and she's spoken out about her own sass, and how she's not afraid to be fierce like Nicki - we think she'd do a fine job portraying the Trinidadian-US queen of rap. The film would take in the full span of Nicki’s life, starting with her early years in Queens, and the high drama of her violent, drug-addicted father, who set fire to the family's home in a failed attempt to kill Minaj's mother. The film would then follow the ambitious Nicki as she developed personas to rise above her past, took on backup singing roles for local New York City rappers, before meeting Lil Wayne and wowing the world with her swagger and skill. It would end with her winning Best Hip-Hop Female at the annual BET Awards.
A FASHION FILM WITH MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ AS LIL KIM
With her provocative, on-point style (who could forget the outfit she wore at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards!?) and suggestive lyrics, Li’l Kim is a fashion icon - she already did a turn in the Diddy film Notorious, but was unhappy with how she was portrayed, particularly the copious nudity and sex, so we think this film should showcase her strengths. We think the beautiul Michelle Rodriguez has a bit of a wild side, and could do a great job showcasing both Kim's style, sass and sexiness in a film where L'il Kim plays a fictional, famous fashion designer in the 90s who loves rap culture and is putting pioneering designs out. The real Lil Kim would make a cameo as one of the designer's clients.
Straight Outta Compton hits cinemas on September 3.