The Rise Of The Rap Tor: Inside Hip Hop's Complicated Relationship With Hollywood

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But all of this doesn’t explain how rappers got to appear in so many films in the first place. The practice really took off in the early 1990s, with the rise in popularity of the “hood film.” As a way for projects like Menace II Society, Juice, and New Jack City to give the viewer a sense of veracity, moviemakers turned to casting rappers, either in bit parts or sometimes even as leads. This was, Dr. Tyree points out, similar to the way films of the Blaxploitation era used pro football players like Jim Brown and Fred Williamson to “authentically reflect the Black urban experience.” Tyree, whose interest in the intersection of rappers and film dates back to a middle school viewing of Krush Groove, says that both football players and rappers act as a kind of shorthand to the viewing audience.

“At that time, football players had a lot of credibility in the black community,” she explains. “They were looked up to in the black community. They’re powerful forces, not only in physical presence but in what they were doing outside of the football field. So it’s easy to say, ‘I want to utilize you as a tool. I have a movie role, and you can help me create a shortcut.’ Because movies are only a certain finite period of time. The quicker I can get my audience to understand my character, the faster I can get them engrossed into my story. When I see Ice-T on screen, from his lyrics I know that he is a bad, street guy, and that’s exactly who I’m trying to convince the moviegoer that this character is. So by putting Ice-T in that place, I create a shortcut for the moviegoers.”

The scholar says that you can see that kind of shortcut almost everywhere. With the exception of a handful of what she calls “elite rappers” like Ice Cube, Queen Latifah, and Will Smith, most MCs end up playing a version of their rap persona. The most commonly cast artists were what Tyree describes as either “hardcore” or “party” rappers—which she found corresponds to playing, respectively, bad guys and good guys in film.

“Unfortunately, black men who were rappers in this Hollywood system were stereotyped, really playing to these extremes,” she says. “Either they were good guys—the party rappers, the fun rappers; or they were the bad guys—the gangster rappers and the hardcore rappers. This dynamic is what made the rappers work in the Hollywood system.”

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Source : http://www.complex.com/music/2018/05/rise-of-the-raptor-mcs-took-over-hollywood

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