Here’s an unforgettable memory from two black men on and offscreen that played the biggest role in my development as a child.
My father took me to see a then young director’s directorial debut Boyz N the Hoodwhen it was released in 1991. He drove us 45 minutes to the nearest theater showing the film in the heavily black-populated state capital of Hartford, Connecticut because the cinemas near us didn’t have it in our predominantly white hometown area of Norwich
At the time, it was my second greatest black entertainment experience that hit on all cylinders since witnessed Michael Jackson on the Bad tour for the first concert I ever attended three years earlier.
Sitting in a raucous crowd that cracked jokes, I cheered with the crowd upon seeing rap’s most heralded gangsta rapper of the moment Ice Cube as “Doughboy.”
The Boyz N the Hood closing credits played Ice Cube’s funky and dark instructional track “How To Survive South Central” to put his closing signature on the vivid canvas.
Ice Cube discussed in a 1990 MTV interview that he and Singleton were in similar predicaments as respective rookies acting in a movie and being in the director’s chair when they began working together in 1990 to create the film.
Cube also talked about his transition from rapping to acting and working with Singleton for the first time.
“Acting, I felt like a fish out of water but I caught on,” Cube said. “It’s different from making records, of course. In making the record, I’m the quarterback. Now, I guess I’m like the running back or the tight end waiting for the director to tell me which way to go.
“But John Singleton, he’s a 22-year-old brother. This is his first movie. He just graduated out of USC. This is a movie about South Central Los Angeles. He’s from South Central Los Angeles, so the story is very sincere and hits home. That’s why I did it and he worked with me a lot.”
Singleton essentially told Cube that you don’t need to be an alum of USC’s prestigious film school like himself to become a filmmaker.
Cube reiterated that statement upon the news of Singleton’s death when he eulogized him on Twitter.
“I was discovered by a master filmmaker by the name of John Singleton,” Cube said. “He not only made me a movie star but made me a filmmaker. There are no words to express how sad I am to lose my brother, friend & mentor. He loved bring [sic] the black experience to the world.”
The film Boyz N the Hood for Ice Cube was his equivalent to both Barbara Streisand and Lady Gaga’s roles in A Star Is Born.
This makes it fair to say that without John Singleton, would Ice Cube ever have gotten the chutzpah to create the cultural touchstone Friday, Barbershop and the many others in his filmography?
Maybe, but more than likely not.
Perhaps the revolution of young black movie directors including Spike Lee, Robert Townsend, Matty Rich, Ernest Dickerson, the Hughes Brothers and several others in the early 90s could have inspired Cube to become a full-fledged actor and director if they gave him a role in one of their movies at that time. But history can’t be revised here.
Because of John Singleton, the public saw rappers of Ice Cube’s caliber in leading and supporting roles, no longer contained to late night or after-school rap music videos shows of that time.