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What Other Hip-Hop Movies Should Hollywood Make After 'Straight Outta Compton'?

The success of 'Straight Outta Compton' could spark serious Hollywood interest in hip-hop biopics, but whose stories do we want to see the most?

Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

In the wake of the breakaway success of the N.W.A movie Straight Outta Compton, which raked in $60 million in its first weekend to score one of the largest August box office opens in history and seems poised to reclaim the top spot in its second week out, it seems logical that Hollywood will soon come sniffing around hip-hop history for more intellectual properties to dramatize. Daz Dillinger of Tha Dogg Pound has already suggested that a Straight Outta Compton 2 is in the works, detailing the further adventures of West Coast hip-hop through the rise and fall of Death Row Records. Just as we graduated from a few loose Spider-Man and X-Men movies in the early 00s to a full blown Marvel Cinematic Universe transforming lesser known books like Guardians of the Galaxy into certified box office gold, we could soon be awash in a new generation of hip-hop biopics. Here are some other legendary rap stories that deserve the silver screen treatment.


The Roc Boys

Founded independently out of pocket by self-made hustler turned rapper Jay-Z, sharp-tongued Harlem entrepreneur Dame Dash and ear to the streets Kareem “Biggs” Burke, Roc-a-fella Records expanded from a modest indie success story with 1996's Reasonable Doubt to a multi-platinum selling hit parade in just a few short years. By the early 00s, the Roc boasts a monster talent roster including Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek, Freeway, and Cam’ron’s Diplomats, aided by crack producers Just Blaze and Kanye West. Just when it appeared the collective could do no wrong, tensions caused the machine to unravel; Sigel hovers in and out of legal drama, Cam bounces, and the Jay and Dame partnership splits in two, with Kanye notably siding with Jay. There’s enough riveting music and interpersonal drama to keep an audience dizzy for two hours, and this is saying nothing of the legendary Jay and Nas battle.

The Notorious B.I.G.: Unbelievable

As much as we needed to feel like it was at the time, Notorious, 2009's big screen Biggie biopic, is not very good. But if Marvel can reboot The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, X-Men and Fantastic Four, pretending we didn’t shell out money to see the same stories told mere years earlier, can we get a new Notorious B.I.G. movie? The Brooklyn rap phenomenon’s meteoric rise from dealing drugs to slinging hit singles, only to be cut down in his prime, is a gutting tragedy many fans still haven’t gotten over. The story's fraught with unresolved mystery and flamboyant characters like Puff Daddy and Lil Kim. Somebody can make a movie out of this that's worth watching. They can set it up in the Death Row movie, foreshadowing the East Coast / West Coast rap war the same way Marvel keeps un-subtlely letting us know Thanos is coming to fuck everything up for all our heroes when he snatches the Infinity Gauntlet.


Cash Money Millionaires

Drop the needle on any point in Cash Money’s history and you’ve got a crazy story. Weave it all together and you get a masterpiece. In the mid-90s, a handful of Louisiana rap upstarts quickly go from selling records out of the trunks of cars by hand to dominating the charts and helping grow the profile of Southern hip-hop into the worldwide enterprise it is today. In the 00s, the unity disintegrates as Juvenile and B.G. split over money, and Turk gets locked up. Slowly but surely, though, Birdman’s protege Lil Wayne graduates from scrappy teen sensation to the biggest rapper on the face of the planet. By decade’s end he can sell a million records in a week, but his vice—codeine, and lots of it—is setting him up for a major fall. In the 10s, two new generations of stars have caught Birdman’s attention, but Wayne's public statements and shocking court documents allege that his and his show father’s bond is radically, irrevocably broken. Do they bust it up or keep it together for the kids?

Rick and Russ: The Def Jam Revolution

Def Jam wasn’t the first rap label by any stretch of the imagination, but Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons’ New York University dorm room enterprise was instrumental in advancing the careers of the Beastie Boys, Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy, and LL Cool J, artists who, thanks to their individual innovations as well as some improbably successful package tours (Just picture fratty Beastie Boys fans sitting through a militantly Afrocentric Public Enemy set.), carried the hip-hop gospel out of the city and into the suburbs, where a new legion of fans helped it usurp and change the nation at large. Rick and Russ fused hustler instincts and music geek smarts into a cultural coup and made everyone a boatload of money. Before them, the business of making rap albums was unsure and pop-minded to a fault; after, rap had carved out an identity independent of the R&B, funk and disco records that gifted the form its early breaks. There’s a quirky rags-to-riches buddy story in here somewhere for the right taker.


Banned in the U.S.A.

The Luther Campbell story has everything: booty bass, twerking, nudity, palm trees, angry state officials, a climactic court case… literally everything. In the early 80s, Campbell, an ambitious concert promoter better known as Uncle Luke, discovers hip-hop in New York City and gets the idea to bring the music back to his native Miami with a sexier, dance oriented twist. But the city had no rap scene. Luke slowly transformed Miami into a friendly Southern stop for popular East and West Coast rap acts and settled into a group called 2 Live Crew, feeding what was originally a bicoastal conscious rap group a stream of filthy Miami bass jams that hit from the streets to the sticks. The music was so popular and so all-consumingly salacious that Florida legislature held a literal obscenity trial and arrested both the group and a litany of store owners who dared sell the sex-charged 1989 Crew album As Nasty As They Wanna Be. A genius behind the boards and a master of shock tactics, Luke struck back with “Banned in the U.S.A.,” which flips Bruce Springsteen's classic into an airing of grievances about state-sponsored censorship and the demonization of hip-hop that stayed surprisingly reverent to the populist protest spirit of the original but also managed to get booties clapping along the way.

Enter the 36 Chambers

RZA's already a director. Make a fucking Wu-Tang movie. Make it. Make it.

Craig Jenkins might rewatch Belly today. Follow him on Twitter.