It is 2017 and hip hop is bigger than it has ever been. No longer relegated to the Bronx, in just 40 years rap has become the biggest force in music today. We have seen this once underground movement make the jump to the silver screen. While the first rap film was 1982's Wild Style, movies like Friday, 8 Mile and Hustle & Flow have proven to be hits with critics and fans alike. Most recently, we have seen a wave of hip hop biographies getting green lit thanks to the success of Straight Outta Compton, the latest of which is a biography about the legendary Tupac Shakur — All Eyez On Me.
Born to members of the Black Panthers, Shakur would get his start with hip hop group Digital Underground. Going solo shortly thereafter, he would become one of the most celebrated rappers in hip hop history thanks to his vivid imagery and his ability to fuse social commentary with west coast party anthems.
The first victim of the West Coast-East Coast feud, #Tupac was a gifted lyricist who reached peaks then unheard of for a rapper. Needless to say when it came to rappers to get the big screen treatment, he was near the top. In fact, hip hop is full of colorful characters like Pac who have lived interesting lives too unreal to believe. So, in honor of All Eyez On Me, here are seven rappers that deserve a movie of their own and what the perfect scene would be.
1. The Doggfather
- Rapper: Snoop Dogg
- The Soundtrack: "Who Am I? (What's My Name)," "Deep Cover," "Murder Was the Case"
The second #StraightOuttaCompton was over, I knew which rapper needed a film next. Not Dr. Dre, not Ice Cube, not even Tupac Shakur. No, as soon as I left the theater the first person I thought of was Dr. Dre's protégé, #SnoopDogg. As far as rappers go, he has one of the most unique runs in hip hop history. What may be most fascinating is Snoop's ability to age gracefully in hip hop. He has gone from the quintessential gangsta rapper as Snoop Doggy Dogg to Uncle Snoop, the rapper your grandma loves; the rapper who can have a show with Martha Stewart and nobody is surprised in the least. A legitimate pop culture icon, Snoop Dogg's journey to becoming hip hop's unofficial representative seems too important to ignore.
The Beat Drop: Murder Was the Case
Snoop may be America's friendliest rapper nowadays, but that wasn’t always the case. While recording his debut, Doggystyle, he was arrested in connection to the murder of Phillip Woldermariam. It was the first big blow delivered to Death Row Records at a time when they felt invincible. Things were looking scary for the Long Beach native before he was acquitted. In a career that has reached the highest of highs and lowest of lows, it is a key point in not only Snoop's career, but one that could change the course of hip hop history as we know it.
2. Lose Yourself
- Rapper: Eminem
- The Soundtrack: "Lose Yourself," "The Real Slim Shady," "Not Afraid"
I know what you’re thinking, there has already been an #Eminem biopic. Well, kind of. 2002's 8 Mile was inspired by Eminem's life, and as close as you could get talking about Marshall Mathers coming up in Detroit's battle rap scene. That said, 8 Mile is hardly the whole story. The self-proclaimed Rap God went from being one of the most respected underground rappers in the game to one of the biggest acts in music history — a storied career full of drugs, recovery and controversy. With a fall and rise like few in rap, Eminem is one of the biggest stars in hip hop, and like a superhero, his origin is just the beginning.
The Beat Drop: The 1997 Rap Olympics
Evicted from his home and having two albums flop, Eminem was at a crossroads with his life. With little money or prestige guaranteed, he went to the 1997 Rap Olympics, a national battle rap competition. Even though he took second place, it is where Eminem was discovered by Interscope records and hooked up with Dr. Dre. A seminal moment in '90s rap, this show gave birth to one of the most important rappers of all time.
3. Success Is Certain
- Rapper: Royce Da 5'9"
- The Soundtrack: "Rock City," "Legendary," "Tabernacle"
As unique as rap is from the rest of music, there are also tons of similarities. The biggest being that luck is just as important as skill when it comes to success. Some of the best MCs in hip hop never see the top of the charts. One of the best examples of this is Detroit's own Royce da 5'9". Rapping with an early Eminem, the two looked to be the next big thing in rap as duo Bad Meets Evil before falling out.
As Eminem ascended to the pinnacle of music, Royce has become one of the most respected names in hip hop. Despite personal issues with substance abuse, he would resurrect his career thanks to a collective of fellow overlooked MCs, forming Slaughterhouse, and work with the legendary DJ Premier. From Bad Meets Evil to Slaughterhouse to PRhyme, Royce da 5'9" has a unique story that takes place on the outskirts of mainstream hip hop that deserves to be heard.
Key Scene: Tabernacle
December 29th is a critical date to Royce Da 5'9". Previously chronicled on his song "Tabernacle," he would get a call before a show that his first son was about to be born. Riding to the ninth floor of the hospital, he would meet his uncle, who had tears streaming down his face. He would learn that his grandmother was in a terrible accident. All day he would go back and forth between rooms, the talk of the hospital. Forced to leave to perform at his show, he meets the rapper he would make history with: Eminem. It is just one unbelievable moment in a career full of them.
4. Enter The 36 Chambers
- Rappers: The Wu Tang Clan
- The Soundtrack: "C.R.E.A.M.," "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nothing Ta F**k Wit'," "Triumph"
When it comes to rap, few crews have cultivated an image quite like the #WuTangClan. Forming in the early '90s, their mix of old-school kung fu movies and grimy New York aesthetic is unique to hip hop even today. More importantly, their mix of Illmatic and Shaw Brothers would be perfect for a film. Unlike most artists, a Wu Tang film can be more than just a typical street film. Instead, their story can be turned into a martial arts homage, with the Wu Tang crew forming like the Seven Samurai. There are dozens of ways to interpret their story, and with someone as creative as the RZA heading the Wu Tang Clan, I can all but guarantee it would be the most creative hip hop biopic of all time.
The Beat Drop: Rock the Bells reunion
After years of doing their own thing, all 10 members reunited for an appearance at the inaugural Rock the Bells music festival. As special as it was, this performance would be their last appearance together before the death of Ol' Dirty Bastard. A captivating story itself (as evidenced by the Rock the Bells documentary), all 10 members trying to get to their final show has all of the makings of a perfect climax. From every member's apprehension to agree, to the uncertainty of ODB even showing up, this final performance can be summed up in one word: triumph.
5. The Blueprint
- Rapper: Jay Z
- The Soundtrack: "Dead Presidents," "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)," "Encore"
When it comes to hip hop, few artists have reached the heights of success that #JayZ has. Born Shawn Carter, he went from dealing drugs in New York's Marcy Projects to becoming one of the wealthiest rappers in the world, with a net worth of $610 million. He was the perfect rapper with an ear for beats, some of the best lyricism in the game, yet a persona that made him relatable to the streets. Notoriously private, a Jay Z film would be the perfect glimpse into a world few have had the privilege to see.
The Beat Drop: Hard Knock Life
There are a lot of words that can be used to describe Jay Z, but the most important is "hustler." From the moment he heard DJ Kid Capri play the beat for "Hard Knock Life," he knew it would be a hit. The problem was he would need to get the rights to the song, and that seemed impossible. Knowing he wouldn’t just get clearance, Jay wrote the rights owners a letter about what the song meant to him. How, as a kid, one of his trips to the city was on a field trip to see the play; how, as soon as the curtain came up, he related to Annie — all of which is a complete lie. Still, it was enough to convince whoever held the rights to sample the song, thus giving us one of the most recognizable songs in rap history.
6. Trap Or Die
- Rapper: Jeezy
- The Soundtrack: "Soul Survivor," "Put On," "Go Getta"
At the moment, Atlanta is the epicenter of what's hot in rap, and one of the reasons why is Jeezy. A pioneer of the trap subgenre, he laid the groundwork for trap music along with T.I. and Gucci Mane. Having worked with some of the biggest names in the game, he brought a personality and legitimacy few in rap had at the time. As amazing as his career has been, his life before stardom might be even crazier. Dealing drugs from an early age, he was chased by police before he could legally drive. A tale of tragedy and triumph, Jeezy's story is quintessential to one of hip hop's most underrepresented scenes: the south.
The Beat Drop: The Release of Trap or Die
After years of hustling on the streets, Young Jeezy released his seminal mixtape, Trap or Die. A hit on the streets of Atlanta, it was one of the first mixtapes to blow up online before record labels started a bidding war over the Atlanta trapper. It was a unique time in rap music, and Jeezy was at the forefront of it. While far from the last roadblock in his career, this classic mixtape is a piece of Atlanta rap history.
7. Underground Kingz
- Rappers: UGK
- The Soundtrack: "Big Pimpin'," "The Game Belongs To Me," "Pocket Full of Stones"
Even though the west and east coasts are the most well-known hip hop thrives, one of the most unique is in Houston, Texas. With lean and car culture prevalent in the culture, one of the most important groups in the Houston scene is duo of Bun B and Pimp C a.k.a. UGK. Uniquely Texan, the two would become a pair of the most important southern artists in hip hop, influencing artists like Snow Tha Product, Future and Drake. They seemed on the verge of superstardom before Pimp C tragically passed in his sleep. Considered legends of southern rap, UGK will forever live up to their moniker as underground kings.
The Beat Drop: Big Pimpin'
A phone call from Jay Z is a dream come true for any rapper. He can make or break a career and a co-sign from him is worth its weight in gold. Well, it is a dream to everyone but Pimp C. Afraid of what it would do to their image, and unwilling to leave Houston, Pimp C had to be convinced to do "Big Pimpin'" with Hov. Even then, he famously only give the Rocafella rapper eight bars. Not even a trip to Trinidad to film the music video was enough to convince Pimp C to budge on his principles.
Despite these issues, they still made it work. It wasn't just a smash hit for Jay Z, but also introduced UGK to a whole new audience. It was also the perfect example of what made UGK so beloved. With a sense of authenticity, and a vision, this Texan duo made it big without compromising who they are. Long live the Pimp.
For The Culture
Gangsta, poet, activist, martyr — Tupac Shakur was a complex man, and this Friday one of the most recognizable names in music will finally have his story told in All Eyez On Me. As Hollywood continues to buddy up with hip hop I can only hope that they look at more than just the legends. While the lives of artists like Tupac and the members of NWA deserve to be remembered, there are just as many rappers who deserve to be heard. Here's hoping they get their just due in the future.
Excited for All Eyez One Me? What rappers do you think deserve a biopic? Let me know in the comments below