Thursday, 12 April 2018

Boyz n the Hood

Ice Cube spirals in ever decreasing circles in Boyz n the Hood, John Singleton's brilliant 1991 debut, which I revisited last night... I recently finished Jeff Chang's 2005 book Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, a sweeping chronicle that begins in the dilapidated third world neighborhoods of the South Bronx in the early 70's and concludes some 20 years later in the smoking embers of the Los Angeles riots. Originally I had wanted to follow up Chang's book with a screening of Dennis Hoppers' Colors, but after learning something about life in LA's gang neighborhoods (and the brutal tactics practiced by the LAPD) Boyz n the Hood felt like a more appropriate choice. I seem to revisit Singleton's film at various epochs of my life, and with the advancing years, Boyz n the Hood assumes greater significance - now that I'm a parent, the struggles of Laurence Fishburne's Furious to keep his son beyond the reach of crack and guns resonate more profoundly with me than ever before. All the more remarkable that John Singleton was just 24 when he wrote and directed the picture. I'm reminded of the early 90's when the South Central region of Los Angeles became the quintessential inner city-hell destination for the armchair tourist, with the tide of films and records that emerged in the wake of Boyz n the Hood - films like South Central, Menace II Society, Friday and albums like Death Certificate and The Chronic, all helped shape a mythology, and a stereotype that I myself have bought into - I remember driving along one of the main arteries in Los Angeles a few years ago and seeing a slip-road for Crenshaw District, I felt momentarily anxious, that a wrong turn would end in disaster for myself and my rental car. I don’t think the good people of Crenshaw would appreciate such typecasting…

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