BLACK PANTHER

RELEASED: FEBRUARY 16, 2018, Director – Ryan Coogler

REVIEW BY MICHAEL GRANT, C.E.O. of RePPiN4U, International Rep for Wu Worldwide DJ Coalition

DISCLAIMER: This review is written from the perspective of a casual fan, and not necessarily that of a Marvel Comic fanatic.

The craze began mid-summer of 2017…after the success of the Netflix hit ‘Luke Cage’ which had hip hop and Marvel fans in a frenzy, it was time for director – Ryan Coogler to pull the trigger and announce Black Panther… not only was it the first superhero movie of its kind (Black director, Black writers, predominately black cast, with the lead role also played by a black person) but it is also a vital piece to the puzzle which coincides with the story to the 2018 blockbuster – The Avengers: Infinity War. The hype leading to this movie has been incredible, to the point where a superhero film has crossed mainstream borders the magnitude of the first Spiderman movie which starred Tobey Maguire back in 2002. I can tell you that I never saw the trailers, yet I got hype. How does that even work? Maybe it was word of mouth, maybe it was the talk of black people dressing up in their Sunday best which was unheard of. It had me contemplating whether to draw for the Infamous Purple Suit… I walked into Cineworld Wolverhampton expecting a total takeover by black people carrying the dutch-pot with fried fish, dumpling, hardo bread, plantain, Guinness punch, bun & cheese, all that good stuff, but instead what I saw was a glorious mixture of my fellow brothers and sisters, with the Marvel Comic fans, with even older people 50+ years old attending this movie. The moment that got me hype however was this video…

Special shout out to Kendrick Lamar who provided the soundtrack to this movie. The lead single ‘All the Stars’ featuring fellow label-mate SZA captured the true essence and vibe, something not seen in a superhero movie since arguably Seal’s ‘Kiss From A Rose’ for Batman Forever. If this feel good track does not get you hype for the film, you’re reading the wrong review.

Black Panther is a story of how the perception of the African nation Wakanda is viewed by the whole world as a third world country, but they couldn’t be further from the truth as Wakanda is the most technology advanced place in the world, with its main source coming from a metal called ‘Vibranium’, which powers all their transport and equipment, and best of all – can heal their people. Well that eliminates the legalisation of cannabis, doesn’t it?

The back story dates back to 1992, when the brother of the King of Wakanda was accused of betraying them and steals a piece of that metal. They send a spy after him to help track him down, and when the King finally caught up with him in Oakland California, he kills his brother after he shows resistance, not realising that his son – a young Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens a.k.a. N’Jadaka (played by Michael B Jordan) witnesses what happened from the distance.

Fast forward to present day, and The King of Wakanda has passed away, and passes his throne down to his son T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), along with the power of the Black Panther.

Killmonger learns of his family history and then devises a plan to overthrow T’Challa. Not just that, but also to use the Vibranium to wage war against the world as revenge for what happened to his people centuries ago.

Let’s take a moment to compliment the movie with its wardrobe outfit designs. they are nothing short of exquisite. I couldn’t help but hear chuckles from some of the younger audiences when they saw what looked like discs embedded in some of the mouths of the tribesmen. As mentioned earlier with regards to Kendrick Lamar, the music treatment really matched those action sequences.

Some of these scenes are straight up epic, such as the ritual combats T’Challa had to engage in to become King or defend his throne against Killmonger. In the former battle, T’Challa was on the brink of defeat when he sees his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) cry out to him which prompts him to hail himself “I AM T’CHALLA! SON OF T’CHAKA!” in a similar war cry fashion to Apocalypto when Jaguar Paw declares himself as king of the jungle before making an epic comeback.

Kudos to the film’s sub-villain Ulysess Klaue (Andy Serkis) who has some great one-liners like telling his enemies to ‘check his music on soundcloud’, or the bodyguards led by Okoye (Danai Gurira) who shows no fear in battles, they are sure to inspire the youth of today just as T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letita Wright) who makes the weapons and what not, or even Killmonger himself, who despite his villainous antics, his heart is in the right place at times because when the film cuts to a scene in London UK you know something is going down when he visits the British museum and puts them on blast about English ancestors robbing Africa for their riches which resulted in gasps heard within the cinema. Yes people Marvel Comics are teaching their fans. And of course, Stan Lee just had to find himself in the film… and rightfully so.

Mike Knoxxx Killmonger meme

Photo art courtesy of Mike Knoxxx of BDSIR NETWORK/SoulNSports

That is a fantastic line by Killmonger in his dying moments in the film’s climax, just as the final scene where the kids in LA are fascinated by T’Challa’s aircraft while one kid takes a step back and notices T’Challa simply standing there. the kid approaches him and asks him if the craft belongs to him. Very powerful moment to close the film.

Without watching any trailers and not knowing what to expect, this is such a great film and worth all the hype which you couldn’t even tell that it was meant to be a connection to Avengers: Infinity War to the casual viewer. If there were any minors about the feature, it might be some of the CGI effects which looked dated in places, maybe it’s budget cuts saved for the infinity war but the casual viewer is already so engaged and BlackPanther_Movie_Poster_MrDesignJunkie_04_1383x2048invested in the action that it’s not even a factor. It’s a real shame about Killmonger going forward, he could have made a great ally in future installments but again, steering away from the comic book adaptation may annoy purists. A personal gripe of mine which is not even to do with the film itself, but people going in and out of the cinema, words from the wise – use the bathroom facilities before you leave!

People are going to the cinema to watch this movie, and leave either wanting to be an engineer or some kind of skilled warrior, or wanting their own necklace hoping it will give them super powers. With box office records already broken, Let’s be real – a sequel is inevitable… you best plan out your next outfit from now…

 

 

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SCHOOL OF SHAOLIN: Movie Premiere @Pop Brixton, December 11, 2017!

Director: Nick Donnelly

SHOWN AT POP BRIXTON, LONDON December 11, 2017,

ALSO SHOWN AT GORILLA, MANCHESTER, December 19, 2017

REVIEW BY MICHAEL GRANT, C.E.O. of RePPiN4U & International Rep for Wu Worldwide DJ Coalition

“People Say, Love is just an energy, dealing with the claim…”

The very first thing I must do is give thanks and praises to a former university colleague of mine – Karl Hughes. That man didn’t have to look out for his fellow peers, but he chooses to out of the goodness of his heart. If it wasn’t for him, would the RePPiN4U HIP HOP SHOW have manifested? Or more importantly, would I have been involved in something monumental and historic such as this?

School of Shaolin2Ever since the success of Straight Outta Compton, Wu-Tang fans in particular have been clamoring for a similar cinematic treatment for their favourite team. So far we have the upcoming biopic about Ol’ Dirty Bastard entitled ‘RAW’, Hell Razah has been promoting his real life documentary (Risen: The Story of Chron Smith) for the longest, and just patiently waiting for the perfect time to strike which could be sooner than you think. But just like the clan emerging from the shadows in 1993, Director Nick Donnelly wasn’t trying to wait like everybody else.

Filmed in 2013, this was celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Hip Hop’s most influential dynasty. The unique selling point of this movie was the fact that it was a UK spin on how the 10 men with Witty Unpredictable Talent And Natural Game impacted the fan-base and artists out here in the UK and Europe (this whole Brexit thing is really confusing). Donnelly closely follows the clan during their anniversary tour and crams it all in a 95 minute feature. I had the honor and privilege to be invited to see the premiere before an intimate crowd down at Pop Brixton as a part of the Wu Worldwide DJ Coalition. It was an opportunity that was an eyelash of going wrong because of the heavy snowfall, but in London, not a snowflake was seen.

Highlights in the film include footage of RZA during a sound check process before a show which was highly intriguing, following a young female DJ who now travels with Raekwon for shows, UK artist Yung Meth, who has been endorsed by Method Man himself, what is interesting here is that Yung Meth feels that although he is gaining credible success, he feels that America would gravitate towards him more. He also makes a point of not sounding American, something rookie UK artists fall in the trap of doing hoping to make their music relevant. Donnelly also speaks to the Clan’s tour manager Simon Green and how he got involved and possibly landing a dream job, talking to Leaf Dog of The Four Owls, who actually produced on U-God’s Keynote Speaker album – a funny moment in the film occurs when Leaf Dog makes a parody of the commercial side of what mainstream media calls ‘Hip Hop’ and has the audience in Pop Brixton (and possibly Gorilla too) chuckling along, he also speaks with producer Statik Selektah, and hanging out with Ghostface Killah shopping, further showing Iron Man’s down to earth nature and further proving that just like he said in the Pretty Toney album, ‘God is his bodyguard’

School of Shaolin crowd

Photo taken courtesy of Nick Donnelly

“Let me tell you what they gon’ try to do
And y’all remember the sh!t, y’all gon’ tell the f***!ng world
Teach all the babies and sh!t
They gon’ try to make black and white go against each other
Which they can’t because we already having a good time!” (Ol Dirty Bastard, If What You Say Is True, 2017)

With this feature, Donnelly went IN with his research with not just the clan but with everyone featured in the documentary. After 95 minutes elapsed, both sold out venues gave a standing ovation, which was something Donnelly was not expecting. Some die-hard fans thought while they enjoyed the film, they learned nothing from it, on the opposite side of the spectrum the film made some members of the audience NEW Wu-Tang fans in the process which has to be most surprising.

If there was a negative to be pointed out, was that maybe the pace of the film slows down in places where Wu-instrumentals could have been used as a music bed as a means of fair use. But that is a minor. As stated earlier, people came into the venue not knowing a thing about the Wu-Tang and left the building as Wu-Tang fiends, and that’s what the School of Shaolin truly achieved, expanding, getting more pupils so that the knowledge can spread.

Take a bow Nick Donnelly, you have helped put the UK Hip Hop scene on the map even more with this, and now you got other cities worldwide interested. Now that’s a snowball I can get behind.

November 2018 marks the 25th Anniversary of the Wu-Tang Clan. Stay tuned for more announcements of when you can see this film at a theater near you for 2018!

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RePPiN4U: THE EVOLUTION OF UK HIP HOP

RELEASE: JUNE 13, 2016

EDITED & PRODUCED BY MICHAEL GRANT, C.E.O. OF RePPiN4U

CO-PRODUCED BY PC THE PRODUCER & UK BIG PUN OF FATP PRODUCTIONS

MUSIC SCORE BY MR KEYES

CREATED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WOLVERHAMPTON

In this special documentary, RePPiN4U teams with distant cousins FATP (From Across The Pond) to take a special look at the evolution of UK HIP HOP. Starting in Wolverhampton, we take a look at the Beats A Bar music project open day, speak with the mayor, then travel up to Leicester where we talk to the guys behind Wild1 Radio’s #1 UK HIP HOP SHOW, then we return to Wolverhampton where we talk to Alex-Is on his album ‘UNEQUIVICAL’, and Reload, fresh from his trip from London where he opened up the show for Wu-Tang’s Raekwon The Chef. All this and more in an hour-long feature!

SPECIAL THANKS TO EVERYBODY INVOLVED IN THIS PROJECT.

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RePPiN4U Hip Hop Show updated

FATP WALLPAPER

CHECK OUT ALL FATP UK HIP HOP SHOWS ON MIXCLOUD!

NEW BDSIR NETWORK

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IP MAN 3

Released: December 24, 2015 (Hong Kong) January 15, 2016 (UK) January 22, 2016 (US)

Director: Wilson Yip

Starring: Donnie Yen, Lynn Xiong, Jin Zhang, Danny Chan, Patrick Tan, Mike Tyson

Review by Michael Grant, C.E.O. of RePPiN4U

“Lord have mercy, Jesus Christ
He’s just nice, he just slice like a ginsu
Look at the life that I’ve been through
I’m the last real n!&&@ alive, that’s official…”(Nas, Last Real N!&&@ Alive, 2002)

Suddenly you are reading this review like ‘What’s this Nas track got to do with the film?’ Allow me to explain. If we claim that Hip Hop is life, you can apply Hip Hop to anything. Such as the case with the ipman3newposterlatest instalment of the Ip Man trilogy. Yes there has been spin-offs and other adaptations of the legendary master out there, confusing some fans with prequels and what not, and as good as they are, it’s Wilson Yip’s formula that we are interested in…Does the third film live up to the last two masterpieces? If this is Donnie Yen’s ‘last martial arts film’, does he go out with a last ‘no shadow kick’???

So here’s me, doing something I thought I would never do, go to cinema alone to watch a film… sad huh? Well it was either that or let every Tyrone, Dontae & Harold on my Facebook tell me how it went down on their status… since the film has done a rare thing of coming out in the UK before the states, this time I can tell you how it went down! Ip Man 3 has smashed the box office over in Hong Kong, taking Star Wars: The Force Awakens off the top spot. Naturally it won’t do the same over here or across the pond, neither do I expect it to. But one thing is for sure, as soon as that theme music hit, doctors would have to remove the smile off my face hearing it through the cinema speakers.

The film begins ten years after the second… where the previous film’s ending saw a presumably 6-8 year old Bruce Lee wanting to learn kung fu from Master Ip to which Ip replies, “Come back when you’re older”…and Bruce (Danny Chan) was a man of integrity, comes back and finds Ip Man. After Ip Man puts his hopeful disciple to the test he asks him: “Did you think you kicked the water I threw at you?” A question that Bruce found himself struggling to answer, which may or may not bring about the origin to Bruce’s famous philosphies about water in that well known interview.

So ten years after the second film (1959) a new corrupt property developer has emerged to take over the city only known by the name ‘Frank’ (Mike Tyson). Unlike previous ‘foreign devils’ as the Chinese used to refer us to back then, Frank settled in Hong Kong, got married to a Chinese woman and learned their language as well as English. He owns a fight club, but it’s not enough… he targets the school where Ip Man’s kids are attending…that’s something you just don’t do -mess with the education of the future generation! So when Frank sends his brutal gangsters to seize control, Ip Man steps in and holds off the onslaught. In the midst of all this, Ip Ching (Ip Man’s son) becomes best friends with a fellow student, and his father Cheung Tin-Chi (Jin Zhang) happens to be a Wing Chun practioneer too. Even worse, Ip Man’s wife (Lynn Xiong) is diagnosed with Cancer, now Ip Man finds himself saving his son and the children from possible slavery and trying to help his wife deal with the incurable situation.

Now back to the question you asked me: What’s Nas’ Last Real N!&&@ Alive’ track got to do with this film?

“In the Firm I learned I Am NaStradamus
QB’s Finest, Oochie Wally, faced more problems
I gave it all up so I can chill at home with mama
She was getting old and sick so I stayed beside her
We had the best times, she asked would I make more songs
I told her not til I see her health get more strong
In the middle of that, Jay tried to sneak attack
Assassinate my character, degrade my hood
Cause in order for him to be the Don, Nas had to go…”

Rhyme & Reason: The people look up to Ip Man as the renowned hero and Wing Chun master, and his battles against the gangsters got him recognition and hitting news headlines. Cheung Tin-Chi, who had assisted Master Ip in these battles sees this and his admiration for Ip Man turns into a friendly rivalry turned jealousy. Tin-Chi challenges Ip Man to a public contest. But Ip uncharacteristically doesn’t show because Cheung Wing-Sing’s condition gets worse, and in the middle of all that, Tin-Chi spreads trick-knowledge saying Ip Man’s Wing Chun is not authentic and his is the purest form. So while Tin-Chi is not a villain, he’s not a pure hearted hero either. While he fights for what it’s right he will take money to do unjust things, such as wound the school principal enough to hospitalise him, set up a fake request for Ip Man to visit him in hospital as a distraction so that the thugs can go in and burn down the school. Tin-Chi wanted to prove that he was the ‘Don’ of Wing Chun, and so Wing-Sing sets up the fight between him and her loving husband to finally settle things. This would become her last act before she passed away in 1960.

Ip Man 3 FB Cover2

“I was Scarface, Jay was Manolo
It hurt me when I had to kill him and his whole squad for dolo.”

Rhyme & Reason: In this case, Ip Man was Scarface and Tin-Chi was Manolo… only that Ip doesn’t kill Tin-Chi, or rather, he killed his fighting spirit in the battle. This serves as the final fight in the movie as they battle with poles and cleavers before testing each other’s Wing Chun. Great decision by director Wilson Yip as the second film was hit by fans questioning the science of Chinese boxing Vs Western boxing, which has been toned down a lot in this instalment of the biography. The trailer portrayed Donnie Yen’s character facing off against Tyson as the last fight when in reality it’s somewhere in the middle of the film. Tyson’s role was a minimal one. Aside from the Chinese language he spoke, Tyson does what he does best with his hands, but he doesn’t make a convincing villain in the film. It’s more of a spectacle than anything else, as Tyson’s character threatens to rid Hong Kong of Ip but challenges him to outlast him in 3 minutes. As Frank’s punches overwhelm our Wing Chun hero, he switches to Mantis Kung Fu to out manoeuvre Frank. Frank lets Ip go after 3 minutes and that’s the last we see of him. With that the film switches more to its authenticity and realism that made the first film such a success. But choreographer Yuen Woo Ping does not disappoint with the fight scenes, such as Ip and Tin-Chi fighting against the gangsters, Donnie’s signature lightning fast body blows, and the elevator fight scene where Frank hires an assassin to eliminate Ip in front of his wife.

Ip Man 3 FB cover

Ip Man 3 is a great solid film to perhaps finish the biography trilogy with no hints of any more sequels, however fans might be disappointed into believing this was a film where we would see the relationship of Ip Man & Bruce Lee in terms of the martial arts standpoint, and all we see is the start of it, which might want fans wanting to see that in the future, but whether it’s Donnie’s portrayal of it is unlikely if what he says is true about Ip Man 3 being his last pure martial arts film. Danny Chan’s character only appears one other time in the film, and watching it in 2D just shows where the 3D elements would come in had I watched it in that format.

Towards the film’s end, the audience will become sympathetic to how Ip Man handles the loss of his wife, and the film ends with the famous interpolation of Ip Man sitting amongst Bruce and his fellow disciples. Before Bruce Lee became THAT MAN… Ip Man was the Last Real Dude Alive, and that’s OFFICIAL.

Risen: The Story of Chron “Hell Razah” Smith (PREVIEW)

WRITTEN BY MICHAEL GRANT, C.E.O. Of RePPiN4U, Member of GGO (Ghetto Government Officials) and Wu Worldwide DJ Coalition

Article updated May 28, 2018

RISEN JUNE 3

Dir. Frank Meyer

Risen hel razah2Music biopic/documentaries go as far back as The Jackson 5, Little Richard, then moving forward to some of the more recent ones like Aaliyah, Nas (Time is Illmatic) and TLC. But never has there been such a Hip Hop biopic that has garnered such success as Straight Outta Compton which topped the US box office which was unheard of for a Hip Hop Biopic feature film and received critically acclaimed reviews across the board including RePPiN4U (Read review here). Now other artists want to jump on the bandwagon and popular demand hoping for the same success. Death Row Records, reportedly not happy about the portrayal of their label in the film are reportedly planning to film their production. Gucci Mane claims he wants to create a biopic, 2Pac’s biopic ‘All Eyes On Me’ was released last year which was met with mixed reviews and particularly shot down by Jada Pinkett -Smith, but some Wu-fans have been clamoring a Wu-Tang Clan version…Dr.Dre & Co continue to be the trend setters of Hip Hop, but Wu -fans will be getting their wish very soon, but not exactly in the way they expected. The difference between previous hip hop biopics and this, those were actors. This one is as real as it gets.

Chron Smith, more commonly known as Wu-Affiliate Hell Razah of the Sunz of Man didn’t exactly hear the cry from the fans but it just so happens that he is about to unleash his story entitled ‘Risen’… about his sword swinging comeback from a Brain Aneurysm. If it was to rupture, it could cause a stroke, or worse – brain damage or death.

Director Frank Meyer and Razah go back as far as 1997. Razah was apart of the web series Freestyle 101, which has featured such artists like The Game, Cypress Hill & Ice-T. With their long-standing friendship, it was only right that Meyer was the perfect choice for this feature film.

“Razah’s story is one everyone can relate to,” says Meyer. “He was a talented kid from the streets who worked hard and Frank Meyer hell razahnearly achieved all of his dreams before this tragedy struck. Now his life has been completely refocused. A lot of rappers will tell you about how they have been shot 9 times, but they won’t let you see them struggling through the rehab process or questioning their future.”

Meyer might be firing shots of his own in that statement, but he’s about to take Razah’s fans through the five-year journey of true rehabilitation. ‘Risen’ features Razah’s fellow Sunz of Man brethren, as well as Wu-Tang members RZA & Cappadonna, Popa Wu, Ras Kass and many more.

We spoke with Hell Razah in late 2016 about the film, and what he and the Sunz of Man has for us as they approach their 20th Anniversary of their debut album, ‘ The Last Shall Be First.

The official trailer has been released and by the looks of it, this is a remarkable story for not just Wu fans but for everyone in general who may relate. Hell Razah promised us that something top-secret has been in the works for the 20th Anniversary, and he would rather show us rather than talk about it… is this it? The unveiling of the documentary at The People’s Film Festival May 31, – June 3, 2018 in New York.

Not just that, the film has also been nominated in the Los Angeles CineFest. The next Red Carpet and Awards ceremony jump off is the top of 2019.

Hell Razah LA

We are in a time where people are out to dress up to watch the Marvel films ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Avengers: The Infinity Wars’, so may I make a suggestion: For those who are lucky enough to witness the premiere at The People’s Film Festival, it would be great if they dressed in black and yellow sporting the Wu colours or even better, the OFFICIAL Wu-Wear gear, and display it all over their social media… if only someone was kind enough to pay the plane fare for a certain Wu Worldwide DJ Coalition ambassador to get over to the states to see the premiere… hint-hint?

In the meantime, you can now download the latest in the Hood Transporter mixtape series hosted by Heaven Razah and mixed by DJ Kenni Starr of the Wu Worldwide DJ Coalition/Ghetto Government Officials. This time they are paying homage to the women of hip hop, featuring a who’s who from your resident Wu affiliates in Tekitha, Blue Raspberry & Queen The Prophet, to established artists such as Foxy Brown & Amil, to the dime pieces in the ruff like Sic’Nis (who I saw live single-handedly body Triumph at a recent Ghostface Show in the UK), Starrlight (who has appeared on RePPiN4U HIP HOP SHOW) & Darci Carpenter (Haute Mama of 5 who has overcome major life obstacles herself in her own right).

 

 

Stay tuned for further announcements regarding the UK & European release of the film where I will sure to be at the premiere for that. In related news Heaven Razah & DJ Flipcyide have recently released their new album Equilibrium which

Heaven Razah Equilibriumfeatures fellow Sunz of Man members Killah Priest, Prodigal Sunn & more, and you can also catch the interview RePPiN4U had with the beautiful Ladi Vee, the mediaboss/tv/radio host/actress/model who was featured on the album’s front cover elsewhere on this blogsite.

The time has finally come, the wait is finally over. If you are in the area you owe it to yourself and support this movie. WINGZ UP ALL OVER NYC AND THE WORLD OVER!Risen hel razahFOLLOW @HEAVENRAZAH ON TWITTER

FOLLOW @FRANKMMEYER ON TWITTER

CHECK OUT THE OFFICIAL HELL RAZAH WEBSITE HERE

‘LIKE’ RISEN: THE STORY OF CHRON ‘HELL RAZAH’ SMITH ON FACEBOOK

STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON

US RELEASE: August 14, 2015

UK RELEASE: August 28, 2015

Dir. F.Gary Gray

Running Time: 2h 30mins

I’m about to say a shocking revelation, and it goes like this: I care NOT for Batman Vs Superman. The film means nothing to me. When it drops next year, I sincerely hope y’all enjoy the blockbuster, I’m sure it will be off the hook. Don’t mind me, I’ll be sitting here continuing to bring you great reviews and hot radio shows. It’s what I do.

Straight_Outta_Compton_posterYou already know I don’t go to cinema for any old film. Nearly £10 to watch a movie… GOOD LORD… have I been away THAT LONG? My cousin who was with me when we went to the cinema with our brothers, asked how much a bottle of cola was. The woman turned round to him and said – £2:50….My cuz was like – “…..FORGET IT!!!” Yes people that’s two supermalts and a Cadbury’s Crunchie. A kebab and chips. 2 piece of Southern Fried Chicken & Chips… WITH A DRINK!

Don’t get it twisted – I am appalled by the prices but this was a special moment. Five grown brothers between the ages of 35 – 43 excited like little kids anticipating the viewing of Straight Outta Compton, the REAL superhero movie of citizens from the hood versus the corrupt cops and the federal government, something which is still relevant and more re-occuring as of late.

A biopic about the rise and fall of Hip Hop’s most dangerous group, the successes, tragedies, the management, police brutality, and brotherhood. Directed by the same man responsible for the first Friday film 20 years ago, has F.Gary Gray created another classic that 20 years later, my brothers will still be talking about while we slamming dominoes at family get togethers?

Die-hard fans know the story pretty much inside out, but for the more casual hip hop fan or those who want to know more of the history, I’ll explain the movie’s plot.

Considering that there were 5 members in the Compton Collective, the movie’s focal point revolve around Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), Dr.Dre (Corey Hawkins) & Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr). One being business minded, another having such a passion for music, the other with a vast knowledge and writing skills. They have one thing in common: continuous police harassment. Guys are merely on their travels or just simply standing there and the police can’t help but abuse their authority.

Through trial and error searching for MCs to make it big, the group take it among themselves to get in the booth to create records. Early success from Eazy calls forth the attention of a one Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti), who promises to take Eazy and the crew to worldwide fame, and he delivered…but it didn’t come without its controversies.

Most NWA fans know the story, but knowing what happened with Heller, the audience can not help but love Giamatti’s on-screen character in the early going. Standing up to the police while they have the ‘gang members’ on the floor was a delightful sight. This was the trigger that led to the group’s most dangerous record.

As the saying goes: ‘If you tell someone NOT to do something, they will do it’. The single ‘F**k Tha Police’ hit secret power points within America’s law enforcement and  warned the group not to perform it on stage. This is a great scene as the group blatantly defied and refused to conform and performed the track anyway, and one officer looked like he was tempted to bop his head but knew he had to carry out his duty. Riots erupted and the police soon out runs NWA. Arrested and thrown in a van, all five guys were actually laughing about it.

Ice Cube quickly discovers Heller’s questionable strategies and realises everyone is getting the short end of the deal apart from Eazy. Cube leaves the group, joins Priority Records and records the infamous diss track ‘No Vaseline’ aimed at his former group and boss. While the group found the diss track amusing, it is Heller who is so riled up he looked like he wanted to go in the booth himself and record a response.

The group’s success reaches the eyes and ears of Suge Knight (R.Marcus Taylor). Knight approaches Dre and lures him to Death Row Records. The move costs Eazy a vicious beat down, and Knight’s violent demeanor was one Dre never anticipated nor did he sign up for.

When Eazy’s eyes were finally open, he wanted to reform the group but this time without Heller. It seems like bridges were about to be rebuilt and Heller looking like he’s gonna have a breakdown, but then Eazy is diagnosed with HIV and passes away. This brings the group back together and brings Dre to a revelation.

Straight Outta ComptonThe movie’s most memorable scenes include the groupie party which had the movie theatre in laughter. The way Eazy frightened the party poopers off with Uzi’s was hilarious and the ‘ho’ in connection was thrown out the hotel by Cube was disrespectful, but hilarious at the same time.

Corey Hawkins’ movie role was portrayed as a noble one. All Dre was interested in was making that music, but he finds himself ridden with guilt and regret by not taking his brother on tour with him, had he took him, he believed that his brother would not have met his unfortunate end. Dre’s ‘fearless’ attitude against Knight has the audience rooting for his success, yet at the same time slightly unrealistic given Knight’s reputation.

But it’s O’Shea Jackson Jr, whose portrayal of his father had him emerge as the film’s true star because everything he did in the movie seemed natural to him to a point where your mind doubts you for a split second that you’re watching Ice Cube himself on-screen. His superior intellect against the press and the journalist is comedy gold and right and exact at the same time.

SAM_4404

BROTHERHOOD. Pictured from left to right: Clint Bennett (Cousin), Richard Selby, Chris Spence and Michael Grant (author and C.E.O. of RePPiN4U)

What this movie has done is cover ground for those who don’t know about one of Hip Hop’s great pioneers, and may surprise die-hard fans in places. While some may criticize the movie missing out scenes that may consider vital to the story, they need to realise two things: One, it’s a two and a half hour movie, which definitely didn’t feel that long because of the film’s pacing and keeping the viewer engaged throughout, and two, when the DVD/Blu-ray comes out in a few months, how do they know they won’t include deleted scenes and outtakes that might be interesting. Imagine if they did add such scenes. Not many films can hold the audience interest for over 2 hours as it is.

What I loved about this movie was the display of brotherhood, and watching the guys perform some of my favourite tracks that made me feel like a proud family member, as if I grew up with them. There are some great touches in the film such as Ice Cube writing the plot for what would be the classic ‘Friday’, you see him cracking up as he writes which showed a great sign, and the real footage used in connection with the Rodney King case. NWA was tired of hearing songs saying ‘Darling I Love You’ Which was why they came with something real. Best of all, Dre’s ‘Compton Soundtrack’ makes so much more sense now. The album is an inspiration to the movie, it’s not Detox, nor is it the Chronic/2001 and nor is it trying to match that. It’s a reflection of the film, and the way Gray had this film end was a way that there could be a follow-up, at the same time not necessary to do so, and then it finally hits you. Dr. Dre was just Talking To His Diary.

THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS 2

Ever wondered what happened after the Blacksmith left Jungle Village? Did anyone particularly care? Fans were already hoping for A Better Tomorrow, only to be somewhat disappointed by the album’s direction… but that’s another review on this site.

Man With the Iron Fists2All along, during the album’s development, little did fans know that a sequel was in the works for The Man with the Iron Fists. Those who enjoyed the first movie were surprised and excited, while those who didn’t simply sneered at the idea. Even with Tarantino’s guidance, the first film didn’t bring the box office success that RZA had hoped for. With the sequel going directly to DVD, and without a star-studded cast this time round, did RZA learn from his directorial mistakes from the first film?

The adventure starts off basically where the first film left off. RZA reprises his role as the Blacksmith ‘Thaddeus’, who left Jungle Village and went on a journey to find peace. But his old enemies led by Silver Lion caught up with him and tried to finish him off. Silver Lion thought he had killed Thaddeus, only that Thaddeus crushed his skull in the process first. Thaddeus, left for dead, found himself laying on a raft, eventually been rescued by strangers and brought him to another land. This land had a ruthless ruler in Master Ho (Carl Ng) who had slaves work for him in the caves to discover silver… at least that’s what he made them believe. Failure to comply would instantly meet death and held with a stake through their body on display for everyone to see as an example.

The strangers who rescued Thaddeus were wife and daughter to Li Kung (Dustin Nguyen) who became leader of the slave rebellion. He and his brother had learned Mantis Kung Fu to go against Master Ho’s Beetle clan. Younger brother Li Guang (Charlie Ruedpokanaon) defeated one of the Beetle clan’s esteemed fighters, but Master Ho had Li Guang killed in the caves for showing up the Beetle Clan.

Li Kung decides to take revenge by challenging Master Ho himself… Li Kung was on the brink of defeat when a rejuvenated Thaddeus comes to the rescue in gratitude to Li Kung and his family saving him from certain death.

Iron Fists It's YourzMeanwhile women in the village were being mysteriously killed, their bodies shrivelled up to a prune like state by what was believed to be the spirit of Lord Pi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa of Mortal Kombat Fame). Lord Pi was a wicked man and was captured in battle. As a result he had his legs chopped off by order of the Abbott. He had been since confined to a wheelchair and was known as Mayor Zhang.

Realising who Thaddeus was, Li Kung asks him to make weapons to aid fight against the Beetle Clan. Thaddeus initially refuses, but remembers Buddha’s teachings. What’s more, the slave miners were not actually digging for silver, it was in fact a water source that can bring forth immortality. So if Master Ho got his hands on that, it would be curtains for everybody. The water source originated from the shaolin temple so Li Kung alerts the Abbott that their water source was in danger.

iron fists triumphMayor Zhang wished to join the fight against the Beetle Clan as their actions were reprehensible, so Thaddeus decides to make iron legs for him and by using chi, is able to walk again, but the blacksmith was unaware of his real intentions – get his hands on the water source and become the evil Lord Pi once again. Betrayal, Li Kung and Thaddeus combine their force to defeat Lord Pi for good.

In this film we see that RZA has toned down the Tarantino trademark effects and tried to focus more on the fight sequences to let the viewer actually see what is happening with the fight choreography like the old school kung fu flicks. The violence is still all there though, so the exaggerated blood effects remain (pints of blood leaving bodies who had their limbs chopped off). Also gone were the Tarantino inspired names of characters like Jack Knife, Gold Lion, Brass Body etc and replaced with more authentic, believable names. The music score became more cinematic than a hip hop vibe found in the first film, but some of those beats in this film sounded like they could have made A Better Tomorrow. Again, that’s another review altogether. Shout outs to Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge as their instrumental track ‘Enemies All Around Me’ from the album ’12 Reasons To Die’ made the film, shout out to Talib Kweli & Busta Rhymes, whose RZA produced track – Rocket Ships from the Prisoner of Conscious album made the film, and special shout out to Zack Hemsey for his track ‘Teachings of a Ronin’ which set the epic tone for the final showdown against the Beetle Clan.

The film had a ‘Mortal Kombat’ like atmosphere, so if RZA was to remake the Mortal Kombat film franchise based on the characters in the latest game on the next-gen consoles, RZA would make a tremendous job. The other thing worth noting, is that if RZA likes to play characters who engage in combat, he could at least learn more basic kung fu. He admits to not knowing much martial arts, but if you are gonna be the star/villain, eventually you will be exposed. Back in 96-97 fans loved the ‘Tragedy’ and ‘Night the Earth Cried’ videos, but playing roles like this and the villain in Tony Jaa’s The Protector 2/Warrior King 2, fans will notice RZA’s particular lack of skills. As far as the main villains, It’s understandable how Lord Pi met his demise, but particularly Master Ho, who claims he’d been hanged once, bullwhipped twice, shot at 8 times (50 Cent’s record still unbeaten), dragged behind horses 15 times, and had his left testicle chewed off, these guys should have met a demise the likes of which even Ed Boon couldn’t think of as a fatality. Very disappointing.

Again, it’s not ‘The Raid’, it’s not ‘Ip Man’, so throw those expectations out of the window. But also remember, this isn’t ‘American Ninja’ either, and it sure as hell isn’t ‘Kung Fu’ starring the late David Carradine. God Bless RZA, the film is watchable because it’s him. His narration is borderline cheesy, but he’s forgiven, fans love to hear RZA’s voice anyway. Furthermore his narration carries through into Ghostface’s 12 Reasons albums (Look out for the review of Part 2 soon.) The ending of this film may indicate that there could be a third instalment on the way… Let that sink in, think of it what you will but films like to come in three’s like waiting for the bus.