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Hip Hop in American Cinema

Melvin Donalson

Hip Hop in American Cinema examines the manner in which American feature films have served as the primary medium for mainstreaming hip hop culture into American society. With their glamorizing portrayals of graffiti writing, break dancing, rap music, clothing, and language, Hollywood movies have established hip hop as a desirable youth movement. This book demonstrates how Hollywood studios and producers have exploited the profitable connection among rappers, soundtracks, and mass audiences. Hip Hop in American Cinema offers valuable information for courses in film studies, popular culture, and American studies.
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2 Chillin’ and Killin’: Hood Rats and Thugs, 1990–1999



Chillin’ and Killin’: Hood Rats and Thugs, 1990–1999

Merging gangsta rap and gangster movie action, rapper Ice-T, right, portrays undercover cop Scotty Appleton who partners with Detective Nick Peretti (Judd Nelson) in New Jack City (1991).

During the 1990s, hip hop in its many expressions permeated popular culture, making its impact unavoidable in urban and rural America. In particular, rap music, often used in the media as a synonym for hip hop, assumed the spotlight as the primary expression. For some, “rap” and “music” appear paradoxical considering the former identifies speaking rapidly and rhythmically as opposed to singing and instrumentation. However, a younger generation connected to the naturalness and ← 25 | 26 → accessibility of rap, allowing anyone the possibility of being an MC (Microphone Controller). At the same time, the vocal qualities that distinguish rappers could be detected by the experienced fan, with the more skillful and unique rapper gaining adulation. As cultural critic Toure observes: “To be a great MC you must have a hypnotizing flow—a cadence and delivery that get inside the drum and bass patterns and create their own rhythm line. You must have a magnetic voice…but it must be a compelling sound…you must say rhymes with writerly details, up-to-the-minute slang, bold punch lines….1

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