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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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6 Beyond the Reel: Rappers, Bling, and Floss



Beyond the Reel: Rappers, Bling, and Floss

One of the most popular and financially successful MCs to transition into acting, Will Smith takes on the title role in the biopic, Ali (2001). Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

As noted earlier, hip hop was not the first youth movement represented in American cinema. Consequently, the visibility of hip hop in films has not been surprising. However, unlike earlier marriages between youth culture and mainstream movies, Hollywood has seemingly absorbed hip hop as a part of a ravenous ingestion of the popular culture landscape. As one journalist remarks: “Hollywood films these days don’t look fully cast without at least one rapper among the actors, and products from trainers to soft drinks are marketed by hip hop stars.1 Like a cultural juggernaut, hip hop has conquered the visual and aural aspects on films, finding a representation even in films which are not explicitly exploring the hip-hop ← 123 | 124 → world. Through hip hop cultural elements and through the ascendancy of rappers in front of the camera, hip hop is pervasive and, by the end of 2005, a standard in American cinema.

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