Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
In case you weren’t aware, YouTube is really awesome. There’s a pretty good chance that at least two of your most favorite movies of all time are there. And you can watch them for free. YouTube has violence, booty, education, the whole nine yards. The whole shabang. The whole kit and caboodle.
I’m just saying.
So it’s no wonder that a couple of weekends ago I found myself chillaxing on the couch, phone in hand, ripping and running the streets of youtube.com. I slowed my pace when I saw 2011’s Snow on tha Bluff scrolling up the screen. I stopped and watched, because Snow on tha Bluff is one of those movies that you watch when you get the chance to.
Because it contains the type of unyielding, spastic creativity that many Hollywood blockbusters could only wish to have. Taking an ingenious cue from the The Blair Witch Project, the only reason this homemade movie-meets-First Person Shooter didn’t gain more traction on a mainstream level is because of a lack of marketing and promotion. It really is a good movie beyond the hyperbole and emphasis on its urban American axis.
Immediately after, and I mean literally, directly underneath Snow on tha Bluff was 2006’s Killa Season. Killa Season is rapper Cam’ron’s obligatory low budget Hood movie. Every popular rapper from the mid 90s to early 00s made one. Jay-Z has one. Master P has a few. Even Mack 10, Ice Cube’s long lost Westside Connection cohort has one. So it was only right that the once-Byrd Gang General, Killa Cam, have one also.
Cam’s version of the lifestyle of a drug-dealing gangster was every bit as engaging as his personality. Had that movie been made by another rapper, I seriously doubt it would have become the cult classic that it still is to this day.
By the end of that day I’d watched both flicks. I wanted to get online and tweet about them or update my status is about them but I didn’t. As my friend Steven Brown would likely advise, I decided to write about it instead.
Which one was better? The question itself, is simple enough, but it’s not quite that simple.
Let’s do some untraditional comparing and contrasting and see if we can figure out which one of these classic movies can actually be described as classic.
In terms of authenticity, I’d have to give both movies a general nod. Neither plot seems too far-fetched or fantastic, especially if you live or dwell in any sort of urban American environment. Or you may have a friend or family member who got caught up in the street life. Both movies will be familiar to those people familiar with that lifestyle. However, Snow takes an extra step and I’m not sure if it was intentional or not.
Allow me to explain.
The first 20 minutes of Snow appears to contain no actors at all. I believe they were all very real people. (Except the tourist-y kids that got robbed.) There is also a scene when Curtis is doing a drug deal and the woman that’s cooking crack in the kitchen is naked. Now, the authenticity doesn’t come from the chick whippin’ her wrist with her poon exposed for all to see, the authenticity comes from the fact that she didn’t have any body parts that I was interested in looking at for longer than 3 seconds. She looked like she grew up around the corner from everybody. Unlike Snow, Killa Season‘s authenticity didn’t necessarily come from the supporting cast, but rather the on-screen comfortability of its star.
(I’ve said it a thousand times to a hundred people, Cam’ron Giles is a good actor. He made his role believable, as he’s done in virtually every movie I’ve seen him act in. At some point he’ll really really understand this talent and I guarantee you he’s going to take Hollywood by storm. He might even surprise himself. Quote me on all that.)
Although both movies rank adequately high on the Keepin’ It Real-o-meter, Snow edges out Killa because so many of the extras look like they are actually on drugs. Real drugs, the type a cat would be too ashamed to rap about being addicted to.
Speaking on the believability of each movie, the winner would have to be, again, Snow on tha Bluff. But only by a small margin. Snow never had a moment of elation or happiness. The times that did cause Curtis and his squad to jump in any sort of Glee involved a criminal element. That’s dismal. And unfortunately, that’s usually reality for a lot of people, in some shape or form. For example, they were happy as hell when they robbed the out-of-town drug dealers. Curtis counted the sacks of dope with a passionate gleam in his eye, like a kid the night before his birthday.
Killa Season was believable, but believable in more of an “I want to be a rapper/drug dealer when I grow up” type of way. That’s basically been Cam’s whole music career. Glorifying the highlights of the criminal/hustler lifestyle. He’s kind of like a ghetto superhero, and that image was solidified once he donned his universally recognized pink costume. But that’s neither here nor there.
There were messages and moments of social awareness in Season but for the most part it focused on the perks of being a baller (the money, hoes clothes effect) and how to answer when the streets come calling. It was a bit like one long rap video, for better and worse. But one huge factor that works tragically against Killa Season is the fact that it didn’t end. The opportunity to cap all the drama that had been shaken and stirred for the previous two hours never manifested. No point of finality occurred.
The ending of a movie could very well take its believability rating beyond the heavens or under the radar and one of the greatest dope boy movies of all time doesn’t have one! This is indeed one of Hip Hop’s most monumental tragedies.
Every good movie has an “OH SHIT!” moment. This moment is the film’s unintentional star, the seed which fuels the distance its cult status travels. In this regard, a fierce battle ensues, but Killa Season emerges as the victor.
Granted, Snow’s opening robbery scene was an immediate, totally unexpected twist, and I guarantee you said “Oh shit…” when it happened, but Killa‘s drug mule defacation scene is one of the most gut-wrenching moments I can remember in any film, low budget or otherwise. No movie you’ve ever watched will prepare you for diarrhea delivery in real-time.
Between the two movies, there are hundreds of taking points and debatable angles. This piece could easily extend for another thousand words. But I don’t have that type of time on my hands.
So we’ll leave it in yours.