Why Nollywood needs to put more rappers on the big screen
It is time for Nollywood to utilize Nigerian rappers on the big screen to create contemporary movies.
While there has been no shortage of danger men in Nollywood, Reminisce's brings a fresh and authentic portrayal to it.
On his acting debut, the award-winning rapper (known on the streets as Alaga) might have just opened the door for Nigerian rappers to be on the big screen.
In King of Boys, iLLbliss gives a commendable performance as a street hustler who plugs Makanaki into a high-profile heist in Lagos. In Kemi Adetiba's film about ambition, power and karma, the two rappers bring in grittiness and street credibility to the flick. It was a brilliant idea to cast the rappers who are hood champions thanks to their riveting street tales and Hip-Hop anthems.
If Nollywood desires to bring more grit than gloss to its movies and wishes to appeal to a more youthful demographic by making pop culture flicks, then casting rappers as hero or villains is the way to go.
Cinematic history is littered with rappers transitioning into bonafide movie stars. The biggest example of course is Will Smith. From his historic rap career (first rapper to win a Grammy), Smith transitioned into a TV star with the seminal Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and then into an A-list Hollywood megastar.
His rise in the box office was simultaneous to the rise of rap in the American music industry and the penetration and eventual domination of Hip-Hop culture into mainstream America.
While Will Smith took on monsters, shadow governments, conspiracy theorists, robots hell-bent on world domination while being a ladies man, Hollywood has used rappers to tell the stories of African-Americans in its inner-city neighbourhoods.
In 1991, veteran US rapper Ice T starred in the classic New Jack City that tackled the evil of the crack epidemic in black neighbourhoods. In the same year, director John Singleton tapped Ice Cube to act in the seminal Boyz N The Hood that touched on the governmental neglect of black neighbourhoods and the pitfalls of gang violence.
The following year, Tupac Shakur played the role of psychopath Bishop in the movie 'Juice' that showed how African-American youths are constantly surrounded by violence.
There are many more examples of rappers impressing in Hollywood. Ice Cube brought us the classic comedy Friday that hilariously portrayed an average day in South Central, Los Angeles. The success of the low budget has gone on to create a successful franchise that has launched the careers of Chris Tucker, Mike Epps, Terry Crews and others.
American rappers have been able to use movies to tell stories of the black experience in America. Most of these movies are snapshots of the era they were created or the times they paid homage too. If you take out these movies, there would be no cinematic portrayal of African-Americans in the 80s and 90s. These movies have come to define a generation.
Nollywood is lacking in this regard, movies about pop culture and youth are not exactly in hot demand by Nigerian producers. It is high time Nollywood looks into this and curate the times, lives and the struggles of not only this generation but of the 90s as well.
To this with great results, Nigerian rappers can be tapped to create seminal movies that would be relevant for decades. And in an era when indigenous rappers have made the genre more relatable than ever then now is the right time to tap into it.
Rappers such as Terry Tha Rapman, Ikechukwu, Vector have flexed their acting chops over the years. Actors who have been known to lay down a bar here and there (the late J.T Tom West and Ernest Asuzu) tapped into the self-confidence or audacity of the Hip-Hop generation to deliver strong performances on the screen.
Now is the perfect time to take the opportunity further.
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