André 3000 + Queen Latifah + Kendrick Lamar: Hip Hop: The Songs that Shook America – From Music Studio to Screen
The crossover from music studio to screen has given plenty of successful artists an opportunity to branch into the world of film and television. For some iconic musicians like Aaliyah (Romeo Must Die) and Childish Gambino (Atlanta), film and TV have provided a new platform to showcase their extraordinary talent.
To celebrate AMC UK’s new TV documentary series, “Hip Hop: The Songs that Shook America”, we recount three of the most impressive transitions into film and TV from three of the hip hop artists featured in this inspiring series. The show focuses on six ground-breaking songs overall that have been pivotal to the evolution of American music and culture, including Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks”, Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” and Run-D.M.C.’s “Rock Box”.
André 3000 from OutKast in Four Brothers (2005)
Directed by the late John Singleton, rightly exalted as a hood-film pioneer in the wake of his seminal debut feature Boyz n the Hood (1991), Four Brothers presents urban crime with visceral, gritty violence. André Benjamin, better known as André 3000 and half of everyone’s favourite southern hip-hop duo OutKast, plays Jeremiah, one of the four adopted Mercer brothers who reunite in Detroit to avenge their mother’s death. With some acting experience already under his belt at the time of the film’s release, Benjamin’s performance is impassioned and convincing, encouraging us to sympathise with Jeremiah’s struggle to get his construction company off the ground and subsequent descent into gang warfare. Benjamin’s work in Four Brothers was followed by a co-lead part in Idlewild the following year, OutKast’s musical based on the album of the same name.
Queen Latifah in Chicago The Musical
Widely regarded as one of hip hop’s trailblazing feminists, Queen Latifah is undisputed rap royalty. Interestingly, she made her film debut just two years after her first studio album was released, playing a small role as a waitress in Spike Lee’s influential 1991 feature Jungle Fever. Fast forward eleven years and the queen had landed a leading role as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton in the Oscar-winning Chicago, a film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical. Corrupt but nurturing, Morton supervises female leads Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger) and Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) at Cook County Jail, embodying a police officer with a bold, uncompromising edge. Latifah’s standout performance of solo musical number ‘When You’re Good to Mama’ harnessed her already-renowned vocal ability, pairing it with unbounded theatrical flair to secure her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at the 75th Academy Awards. All hail the Queen.
Kendrick Lamar in Power
In perhaps one of the more unlikely cameo appearances of recent times, lauded rapper and 2018 Pulitzer Prize winner (DAMN. became the first non-classical and non-jazz album to win the prize for music) Kendrick Lamar wowed audiences with his debut acting role in an episode of Courtney A. Kemp’s engrossing crime drama Power. Playing homeless Dominican drug addict Laces, who helps Kanan Stark (50 Cent) in his search for some Jimenez cartel members, Lamar excels in a role he claims he has unfortunately known all his life without ever embracing himself, having grown up on the tough streets of Compton, California. Indeed, his humble and straight-edged real-life persona could not be further from Power’s main tale of drug dealer Ghost’s attempts to leave his criminal past behind for a legitimate career as a nightclub owner, but it is these wholly human struggles that render the series and Lamar’s performance so empowering.
From Executive Producers Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, Alex Gibney and directors Erik Parker and One9. Hip Hop: The Songs that Shook America airs exclusively on AMC UK (BT channel 332) Wednesdays at 9pm