Can Ranveer Singh’s Gully Boy match up to these best rap movies of recent times?
From Eminem’s 8 Mile and the blockbuster biopic Straight Outta Compton, Ranveer Singh and Zoya Akhtar certainly have their work cut out for them with Gully Boy. Here are the best rap movies/shows you should watch.Updated: Jan 05, 2019 12:34 IST
Movies and television shows about rap music are inherently rebellious - the beats, the fury; they’re all directed towards an archetypal oppressor. They’re about social structures and family, about class conflict and a thorough disregard for authority. Depending on where they are set – like the zombie genre – the cultural context changes.
The white policemen that might be the adversaries in a story about black Los Angeles youth could transform into a different shade in Gully Boy, the upcoming film starring Ranveer Singh. Set in the slums of Mumbai, it takes a largely American art form and roots it in the heart of India.
Gully Boy is based on the life of the rapper Divine, and several other young rappers, who together formed the Gully Gang of artistes who were born in the chawls of Mumbai. The years he spent growing up on the streets of the City of Dreams and the important role his mother played in his childhood are recurring themes in Divine’s music.
Gully Boy faces an uphill task. Not only must it introduce ‘asli hip hop’ to an audience bred on popular ‘rap’ music that Punjabi uncles dance to at weddings - the sort of music Honey Singh made a name from - it must also convince them that a mellow Ranveer Singh can be just as powerful as his hyper version.
Director Zoya Akhar certainly has a high standard to meet. Here are the best rap movies of recent times...
Contrary to the urban legend, Eminem didn’t skip the Oscars because he considers himself to be bigger than the Oscars, but because he simply didn’t expect to win. 8 Mile is perhaps the biggest source of inspiration behind Gully Boy - at least from what we’ve seen so far - with Akhtar revisiting entire scenes, and exploring the thorny familial themes of director Curtis Hanson’s film. It’s a genre-defining movie, made all the more ephemeral for being Em’s only acting credit. He did return to produce Bodied, but more on that later.
Straight Outta Compton
Director F Gary Gray’s biopic about the rise and fall of one of the most influential rap groups of all time - NWA - went beyond just their music, and made a potent comment on the current socio-political situation in America. And it certainly made stars out of its three leads, and Gray himself, who landed the Fast & Furious 8 gig off this film’s $200 million gross and Academy Award nomination.
Director Joseph Kahn’s satire is a comedy of manners set inside the decidedly rude world of battle rap. It’s bold and subversive, hilarious and horrifying. It’s easily one of the best films of 2018, a perfect time capsule for a deeply conflicted age.
Hustle & Flow
For the longest time, director Craig Brewer’s drama about a pimp with rap ambitions, has been the butt of several jokes. Famously, when the rap group Three 6 Mafia won an Oscar for Best Original Song at the 2006 Academy Awards, host Jon Stewart remarked, “For those keeping record, Martin Scorsese, zero Oscars. For Three 6 Mafia, one.” But Hustle & Flow is a solid film, featuring a strong central performance by Terrence Howard, and it speaks about many of the same themes of class and race as the other movies here.
Biggie & Tupac/The Defiant Ones/Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap
Perhaps the best way to educate oneself about a foreign culture, and an unfamiliar art-form, is to watch these three documentaries about hip hop. The Defiant Ones, on Netflix, traces the history of the genre through the eyes of some of its biggest advocates, particularly the founders of Def Jam records.
Something From Nothing is a wonderful exploration about the techniques of rap music, and host Ice-T has staged the coup to beat all coups, by assembling the best rappers in the world - Ice Cube, Nas, Eminem - to talk about their methods.
Biggie & Tupac, meanwhile, tells the trashily conspiratorial story about the back-to-back murders of the ‘90s’ biggest rap stars, Tupac Shakur and The Notorious BIG, who were gunned down within months of each other, their promising careers cut short before either could turn 26.