Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Samuel L. Jackson On 50 Cent

(This is a re-post from March 24, 2006)

INTELLIGENTSIA, THROW YOUR HANDS in the air! You made it through the grizzly to yet another Friday, so that's really what's up! Toss a couple back tonight in honor of yourself! Thanks for stopping by H2I today. You could've been anywhere in the blogosphere, but you're here with me. Much love!

Gonna kick off this Freestyle Friday edition with a hip-hop-related revelation. Samuel L. Jackson is not a hypocrite! After news broke recently that he'll be starring alongside 50 Cent in next year's Iraqi war drama Home of the Brave, Jackson had everybody scratching their heads in confusion. He's been adamant in the press for years about not filming with rappers, becoming most vocal last year when he refused to work with 50 in Get Rich or Die Tryin'.

"I've had conflicts with people in the music business because I'm not going to prop some rapper up in some movie," Jackson said. "I wouldn't prop 50 Cent up, I wouldn't prop Eminem up, I wouldn't prop any up." Meanwhile, he's seen on screen with Ice Cube (xXx: State of the Union), LL Cool J (S.W.A.T.) and Busta Rhymes (Shaft). And now, he signs on to star along side 50 after all. So what's the deal, Sam?

I interviewed Jackson in Memphis last September for anUNleashed magazine cover story, where he was very candid about working with rappers on screen. I think everyone after reading this will agree that Jackson's hip-hop sensibilities are more paradoxical than hypocritical.

What was the whole issue about not signing on with 50 Cent to do Get Rich or Die Tryin'?

SLJ: That whole thing that started between me and 50 Cent was something that someone created out of nowhere. Me and 50 talk. He’ll call me and be like [in 50 Cent voice], Sam, it’s small change . . . I go, [pondering] Oh, yeah, 50 Cent! Hey, what’s up, man! So we talk from time to time, and we don’t have any beef. Someone else is trying to create something that has nothing to do with us.

You’ve been very vocal about your opposition to working with rappers in lead film roles. But this year, the xXx sequel came out. Starring alongside you was . . .

SLJ: . . . Cube.

Ice Cube. So has your opinion changed about working with rappers in films?

SLJ: Not particularly. Cube has been in the business for awhile. From Boyz N the Hood until now, he’s developed a way of working. He’s done quite a few films that were very successful, and he does more acting than he does rapping. Kind of like Todd (LL Cool J). You’ll call him LL, I call him Todd. That’s what he says he wants to be called when he’s working as an actor, so I call him Todd when he’s on a movie set, and I’ve done movies with him. I’ve also done movies with Dana (Queen Latifah, in Sphere).

I’m doing this movie now (Black Snake Moan), and David Banner’s in it. When he came to rehearse last week, he sincerely said to me, I know how you feel about this [working with rappers]. If you would be kind enough – I’ll do anything you ask me to do – just help me get this right so that you’ll be comfortable with me doing this film. David is sincere about wanting to understand and respect what the business is. He’s not just showing up so he can sell more David Banner CDs. And a lot of times people are doing just that. So I would be doing a disservice to all the kids who go to college and major in drama, and go through the things that I went through to try and make their way in this business, if I just said, Sure, I’ll prop this cat up. That’s just not what I’m going to do.

But it seems like a natural progression these days. If you’re a hip-hop star, the natural ascension is eventually to films . . .

SLJ: Only because of the advent of music videos. Everybody thinks, Well I can act in my video, I gotta be able to act in a movie. Then somebody comes up to them and says, You outta be in a movie! Shit, just hold that gun sideways and talk like you talk! [lowering his voice as if talking in secret] Oh, and in the meantime, you think you can drop us a song for the soundtrack? And, Boom! They’re movie stars.

So to be a rapper and get down with Sam Jackson on a film, you have to be proven as an actor and show some sort of . . .

SLJ: Proven, for one thing, and also show some sort of sincerity for wanting to be a part of this business as a craftsman, and not just as an opportunist.

So, obviously, Jackson feels 50 Cent has "proven" himself with Get Rich or Die Tryin'. Bottom line when it comes to rappers working on screen with Samuel L. Jackson: (say screaming) It's a one-film minimum requirement for rappers to work with me, mothufucka! The others deserve to die, and I hope they burn in Hell!!

BE SURE TO TUNE IN on Monday when H2I goes head to head in a classic interview with G Unit soldiers Lloyd Banks and Young Buck! And don't get in any trouble this weekend! We've got enough problems right now!

Stay tuned, Intelligentsia . . .

Friday, July 14, 2006

Chicago "Ushers" In It's Newest Star

FIVE-TIME GRAMMY AWARD WINNER USHER will join the cast of the hit Broadway musical Chicago on August 22nd starring as Billy Flynn, the role played by Richard Gere in the Oscar-winning movie. Usher will continue in the show until October 1st. The 27-year-old superstar whose last album, Confessions, sold over 15 million albums worldwide will be making his Broadway debut in the long-running, smash-hit musical.

I think this is a much better suit for Ursher, Intelligentsia. His dance moves are far better than his perceived acting chops, so this move to the Chicago stage is a great look. Especially after that brick of a film In the Mix he starred in last year. That shit played like a cheesy-ass after school special. So congrats to Mr. Confessions for finding the right groove.

Stay tuned, Intelligentsia . . .

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Whack Job

Poor Vito (Joseph Gannascoli). "They found a three-ball in his side pocket." All pictures courtesy HBO.

"WOKE UP THIS MOOOORNIN', GOT YOURSELF A GUN!" Intelligentsia, did you see that?! Did you see it?! Just finished watching the next to the last season episode of David Chase's masterpiece HBO series, The Sopranos. Damn! It was UGLY SO GOOD! Cats getting stabbed up, beat with bats, the whole nine! Lost? Fuggedaboutit! Desperate Housewives? Fuggedaboutit! Like Eddie Murphy's barber character famously said in Coming To America: "Dem shows is goood, but compared to The Sopranos, dem shows ain't shit!" At least on HBO, you don't have to deal with 35 minutes of ad interruptions! And Jersey's favorite TV organized crime family layed it down MAJORLY in Sunday's episode!

Not going to spoil it for anybody about what happened. If you saw it, you know. If you didn't, check it out on ON DEMAND. Otherwise, you're fugazi.

I will say this, though, and you can check H2I archives on this (March 10 "Bada Bing!" post): ADRIANA AIN'T DEAD! Told you that bitch wasn't dead! That's the second time Ade (Drea de Matteo) has shown up in the new season since her widely "believed" wacking.

Not only did she show up again in Sunday's episode, but Carmela (Edie Falco), in the season finale preview that airs in two weeks, told Tony Soprano: "We should hire professionals to track Ade down." Granted, Carmela believes Adriana merely "ran off", but why would Chase even be going there? Because she's not dead, cafone!

Ooooh, Wheee! Can't wait for the season finale in two weeks! Sad news is we have to cliff hang until early 2007 to see the final 8 episodes. But if you're down with The Sopranos, leave a comment. Would love to hear your opinions and reactions . . .

Stay tuned, Intelligentsia . . .

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Fast Food Hip-Hop

A co-worker at one of the offices I hustle in said yesterday that he wished Kanye West would "shut his mouth and stick to making beats." It was kind of funny because the sentiment is nothing new. It just shows that people focus more on what Kanye says outside of the booth than what he says on wax.

Then I read a comment Kanye said on MTV, where he was talking about his opposition to "fast food" hip-hop music. You know, that brand of rap that looks and smells good, but it doesn't really nourish you and too much of it makes you sick. I think it's a great metaphor to categorically break down contemporary hip-hop music. At the end of the hip-hop day, there's fast food, home cooking, and, finally, gourmet fine dining. Here, let me demonstrate.

These are a few examples. If you disagree, don't be scared . . . leave a comment about it. Genius.


50 Cent, Nelly, Bow Wow, Remy Ma


T.I., Lil' Kim, Mobb Deep, Jadakiss


Mos Def & Talib Kweli, Kanye West, Ghostface, Jay-Z, Common

So the question becomes, which category do you "eat" from the most, and who's your favorite food?

Stay tuned, Intelligentsia . . .

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

D12 Frontman, Proof, Shot and Killed in Detroit

Proof at the Spin magazine Superbowl after party in February.

I WAS IN GETTING DRESSED when my Sidekick started shaking like a crap game. It was a message from my homeboy I work with at The Source. "Yo, cuzzo, heard the news about Proof? Dude was shot and killed last night in Detroit." I thought to myself, "Damn, not again . . . another hip-hop soldier lost?" I jumped online, and there it was on MTV News staring me right in the face. The D12 general, Eminem's best friend and recent best man, shot dead at a Detroit nightclub. He was 30.

According to reports, police arrived at the CCC Club on East Eight Mile Road just after 5 a.m. Proof (nee DeShaun Holton) and another 35-year-old man were each found with a single gunshot wound to the head. The other man is listed in critical condition. Proof was pronounced dead on arrival.

Proof, top left, with Eminem and D12 bandmates.

That's all that's known at this time, as information about the case continues to stream in. But it's certainly another sad day in hip-hop, Intelligentsia. I remember seeing Proof on stage with Eminem at Madison Square Garden last August for the Anger Management Tour. He was vibrant, full of energy, doing what he loved doing. Now he's no longer with us. For me, the primary question right now is, will Proof's murder be logged into our hip-hop chronicles in the fashion of Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, Jam Master Jay, and Big L - another killing that goes unsolved indefinitely? Where do you draw the line in the "no snitching" code when it comes to cases like these?

Eminem has unparalleled power in hip-hop. Perhaps it takes a unique hip-hop member like him with unique power to bring forth a change in unsolved rap murders. We'll see.

In the meantime, R.I.P. Proof. We're going to miss you, homeboy.

Stay tuned, Intelligentsia . . .

Friday, March 10, 2006

Bada Bing!

Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo) with FBI agents during infiltration on The Sopranos.

Yo, Intelligentsia! The Sopranos is so dope, Nas did a rap remake of the popular show's theme song, "Got Yourself A Gun" on Stillmatic. Not to mention all the other references to the show rappers have made. . .

"I be the east side Soprano, Rob Marciano/
Flow in each channel with the Iverson handle. . . ."

-Black Rob on "Let's Get It"

"Ol' G, big homie, the one and only/
Stick bony, but the pockets are fat like Tony Soprano. . . ."

-Jay-Z on "Crazy In Love"

Arguably, The Sopranos is hands-down the best show on television. When you can actually catch it, that is. Or a new episode, anyway. Hell, it's been almost two years since we all had our eyes glued to the idiot box for the season five finale. Thank the show's evil genius David Chase for that one, folks. But at long last, New Jersey's favorite notorious mafiosos are BACK! Sunday, March 12 at 9pm, capeesh?! Man, I'm GASSED! This is gonna be better than the Super Bowl. Got my Coronas w/ limes, calamari fritti, and the whole nine! Somebody better get whacked real good in the first episode, too!

I'm going to keep this short so everyone can get on with their weekends. (New York basked in a gloriously refreshing 74 degrees today...spring love, HOLLA!) But I wanted to make this post before the season officially kicks off on Sunday night. That way the prediction I'm about to make will be on point. Mark my words, Intelligentsia. . .

ADRIANA IS NOT DEAD!!! And I've got an expert theory (my own) to prove it. I'll break it all down on Monday after the premiere! Just remember that you heard it here first!!

Stay tuned, Intelligentsia. . . .

Sunday, March 05, 2006

It Just Got Easier Out Here For A Pimp

Three 6 Mafia celebrate their Oscar win at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.

"Martin Scorsese - 0 Oscars...
Three 6 Mafia - 1."
-Jon Stewart, host of the 78th Annual Academy Awards

I REMEMBER DEBATING with a friend last year about Jamie Foxx's nomination for best actor for his uncanny portrayal in Ray. My friend had all the confidence in the world that Foxx would win in a landslide. I, however, didn't have faith that the Academy would hand over the coveted statuette to a black actor so easily. After dissing Denzel Washington for the award twice (Malcolm X, 1993; The Hurricane, 2000), I was convinced that Foxx would fall victim as well. I figured, if they wouldn't give it to Denzel for his gripping embodiment of Malcolm X, they weren't going to give it to Jamie for playing Ray Charles. Needless to say, I discovered astounding new belief in the Academy. And last night's 78th Annual Awards buttressed my faith even more.

To see an off-the-mainstream-radar rap group like Three 6 Mafia be nominated for an Oscar with a song entitled "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" is just plain cool. To see them perform the song live at the event is cutting-edge. But to see them actually win the coveted statuette is . . . well, amazing! It's clearly yet another instance of how rap music is helping us realize the American Dream. Three 6 Mafia will probably melt down their Oscars to make iced-out gold grills for their teeth, but who cares!

Three 6 Mafia add Oscar gold to their bling.

I had the distinguished honor of interviewing Samuel L. Jackson last summer for LA-based UNleashed magazine, and here's what he said about the Academy's new recognition of black actors:

"I wouldn't exactly say the Academy is coming around to recognizing black actors. I will say that the voting populace of the Academy is getting younger. The older [conservative] members are dying out. Each person that gets nominated becomes a member of the Academy automatically, and the younger members' tastes are radically different from the old guard. So because the new, younger members are more culturally diverse in their experiences, you have a fairer, clearer voting structure among the peer groups."

Jackson also accurately predicted in the interview that Terrence Howard would be the next big thing in Black Hollywood. "Terrence is extremely talented. He did such an incredible job in Hustle & Flow that he deserves to occupy the next big slot in Hollywood."

So let's give it up to the Academy, Intelligentsia! And let's congratulate Three 6 Mafia, Taraji Henson, Terrence Howard, Ludacris, and everyone in hip-hop culture making contributions to Hollywood. The best has yet to come!

Terrence Howard pimp-walks down the red carpet.

Taraji Henson: "You know it's haaaard out here when you're de-LISH!"

Chris "Ludacris" Bridges: Will he soon knock LL Cool J out of the box?

Queen Latifah throws up a peace sign to the fans!

Will & Jada Pinkett Smith: "Baby, we're the GREATEST!" Awww!

Stay tuned, Intelligentsia . . .
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Location: Jersey City, New York

Joel is a New York-based magazine journalist who has penned articles for KING, VIBE, Star, Us Weekly, Black Enterprise, XXL, and GIANT.

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