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As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be….A WUSS? July 18, 2006

Posted by doctorolove in Movies, Music, Pop Culture Rants, TV.
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I worshipped Ice Cube in the early nineties. I snuck videos of Eddie Murphy’s comedy into my room while most of my peers were really grooving on that “Bob Saget guy”. And John Singleton’s Boyz ‘N’ The Hood is still the most requested DVD in my Netflix queue. Heck, I even bought a Coolio album, with my own money. (Though it was at a Target, and in the 5.99 cassette bin, but still I purchased it.)

But I must ask you all this: where did the bad boys, the pioneers, the new breed of hip-hop culture, go?

CubeFirst off, Ice Cube has released his new album. It’s loaded with everything we’ve come to know and love about him. There’s the obligatory track about hating the police. He starts a chorus with the well crafted slant rhyme of “PLAYA’ and “LAY YA.” He even calls out W. in a song, though doesn’t mention whether or not he hates black people (Kanye did that for him, I guess.) You may notice a wee bit of disdain in my description. Survey says…CORRECT. How can I not give a glowing review of the guy who single handedly showed me the world outside my suburban upbringing? Four little words. ARE. WE. THERE. YET.

That’s right. The same guy who roamed the streets of Compton on his album cover with a loaded AK starred in a film that barely (and I do mean barely) beats out Rat Race as the worst road trip movie starring obnoxious kids I recognize from soap operas. Sure, the movie has its’ moments but how could I watch the Cube go toe-to-toe with Jay Mohr, an actor who may in the long run be even whiter than me, and still respect the guy in the morning? I don’t even think Jay Mohr’s wife respects him in the morning. And he was on SNL. To take the great poet and true visionary in the world of gangsta rap and turn him into the straight man for some of the least original fart jokes since Road Trip is just plain contemptible. Get Straight outta Compton. And please take your pride with you.

EddieNow, Mr. Murphy. You were funny. Damn funny. SNL gave you your start and you pushed the stereotype boundary lines with militant characters (since copied by Chris Rock) and plays on children’s shows set in poor neighborhoods (copied by Rock again…Quick someone get this man a writer!!!) By crashing the once all-white world of stand-up comedy with even more ferocity than your idol Richard Pryor did, you truly gave the hip-hop community its’ jester. You turned Hollywood on its’ ear by hitting the ground running with 48 Hours and the Beverly Hills Cop movies. (I know you may be asking, Why not admit Beverly Hills Cop 3 into wuss evidence? Because Eddie still kicks ass and no fart jokes. Besides, the trilogy rule of suckiness states movies of three are to be judged on the films as a whole unit. It’s the main reason I can still watch Godfather 3 without vomiting every time Sofia Coppola speaks.) And what’s more Eddie, you became the box office star for your generation, yet still kept every ounce of the realism that made them like you in the first place.

Then, bam, wussiness set in. Sure, I can explain away a Nutty Professor by claiming it was a homage to the comedic greats before you. And I can even try and see how taking a film modeled after a Disney ride may have had its’ reasons (Eddie Murphy’s Oscar nod, perhaps?). But I have no excuse for Dr. Doolittle. Or Daddy Day Care. Or Pluto Nash. Or Showtime. Okay, maybe Showtime allowed you to work with Deniro, but even he’s just staring at the scripts with dollar bill eyes now. You have tried to morph your comedy into a strange hybrid of the kid-friendly dad and the keeping’ it real father and instead come out, yup, you guessed it, the recipient of fart jokes. And when you try to stay contemporary by peppering your films with the type of manic humor that was once your trademark, your older fans cringe like we do when Jose Canseco comes to bat and tries to relive the Bash brothers days with every swing. And your newer fans, who don’t get what you were, simply turn to each other and say, “I hope he does the farting thing again.” So Eddie, please leave your Axel Foley jacket hanging on the rod on your way out…

johnAs for you Singleton, an Oscar nomination the first time out. The first for an African American director. You managed to make Spike Lee angry at something other than Reggie Miller’s three point shooting abilities. And the film was good. Too good for the academy to understand. It was hailed as a groundbreaking lynch pin for the film community, giving a whole new genre and a whole lot of directors their first shots at fame and fortune. The stories from the ghetto, long since silent, were now fodder for all sorts of interpretations. You followed it with Higher Learning, a racial fable about the differences between the races at a locale many of us knew as familiar, a state college. Yup, your movies were edgy and gritty and most of all, real.

Then, you too caught the Wuss-o-rama. I cannot fault you for working with Tupac, but who puts one of the best poets in the rap world on a mail truck for ninety minutes and has him recent poetry that would make a fifth grader blush if she were passed it in Study Hall? I will not fault your attempt at remaking Shaft as a homage of sorts to the genre that inspired you, but seriously, was anybody else available than Lawrence Taylor to play a role? That alone shows wussiness. I can almost picture him threatening you to use him for his pitch perfect portrayal of an ex-football player turned, well, threatening wanna-be actor. And yes, then you had to completely ruin any credibility by making 2 Fast 2 Furious. Not only is the film one of the worst titled movies in cinematic history, but when the only actor you can get to reprise his role is currently thinking about posing for Playgirl as a career boost, something’s wrong. And don’t even use the excuse of “adding something to the Fast and the Furious franchise”. 1) One film doth not a franchise make and 2) What more can one really say about society by delving deeper into the world of illegal auto racing?

CoolioAs for Coolio, I do respect the strides you made for mainstream-radio friendly gangsta rap in the mid nineties. I bought your album when I was impressed by the fact that Stevie Wonder let you sample a song. To get a man so passionate about his music to allow this to happen must mean something. And the song was good. I can’t even fault you for letting it be the theme song for a Michelle Pfeiffer movie. She was hot back in 1995 before she started looking like the Cryptkeeper in a blond wig.

But now look at you. How much street cred can one have when their scenes are cut of Daredevil? I mean, with all that was wrong with that film, can you honestly not throw up your hands and scream “I’m a Wuss” when you don’t even make it in before a good forty five minutes of Ben Affleck mugging? I also note the fact that you have single handedly cornered the market for “Celebrities we can get to do our stupid celeb-reality show.” The only person with more appearances than you may have been Charles Nelson Reilly. Is that a list you want to take the Fantastic Voyage with? Slide. slide…slippity slide to the career cemetery, pronto.

I don’t have the answers to these descents into wussdom. I can only sit back and sigh as I look fondly at Delirious while It Was a Good Day blares out of my old CD Walkman. Maybe they did as we all do: succumb to the family mentality and try to make something for their children. Maybe it was monetarily motivated. Maybe they had gotten so tired of railing against societal norms that they just became too tired and fell under the wheel of wussiness that seems to roll across pop culture like a Sisyphusian rock.

Or maybe, just maybe, it means that I have to move on and start finding new bastions of envelope pushing as I grow older. Hey, how do you spell T.I. anyway?

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