Rap Musicals On Film - Do They Work? Your Favorites...

by Tambay A. Obenson
January 29, 2013 2:20 PM
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So I'm sitting in my office flipping through Netflix, as I usually do, looking for something to watch while I work, and I came across this 2008 hip-hop musical titled Rome And Jewel (inspired by Romeo & Juliet), starring Nate Parker as Rome; part of the conflict with this love story is that Juliet is white. 

I didn't immediately realize it was a musical until I started watching it; in fact, I'm watching it right now as I type this.

But it got me thinking... we've seen a handful of hip-hop musicals over the years - and by musical, I mean films in which songs (or in this case rap music) sung (or spoken) by the characters, are interwoven into the story, sometimes accompanied by dancing, and usually help advance the plot, or for character development. So, hip-hop-themed films don't count.

How well does rap music work in what we know as traditional musicals? I'm not sure if I've seen one yet that I can say I've loved; then again, I can't recall all of them, and I certainly haven't seen every single one. 

It could also be that we're just not all that used to seeing film musicals with rap music, given that film musicals have been around for just about as long as sound cinema has existed, but what we know as rap music today is a much younger *invention,* so there's still an adjusment to be made...??

I'm a late-80s, early-1990s hip-hop head; but the music just sounds so much better to me when I'm blasting it from my stereo speakers, than it does when I'm sitting in front of a screen, watching a 2-hour movie with characters that, from time to time, burst into a rap, accompanied by instrumentals. 

Music videos are essentially short films, but it's not quite the same thing.

Most recently, we've profiled a hip-hop musical titled Caught On Tape, directed by Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones, starring Malik YobaCedric The EntertainerVivica A. FoxBokeem Woodbineand David Marciano. Sticky Fingaz has made a couple of these as I recall. Most of you mocked the trailer, so I take it you didn't care for it. 

It's embedded below by the way, if you missed it.

But I'd like to know how you guys feel about rap musicals, and what some of your favorites are that you recommend I should watch, because this Rome And Jewel is not working for me at all.

Here's a trailer for Rome And Jewel (underneath you'll find a trailer for Caught On Tape):

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  • PK | January 29, 2013 11:54 PMReply

    I'm a fan of musical films and musical theater. I think a rap musical could work if the songs were treated as separate productions and not just rapped storylines (like "Carmen: A hip hopera" and Sticky Fingaz movies..I didn't see "Caught on Tape" but one worse than that trailer)

    When they just start rapping the plot it sounds cheesy. The rhymes are often simplistic in the most basic rhyme delivery. It's like that rap break in "Teen Witch"...top that.

    All the rap musicals I've seen are just weak stories in general. I saw the great play "Hurt Vilage" last year . It was a story of poverty and coming of age with rap and it worked very well because the writing was excellent.

  • urbanauteur | January 29, 2013 3:40 PMReply

    ROOFTOPS_dir.Robert Wise

  • Akimbo | January 29, 2013 3:40 PMReply

    Looking forward to the remake starring Lil Romeo and Jewel.

  • ALM | February 5, 2013 4:54 AM


  • August | January 29, 2013 2:31 PMReply

    I'm in class, so I have to wait until late to watch the Rome trailer. I didnt like caught on tape and the only other hip hop musical I can think of is, of course, "Carmen: A hip-hopera". As far I know, I don't think there are any good hip hop musicals, but I do think it is possible to make one.

  • W. Keith | January 29, 2013 9:07 PM

    did you say "Caught on Tape" is a musical ? Where? I can't tell. The really only hip-hop musical that fits the definition in my book is the "Carmen Jones" remake hip-hopera. And I agree not very well done - could have been, they had all the material, players and music to make it well, they just lacked the proper vision. I think it can be done, but it's going to take diligent preparation on the filmmakers part and a little TLC with the story. Not easy weaving all these strands into something viable.

    I just completed a musical comedy recently, set against a background of 70's R&B music. I'll give you a little logline description.

    " Hovey Street" is a non-stop, foot-thumping joyride through the fun-loving seventies, the renaissance era of classic R&B. With super-groups like Earth, Wind and Fire, The Isley Bros, the Commodores, the Five Stairsteps, and G.I.’s own Jackson Five providing the musical backdrop to a generation of young people fighting for every last ounce of freedom from responsibility and adulthood before having to deal with the harsh realities of life in a dying steel town..

    Tagline: It’s Grease meets Fridays with a double dose of swag!

  • Akimbo | January 29, 2013 3:39 PM

    I agree, I definitely think it's possible to make a good hip hop musical, it just hasn't quite happened yet. Carmen: The Hip Hopera could have been MUCH better and you can look at the popular youtube video "Beauty and the Beat" and imagine that (or something similar) being expanded into a larger piece incorporating both singing and rap.

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