10 Classic Rap Groups That Also Deserve Biopics

Straight outta Cinemark.
Straight outta Cinemark.

Have you seen “Straight Outta Compton” yet? If not, don’t tell anybody. The N.W.A. biopic is shaping up to be the biggest movie of the summer, reeling in more than $60 million on its opening weekend. The film is set to mow down the competition this weekend, too, turning into an unexpected tent pole for Universal Pictures, which already scored big with “Jurassic World” and “Minions” this year. But neither one of the those movies had Eazy-E.

So N.W.A. is a hit once more, and “Fuck Tha Police” is back on the radio. You know what that means: more of the damn same. Hollywood loves to sequelize success, and with N.W.A.’s story already told, you can bet that Universal and others are now feverishly combing through the hip-hop history books to find the next rap epic to bring to the big screen and sell for $13.50 a pop.

Generous as we are, we’ll save ‘em the trouble. First off, there’s only one N.W.A. Not every rap group is worthy of their own biography treatment. But quite a few are. Below, you’ll find previews for each of the top 10 most likely coming attractions when it comes to rap-group biopics of the very near future. And as a helpful little recommendation to our buds in Hollywood, let’s not have any rappers’ sons try to portray their parents in any of these — especially if they can’t act. Nepotism is wack, yo.

P.E. at Warehouse Live, 2013
P.E. at Warehouse Live, 2013
Photo by Marco Torres

“Fuck tha Police” is great and all, but if you really want to hear black rage honed into a truly formidable hip-hop political statement, you’ve got to turn to “Fight the Power.” Public Enemy wielded the potency of weighty words and untouchable live performances to usher in rap’s golden age, and the group’s classic first four albums still hit like a brick. From Chuck D’s start as a radio DJ to Public Enemy’s breakthrough tour opening for the Beastie Boys to ultimate triumph of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, this is one rap group’s story that was so grand, the biggest problem getting it into theaters will be finding a screen large enough to contain the legend.

Good God, can you just imagine the explosive drama contained in a big-screen Fugees biopic? The incredible hits. The forbidden affair. Whatever it was that Pras did. Thanks to Lauryn Hill and Wyclef’s Jean’s fortuitous and ill-fated relationship, the Fugees were essentially a hip-hop tabloid’s dream with one of the freshest soundtracks imaginable. What’s more, they haven’t been seen on the big screen since Dave Chappelle’s Block Party in 2006. That movie wasn’t all that great. Hollywood, let’s make a better one.

8. UGK
There needs to be a UGK movie, period. We don’t really care if it’s some kind of retelling of the group’s origin story, where Chad and Bernard partner up, move from P.A. to H-Town, and get discovered at King’s Flea Market, or if the film is just some guy in a Pimp C costume talking shit on all of the world’s rappers for 98 minutes. The point is, this movie already exists in our imagination, where it has annihilated all pre-existing box-office records. It’s called The Ballad of Sweet James Jones, and we’re thinking it should maybe be made available exclusively on bootleg DVD. The only closed-captioning will be a constant reminder to “Smoke sump’n, bitch.”

How in the world can the only rap group in history to win an Oscar not have its own biopic? This seems to defy all logic. DJ Paul, Lord Infamous and Juicy J formed their own record label and rode their talents all the way to platinum status, all while helping to coin the terms “crunk” and “sizzurp” to describe their obscene partying. That, people, is the kind of movie we want to see. Hell, the mere skeleton of their story is already about 1,000 times more interesting than Hustle & Flow.

Mac Daddy, left, with Daddy Mack of Kris Kross.
Mac Daddy, left, with Daddy Mack of Kris Kross.

Back in 1992, Kris Kross were indisputably the biggest rap group in the world. They toured with Michael Jackson. They recorded songs with TLC and Run-DMC. They were 13 years old at the time. Jermaine Dupri, their Dirty South Svengali, was all of 19. Can you even imagine the insane levels of exploitation that must have been going on behind the scenes? They were 13 years old, ON TOUR WITH MICHAEL JACKSON. They wore their clothes backwards, and then grown men starting doing that shit! And then DJ Screw sampled them to create “June 27!” For God’s sake, MAKE THIS.

For the Wu-Tang Clan movie, Hollywood should take a page from the Marvel playbook and simply build a shared universe of movies, beginning with the group origin story and then branching off into solo biopics for each member of the revered Clan. That way, every summer we can look forward to a new movie about the life of GZA or Ghostface or whoever. If nothing else, somebody owes us a damn Ol’ Dirty Bastard movie, and I can’t think of a solid reason why we haven’t gotten one yet.

Photo by Marco Torres

The Geto Boys' story has everything. The ruthless mogul. The gifted but troubled artist, the battle-rapper who beats fools up, and even a mentally imbalanced dwarf. How these people came together to make some of the greatest rap music ever to burble up from the South has to be ascribed to sheer, flagrant willpower. Is there a more cinematic image in the annals of hip-hop than Bushwick Bill being wheeled through the hospital by Willie D and Scarface? They literally couldn’t be stopped, even by themselves. And unlike their contemporaries in N.W.A., they’re still rapping.

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How did three Jewish kids in a punk-rock band become one of the biggest and best hip-hop groups in history? How did people react when they opened for Madonna on tour, performing with a giant, inflatable dick? How did MCA become a freaking Tibetan Buddhist? How did they do the robot voice on “Intergalactic”? These are but a few of the many, many unlikely questions that we’d like to see answered on celluloid. Here’s another one: Jesus, man, remember the Beastie Boys? Fuck, they were good.

It cannot have been easy to become the world’s first female hip-hop superstars. Long before Nicki and Iggy got salty, this Queens trio was laying down one of the genre’s greatest all-time dance tracks in “Push It,” and that was just the beginning. How did things really go down with manager Hurby "Luv Bug" Azor, who just so happened to be dating Salt back in the day? They sued him for unpaid royalties at one point, and we’ll just bet there’s plenty more drama where that came from. The world is ready for a rap biopic of a different flava, and Salt-N-Pepa had the music and the look to captivate a very wide audience.

This would barely qualify as a rap-group movie, since the Sugar Hill Gang was barely a rap group. Instead, this would be the story about how Sugar Hill Records producer Sylvia Robinson assembled some local rappers in Harlem to make the first hip-hop recording in history. “Rapper’s Delight” became a Top 40 smash almost overnight, taking the sound of rap music from the basement parties of the South Bronx all over the country. They never had another hit, but the Sugar Hill Gang’s story is the story of the birth of recorded hip-hop. Can you imagine the period settings and costumes Hollywood could come up with for this? Goodness, the breakdancers alone would probably be worth the price of a ticket and 3D glasses.

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