Rappers love to imagine their lives as movies. They see bits of their lives on the big screen and turn to those cinematic treasures to help them make sense of their immediate environment: "If Tony Montana can rise to meteoric heights, so can I; if Frank Lucas can make it out of the game alive, so can I."
Over time, these themes have gradually imbued hip-hop culture with a tinge of fiction. And while that line between reality and art is sometimes fuzzy, the influence of these five movies on hip-hop is undeniable.
Kung-fu movies and hip-hop have been romantic partners since the '80s, when B-boys would incorporate martial arts moves in their battles. But in the early '90s, the RZA gave the style a bear hug, sampling tons of underground Hong Kong movies on Wu-Tang albums. Shaolin & Wu-Tang, in particular, inspired the group's name.
Five other Wu-inspiring movies: Five Deadly Venoms, The Four Assassins, The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, Wu Tang vs. Ninja, The Iron Monkey.
A big chunk of hip-hop's film history comes directly from the culture. Take Beat Street, for instance. Everything about this movie screams "hip-hop." Beat Street is to breakin' what Wild Style is to taggin'. Much like Charlie Ahearns' movie, it captured hip-hop in its formative stages, everything from the clothes to the lingo. A young DJ named Kenny (portrayed compellingly by Guy Davis) is at the center of this Bronx-set love story.
Wild Style is, without a doubt, the most important film about the graffiti scene. Charles Ahearns set out to stage a simple yet exciting presentation of hip-hop culture and succeeded in doing much more. Though the script revolved around a simple boy-meets-girl plot, it helped deepen an understanding of an emerging culture for generations. Also served as a powerful introduction to the genre's pioneering artistes, with appearances by Grandmaster Flash, Cold Crush Brothers, Busy Bee, Fab 5 Freddy, and others.
It's impossible to exaggerate the influence of The Godfather trilogy on hip-hop. Godfather posters adorn the walls of hip-hop studios and the homes of many rappers., not to mention the tons of album titles and logos styled in Godfather-inspired fonts. Notable example: Nas' 1997 group project, The Firm.
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Scarface resonates mightily with hip-hop. You could fill a book with Scarface references in rap. Raekwon sampled Brian de Palma's cult classic on "Criminology." Jay-Z opened his first album with the classic Scarface quote, "You know something about cocaine." Houston's own Brad Jordan adopted Tony Montana's nickname as his rap moniker.