A little while ago, I saw the film Gimme The Loot, the debut feature from director Adam Leon. It’s an impressive first work. The story centers on two teenage graffiti artists, Sofia and Malcolm, who decide the best way to earn respect is to bomb (slang for cover it in graffiti) the apple that appears after home runs at the Mets baseball stadium. We watch as they go about trying to accomplish that. It’s full of beautiful small moments, sharply observed and humming with the energy of New York. The active camera and the new or non-professional acting makes it feel almost like a documentary. However, the real point today is that you may recognize the title as a Notorious B.I.G. song, which was a conscious choice by Adam. This got me thinking about what other hip-hop songs could be good movie titles. Here are ten others with films I made up that I would go see.
All of the Lights – Kanye West
Genre: Sci Fi
It has to be something large in scope for a track by Kanye, and after him, what’s bigger than the universe? This title makes me think of an epic outer space flick, with the lights represented by millions of stars and the mind-blowing luminescent home planet of an alien race that has suddenly come in contact with Earth. I hope the filmmakers find a way to use the song’s amazing trumpets on this occasion. The plot centers on one young man who has always felt special and driven to prove it. Prior to the arrival of the extraterrestrial visitors, the hero was mainly seen on nocturnal walks, pondering his place in the world and finally starting to admit he was feeling a little lost. But he gets swooped up on a spaceship and a wild inter-galactic adventure begins.
The Art of Peer Pressure – Kendrick Lamar
Genre: Teen Comedy
The film would probably deviate from the more high-stakes world Kendrick depicts in his vivid track, but it should at least remain as the story of high school age friends in South Central Los Angeles. I can see it going in a direction that captures the dynamic of Ferris & Cameron, with one friend Kendrick who is bright but doesn’t apply himself and is always charming and gregarious, and the other Quincy more reserved, fearful of doing anything that goes against authority, and generally full of internal angst. As senior year begins, Kendrick wants Quincy to take advantage of his parents trust and throw a huge party when their gone. In the build up to the event, we realize that Quincy actually has just as much potential to influence on Kendrick. The two engage in a battle of the wills, incorporating friends, family, teachers, and crushes to see who can get the other to do what they want. Hijinks ensue before the two come to truly understand each other’s perspective.
Beez in the Trap – Nicki Minaj
Something I get a kick out of online is the number of people who try to make the case this song is really about bees and honey, trolling or not. Nicki and 2 Chainz may not be that literal, but a quirky indie picture certainly could be, like Fox Searchlight or Focus Features. A compelling drama about the changing American physical and economic landscape, this film would cast an eye onto the remnants of our agrarian heritage. The protagonist is a mild-mannered apiarist, more comfortable with insects than people. The honey she and her bees make brings her to a farmer’s market, where she meets a variety of other food producers and patrons, who all have their own bizarre issues and traits. When the bee colonies are threatened by a mysterious illness, she has to learn to put her trust in others for the first time ever. It won’t have a depressing ending, but it may not be all that sweet, either.
Best I Ever Had – Drake
Genre: Romantic Comedy
They may not be outright duds, but Elizabethtown and We Bought A Zoo were at the very least signs that Cameron Crowe has lost the romcom mojo that spurred him to make such classics like Say Anything and Jerry Maguire. What better way to get some swagger back than by channeling Drake? In fact, the former teen actor could be ready for a leap to the silver screen. This vehicle about a womanizer who starts to want something deeper feels like a natural fit. It’s high concept, too. After a near death experience – you only live once, remember – is averted with help from a mystical woman posing as a florist, she tells Drake he has been granted a chance to continue life but only if he finds the love of his life, who is a woman he has already met, within the next week. Working title: “Ex Girl to Next Girl.”
Dirt Off Your Shoulder – Jay-Z
Genre: Period Biopic
Someday they are going to teach Jay-Z in high schools. If they aren’t already, that is. He is a cultural titan and it makes perfect sense that one of his songs can serve as the name of a period biopic for another: John Steinbeck. Similar to how Finding Neverland explored J.M. Barrie as he wrote Peter Pan, this would focus on the period of Steinbeck writing The Grapes of Wrath, the classic story of the Joad family making their way from the Dust Bowl to California. It would also show the public fallout he faced upon its release, which included the book getting banned and lots of disgruntled capitalists. We would see Steinbeck going through what we have heard so many times from Jay: haters are gonna hate but you can’t knock the hustle.
Protect Ya Neck – Wu Tang Clan
It’s a little lazy to make this a Quentin Tarantino film since QT and the RZA have already worked together several times now. But the grindhouse schlock and kung fu classicism we know Quentin loves are undeniably an excellent match with the similar affinities of the Wu. I see this becoming a cult hit, a horror film with its tongue firmly in cheek, loads of gore, and all kinds of ruckus being brought. The scares would come from a killer on the loose. After some false starts with the “sewn asshole and forced gluttony method,” this master of death uses a samurai sword to decapitate his unsuspecting victims, a group of college students trapped in their NYU dorm. One by one, they get picked off until it’s only the nerdy chess player left.
Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See – Busta Rhymes
I’m a big fan of films with multiple character arcs and interwoven plot lines. It’s quite different from what I get from listening to the song, but this Busta track would work for such an approach to a war film. It wouldn’t be interlocking, “everything is connected” like Crash or Traffic, but rather vignettes like Paris Je T’aime. Nor would they all depict the same war, but multiple conflicts in various realms. However, each story would hinge upon a confrontation showing a lack of trust and how moments can quickly escalate conflict or, under the right circumstances, defuse it. There would be one with soldiers in an enemy village full of civilian children – are they innocent kids or something more sinister? Another is about how heightened tension has made airport security a profiling nightmare. Using an omnibus of directors would allow for a mixture of visual styles and occasional moments of levity.
Same Damn Time – Future
Genre: Crime Thriller
I never saw the movie, but I can remember being really intrigued by the concept of Sliding Doors. The movie explores the two paths of life that result from the main character either making it onto a train or not. I find this very fascinating and it’s what a movie named after Future’s hit should do. Only, instead of a Gwyneth Paltrow drama, this would be a twisty crime thriller made by someone like Christopher Nolan or Rian Johnson. Either guy could pull off something mind-blowing, most likely non-linear and even experimenting with split screen. The protagonist faces a pivotal moment to either immerse in a life of crime or walk away, and over the years, we’d see how each life plays out. It would get really crazy when it’s revealed that the two alternate realities have converged and the criminal and the law enforcement must outwit their most difficult opponent: themselves.
Sure Shot – Beastie Boys
Jason Reitman is a very talented director, one you may not associate with a sports film, but this huge hockey fan would probably jump at the chance to bring his standard perfectly blended mixture of comedy and drama to a compelling character study of the Canadian minor hockey leagues. I envision this to be an ensemble piece about a mid-level team making a run at the Canadian Hockey League Memorial Cup. It would also have a lot of Friday Night Lights-esque connections to the team’s town (maybe Guelph, maybe Moose Jaw), showcasing local character that doesn’t get depicted onscreen too often. In a subtle nod to the Beastie Boys, there would be three main players, who at different times throughout the season all get a chance to make game-winning shots. Much like in the classic video for the namesake song, there will be a Biz Markie cameo, too.
Sweet Life – Frank Ocean
Genre: Children’s Animated
Frank Ocean is for the children. Or he will be once “Sweet Life” becomes a gorgeous computer animated film. While it might be a great title for the eventual film version of Candyland (unlike this imaginary exercise, that’ll happen), I think it would be better as something Pixar could release. I like it as the story of the son of a famous candy maker who takes over the family shop but struggles to reconcile his desire to strike off on his own with the pressure to honor his heritage. He had been away and out of touch for awhile, and reluctantly comes back to the store to run it with his brother. The place and candy have an old world charm, not at all corporate, but there’s increasing pressure from the large companies to be bought out. The returning son learns a lot about his family and discovers skills he never quite knew he had. And did I mention the singing candy?
You can check out a Spotify playlist of the selected songs here: