A$AP Rocky has smashed the music scene, made a considerable amount of money from his clothing line, and is considered as one of the biggest facesof Hip-Hop in the modern day, however, he hasn't managed to break intothe film industry... until now. With his latest album 'At. Long. Last. ASAP.' becoming the New York rapper's second consecutive number one album, 'Lord Flacko' felt the need to try his hand at the acting game, and subsequently was cast as drug-dealer 'Dom' in Rick Famuyiwa's latest hip-hop comedy / drama, 'Dope'.
Dom is the catalyst for the coming-of-age adventure in which our young hero, Malcolm (Shameik Moore in his first lead role), is forced into after becoming accidentally involved in the Los Angeles drug scene. Malcolm, a young high-school hip-hop nerd (boasting an impressive flattop) aspires to go to Harvard, but being a young black man in America, he is naturally fighting a losing battle.
Unlike F. Gary Gray's recent successful hip-hop film, Straight Outta Compton, Dope doesn't focus on the hot topic of police brutality, felt by black Americans for many years, it focuses on the effect that drugs have on the struggling black communites of Los Angeles. White people are barely represented throughout the film; the one white man in the film is the corrupt villain trying to use innocent young black men to push his drugs on the local neighbourhoods.
"Where Words Fail, Music Speaks"
- Hans Christian Andersen
With a supporting cast including A$AP Rocky, Blake Anderson (from stoner-comedy tv series Workaholics) and Academy Award winner, Forest Whitaker, the film comes with high-expectations and it definitely delivers in terms of a solid story and some solid laughs. Hip-hop fans will most definitely be pleased, featuring cameos from young rappers Tyga, Vince Staples and Casey Veggies and a supporting role for Lennie Kravitz's daughter, Zoë, music is clearly a massive part of the fabric of the film.
Take, for example, the soundtrack - with work from Nas, A Tribe Called Quest and Publc Enemy among others, and four tracks specially written by Pharrell Williams, there is no shortage of both fresh and classic tunes to engage both 90s hip-hop fans, and fans of more modern rap.
After winning the award for Best Editing as this year's Sundance Film Festival, big things were expected from the film produced by Whitaker, Williams, and P Diddy himself, Sean Combs; and after making $17.6million at the movies on a $700,000 budget, it is fair to say it was a success. However, that does not mean that it's a masterpiece.
The ending (Spoiler!) is one of the biggest clichés in American cinema. At the beginning of the film, Malcolm is bullied, robbed and beaten on a regular basis, however, a matter of days later, he has got the girl, busted the evil guy, gained the respect of his bullies, made a shit-ton of money, found recognition with his garage band Awreeoh AND has been accepted into Harvard - someone has been eating his weetabix in the mornings! Having said that, it is refreshing to see a young black male from a poor neighbourhood be successful in a film for once - it is a coming-of-age film afterall - and the substance of the story was pretty interesting; selling dope on the online black market trading with Bitcoins (the most modern way of selling drugs you could ever think of).
Overall, the film was enjoyable, despite the ending being massively disappointing, there were definitely far more positives than negatives. For one, A$AP Rocky may have a career in film afterall, his role was believable, and he brought some character to a pretty basic drug dealer character who we have seen in countless films over the years. Shameik Moore was an impressive lead role as Malcolm, and he certainly looked the part as a 90s hip-hop fan, with his outrageous fashion-sense and vintage Nikes complimenting his instantly noticable flattop.
Moreover, as a first major writing and directing role for Rick, he can take pride in the fact that it has impressed critics all over the world with his exposition of the black plight in America in more recent years. Dope is definitely worth the watch, if not for the gripping story and likable characters, then for the accompanying soundtrack featuring massive acts and amazing music, or simply for Malcolm's flattop - it really is a great hairstyle!