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Menace II Society – 20 Years Later

May 26, 2013

Menace II Society , the Los Angeles-based gangsta flick, was released 20 years ago today. Like other Black films of the time, I have memories of going to see it in the theater with my family in South Central. The new wave of movies written and directed by Black directors had extra meaning to us; it was our community that was being depicted on film. The parking lot that Doughboy shot his brother’s murderers at in Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood is the same parking lot I’ve spent countless hours waiting in a car for my mother and grandmother to finish shopping and taking care of business. Watching Black Hollywood reflect our lives on the silver screen was like watching artistic cinematic home videos from the inner city. There were a number of guys like Menace’s O-Dog that lived in my hood; my family kept a protective grip on our young men so we wouldn’t turn into carbon copies of him. We still grew up with these films and watched them on VHS every other weekend at home, coming up in the ’90s.
20 years later, I’m still here in Los Angeles. South Central (now referred to as South Los Angeles by the city to distance itself from the gang-culture stereotypes) is not as gritty and wild as I remember in childhood, but is still plagued by the same issues and the same broken conditions. A new generation of young men and women in my age group have come to prominence to report on the ills of the hood, as what could be heard on albums by artists like Kendrick Lamar and Jay Rock. Missing from today’s generation is a film component to the inner-city’s voice, which was very visible during the ’90s. Menace is a classic because it was honest. Caine and O-Dog were never going to be like the Huxtables; they never were going to be the picture-perfect model of black excellence and sophistication- their goals were to live and survive. It was important for America to understand the psychology of abrasive people, but even more important, to understand the conditions that create abrasive people. I turned out nothing like the lead characters in Menace, but I still learned from them and I understand their perspective.
Watch the theatrical trailer for Menace II Society :

In the early stages of production, Allen and Albert Hughes (twin directors of the film), cast Tupac Shakur to play O-Dog. Issues on the set lead to Shakur being fired and later a physical altercation and lawsuit between the brothers and the acclaimed rapper. Watch Allen Hughes elaborate on the incident in a January 2013 interview on Sway’s Universe:

-Griff X

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