In hip-hop culture, there are certain works of art that shape the way a generation views the world. Mostly, they come in the form of albums like the Notorious B.I.G’s 1994 debut Ready to Die or Young Jeezy’s 2005 classic Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101. As far as films go, “Menace II Society” offered the same type of unfiltered look into street life when it was released on May 26, 1993.
For some, it was a most-accurate depiction of a too-harsh reality, and for others, it was a gruesome eye-opener to the violence-ridden streets of South Central Los Angeles. ” ‘Menace II Society’ itself was a groundbreaking film,” said actor Larenz Tate when he skyped into “RapFix Live” on Wednesday (May 29). “It’s definitely going to go in the vaults of classics in all of cinema. The Hughes Brothers created an incredible project. Just gave the world something a little different than what we had seen in previous films in that same genre.”
Tate played O-Dog, a trigger-happy youth who murders two Korean shopkeepers in the opening moments of the film. On his side was actor Tyrin Turner, who played Caine, a troubled youngster with a conscious. In the final tear-jerking moments of the film, Caine is killed in a drive-by shooting, just as he is getting set to leave South Central and start his life on the straight and narrow.
“I thought it was just gonna be another film,” Turner admitted while he sat on the “RapFix Live” couch.
“Menace II Society” was anything but. While “Boyz n the Hood” and “Juice,” two other celebrated street-based films, ended with the hero walking-off triumphantly, “Menace” ended in a startling bloodbath. Still, O-Dog and Caine left an indelible mark on the audience and have lived on in rap lyrics by Jay-Z, Jadakiss, 50 Cent and Common, to name a few.
“Til this day, those characters O-Dog and Caine have become real monumental,” Tate said before comparing the film to another cult-classic. “Almost like what we did for Scarface and how we celebrated the movie ‘Scarface’ and how Pacino as able to get that hood love and that hood clout.
“They felt like there was somebody that really encompassed a role that was dead on and what the life was like for young brothers that was 17, 18, 19 years old at that time,” he said.