John Singleton: 1968 – 2019

I was 10 years old when I first watched Boyz N the Hood, and I hate to sound like a cliche, but it not only changed things within the black film genre, it forever changed the way I viewed Los Angeles.  Before I knew John Singleton existed, I thought LA was a beautiful city that was full of movie stars and bursting with opportunity.  However, Boyz N the Hood opened my eyes to the other side of Los Angeles…South Central.

I learned that South Central was an area of LA where poor black people could get gunned down for a simple disagreement—or in retaliation for previously shooting someone else—or they could be harassed by the cops simply for existing.  I also learned about a little thing known as gentrification, but that’s another topic for another time.  Lastly, Boyz N the Hood introduced me to Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Laurence Fishburne, all legends in their own right.

John Singleton and Ice Cube (Alt)

One of my most fond memories of watching Boyz n the Hood for the first time was seeing John Singelton’s PSA for the United Negro College Fund on the VHS copy (once again, I’m showing my age).  I was taken aback by Mr. Singleton the moment I saw him.  He was handsome, intelligent, talented, woke, and young.  Most movie directors I saw were well into their 40’s and 50’s, but John was in his early 20’s, and he already created a film that would forever be a staple of black cinema.  Those were traits I could really respect and admire, even at the tender age of 10.

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Not too long after I watched Boyz n the Hood, John went on to direct Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” video.  Personally, I felt that it was Mike’s second best video ever (after “Thriller,” of course).  After that, it was official; I was a John Singleton fan.  When Poetic Justice was released a few years later, I remember telling my cousin I wanted to see the film because I liked John Singleton’s work, and he laughed, telling me, “He’s only done two things!”  That didn’t matter to me.  Even though he didn’t have that much under his belt—by that time, that is—I still thought what he did so far was extraordinary.

Over the years, John completed many more great films and TV shows like Higher Learning, Rosewood, Shaft, 2 Fast 2 Furious, American Crime Story:  The People vs. OJ Simpson and Four Brothers.  However, the other movie in John’s catalouge that met the caliber of Boyz n the Hood was Baby Boy.  By the time I saw Baby Boy, I was a 20 yr. old college junior, and it was all my friends and I could talk about for the rest of the semester—dare I say the rest of the school year.  When I started building my DVD collection a few months later, Baby Boy was one of the first films I purchased.  The movie didn’t blow me away quite like Boyz n the Hood did, but nonetheless, it still left a serious impact on me, and it remains one of my favorite films.  My homegirl and I still quote many of the lines in the movie, as a matter of fact.  Baby Boy made me see Tyrese in a totally different light (as a sex symbol!), and it introduced us all to none other than Ms. Taraji P. Henson.  That alone qualifies it as a classic film.

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When I found out that John had a stroke, I prayed he’d make it through and come back to us in good health.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, and he passed on.  I was floored when I learned one of the directors I hold in most high regard (along with Spike Lee and F. Gary Gray) was no longer with us.  What hurt me even more is that this is the second young man the world of entertainment we’ve lost to a stroke this year (the first being Luke Perry).

John Singleton’s contributions to entertainment and to black culture shouldn’t go unnoticed.  There was no denying his talent.  Even though this tribute is late as all hell thanks to the crazy month I’ve had, I knew I had to write a post on what John Singleton meant to me.  Otherwise, I’d regret it.  Mr. Singleton, I just want to thank you for all the wonderful movies, video and TV series you’ve provided us over the years and for allowing us all to enjoy your vision.  I appreciate it all.  Rest in power.

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John Daniel Singleton:  January 6, 1968 – April 28, 2019

—Written by Nadiya

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