It is hard to believe that it is has been thirty years since the release of one of the most influ­en­tial and con­sequen­tial movies ever made. Boyz in the Hood cap­tured audi­ences with its com­pel­ling imagery, cap­tive storytelling, poignant social com­ment­ary, and just pure hon­esty and intro­duced the main­stream into a world they knew little to noth­ing about and a com­munity that is usu­ally aban­doned and ignored.

The plot revolves around the lives of three young black men grow­ing up in South Cent­ral Los Angeles at the height of the crack epi­dem­ic, mass incar­cer­a­tion, police bru­tal­ity, gentri­fic­a­tion, and rampant gang viol­ence and when Hip Hop was the mega­phone call­ing atten­tion to these prob­lems and those voices holler­ing into the mega­phone were none oth­er than the likes of NWA, Ice‑T, Cypress Hill, Pub­lic Enemy, and oth­ers.

Cuba Good­ing Jr.’s char­ac­ter Tre learns some import­ant life les­sons about love, rela­tion­ships, race, and man­hood along the way and he goes through this very treach­er­ous jour­ney with his fath­er Furi­ous Styles played by Laurence Fish­bourne, his best friend and high school foot­ball standout Ricky Baker played by Mor­ris Chest­nut, and his oth­er good friend and mem­ber of the Crips Dough­boy played by Ice Cube.

The com­ing of age tale did more than just enter­tain, it enlightened. It human­ized the exper­i­ences of each of the char­ac­ters that it was truly art imit­at­ing life.

The pic­ture would garner crit­ic­al acclaim and earned the legendary John Singleton an Oscar nom­in­a­tion for Best Dir­ect­or and launched the act­ing careers of Cube, Good­ing, and Chest­nut.

I had the chance to talk to vet­er­an Hip Hop journ­al­ist and cul­tur­al crit­ic Charlie R. Brax­ton to get his thoughts on the film’s sig­ni­fic­ance all these years later and how it remains rel­ev­ant to the present day.

Can you describe the impact of Boyz in the Hood?

The impact of Boyz in the Hood was tre­mend­ous. The thing that made that film so power­ful was that it gave a very human per­spect­ive to life in South Cent­ral LA. It was the visu­al equi­val­ent to NWA Straight Outta Compton.

How sig­ni­fic­ant was it for a then up in com­ing dir­ect­or like John Singleton, who came from South Cent­ral La, to tell the story?

It was very import­ant that dir­ect­or John Singleton was a nat­ive of South Cent­ral tell this story. Grow­ing up there, he knew the story intim­ately, he knew the char­ac­ters, and, most import­antly, he had a pro­found love and under­stand­ing of South Cent­ral LA. That why he was able to human­ize the char­ac­ters in a way that the movie, Col­ors could­n’t. Too often Hol­ly­wood tells stor­ies involving people of col­or from a very super­fi­cial level. This makes it easi­er for the largest Soci­ety to dehu­man­ize people of col­or. Singleton was able to move bey­ond the super­fi­cial and get into the nuances of the people from South Cent­ral LA.

How would you fit Boyz in the Hood in the con­text of the present day with Black Lives Mat­ter?

Well there are sev­er­al ways to con­tex­tu­al­ize the movie Boyz in the Hood with the black lives mat­ter move­ment. The most obvi­ous is the one where the scene with the black cop who har­assed the main char­ac­ter. Put on a deep­er note the movie also talked about the social eco­nom­ic forces that render black lives mean­ing­less to the lar­ger soci­ety. When Furi­ous Styles point out how liquor stores are on every corner in the black com­munity because the largest Soci­ety once the black com­munity 2 kill itself, he is explain the sys­tem­at­ic gen­o­cide that takes place in the Afric­an Amer­ic­an and Latino com­munity. Today we can add to that food deserts, bad water, poor schools and inad­equate med­ic­al facil­it­ies.

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Zachary Draves
I am a viol­ence pre­ven­tion edu­cat­or, act­iv­ist, journ­al­ist, aspir­ing film­maker, adjunct pro­fess­or of social justice and civic engage­ment at Domin­ic­an Uni­ver­sity in River Forest, Illinois. I am based in Chica­go, Illinois.

About Zachary Draves

Zachary Draves
I am a violence prevention educator, activist, journalist, aspiring filmmaker, adjunct professor of social justice and civic engagement at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. I am based in Chicago, Illinois.