Old School Hip Hop Sundays: The Wackness

July 6, 2008

The Wackness generated so much buzz at Sundance this year—even taking home the Audience Award for Dramatic Film—that I was unable to see it at the festival. I finally caught it yesterday during its New York City theater run at the Angelika Film Center on Houston St. I had been eagerly anticipating the film, largely due to its setting: the summer of 1994 in New York, an era in which the city was still viewed as a gritty and dangerous place, a perception then-new mayor Rudi Giuliani was eagerly trying to alter. I was also excited to see the film for its soundtrack, overflowing with mid-90s East Coast hip hop including tracks from Nas, Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang, Tribe and Biggie. In the summer of 1994 I was 12, and like most summers, I spent a week or so in the city visiting family. I listened to rap almost exclusively back then, and for me hip hop provided the perfect backdrop for a city I viewed as immense, exhilarating and intimidating.

It was with this mindset that I watched The Wackness, and left the theater having seen my favorite movie of the summer thus far. The film tells the story of two lost souls: Luke (Josh Peck), a student graduating from high school, and Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley), a psychiatrist and the father of Luke’s love interest, that form a friendship as they battle their demons, deal with women and try to grow as men. (Luke also deals Squires weed). The story has heart and is laugh-out-loud funny, particularly with the slang-heavy dialog full of words like fly, dope and fresh. It also made me want to get a boombox and switch back to cassettes. The soundtrack was the icing on the cake, and paid a lot of respect to Biggie, whose debut Ready to Die was released in ’94.

In honor of The Wackness and Notorious, here are some classic vids from Ready to Die:

“Warning”

“Juicy”

“One More Chance”

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