The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee. Episode 69:25th Anniversary of Above The Rim
In the spirit of #FlashbackFriday, we take it all the way back to March 1994* where we celebrate and pay tribute, to one of the more impactful movies in pop-black culture. Twenty five years ago, New Line Cinemas & director Jeff Pollack released Above The Rim, a movie about a New York City HS Basketball star and his relationship with two people: one is a drug dealer, and the other one is a former basketball star fighting his own personal demons. Both of these men impact his life at a critical period in his life on his pursuit of playing NCAA basketball.
So today on The Ave Podcast, I invite Dennis Barham (Actor) & 1st time guest Peter-John Kerr (Director/Producer; Founder of Swooplay), as we have a conversation 25 years later about Above The Rim. We discuss the influence this movie had on basketball players from our generation, Tupac’s impact and his untapped potential as an actor, question the existence of Tommy Shepherd, review the legendary soundtrack, and much more.
* Technically, this movie debuted on March 23, 1994. However, the decision was made to air this podcast a week later so that it didn’t get lost during the 1st weekend of March Madness. You’re welcome basketball fans….
** WARNING: This podcast contains explicit language. **
*** Thanks for tuning in, and don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and the blog below, and also, the podcasts are now available for download.You can now check out the podcasts on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and Spotify. You can get to all of those apps on your IOS or Android devices. ***
The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee // Episode 69
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Cal Cee // South Shore Ave
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We here at South Shore Ave are gassing up the DeLorean & taking you back to 1995 where we bore witness to one of the best comedic movies of that era. Twenty years ago this week Ice Cube, DJ Pooh, director F. Gary Gray, and New Line Cinemas released Friday, a movie based on an adventurous day in the lives of two friends. What was expected to be a modest, underground type of movie based on the budget, turned into one of the most popular movies of its generation, and has given Friday a cult-like status that has lasted to this day. We will break down the best secondary characters of the classic flick, the mind of O’Shea Jackson (better known as Ice Cube), and the genius of Chris Tucker. I would love for you to continue reading this. Because it’s Friday. You’re either at work, or you’re on the couch, and you know you ain’t got shit to do…..
The Mind of Ice Cube
Ice Cube is known at this point as one of the most respected individuals in hip hop history. Someone that helped usher the genre to new places, especially when you look at his whole career. However, one of the most underrated aspects of his talents is his mindset. Think about how far Cube has come. From the streets of Compton, he became a skilled songwriter and joined with N.W.A., one of the most feared rap (& music) groups in music history. After writing the lyrics to approximately 1/2 of the group’s “Straight Outta Compton“ classic album as well as Eazy E’s “Eazy-Duz-It“ debut, at the young age of 19, he understood his worth enough to leave the group at the height of their success. Way before hip hop artists (as well as his own group members) understood the importance of publishing, Cube not only took up legal action against NWA’s manager Jerry Heller, but embarked on a solo career that his group members…. well, let’s just say they didn’t think he would succeed without them at the time.
Within three years, Cube went on to become a successful rapper post-N.W.A., by releasing some classic albums such as “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted“, “Death Certificate“, and “Predator” (there’s some good songs off that album, and then there’s, “It Was A Good Day”). He also responded to NWA’s shots with, “No Vaseline“, which became less “diss track” and more a “Hammer on the nail in the coffin” blow, seeing as the group disbanded shortly afterwards. He also put out “It Was A Good Day”, and yes I’m completely aware I mentioned it two sentences ago. It just bears mentioning again. If that wasn’t enough, he created his own record label and produced Yo-Yo’s debut album, “Make Way for the Motherlode“. If THAT wasn’t enough, he played the role of Doughboy in “Boyz In The Hood”, that was as legendary as some of the songs he released. Even though his career was rooted in gangsterism, it was also built off of intelligence & outside-of-the-box thinking, which was different from the average rapper.
Which leads us to Friday. To take this analysis further, sitting down and writing the script (along with DJ Pooh) for this movie further proved that Cube wasn’t afraid to expand himself. This was a movie that shifted away from his persona. It wasn’t violent or aggressive, it was a comedy based in South Central, Los Angeles. Cube wasn’t angry, pissed off, or going against the man, he was just…… a regular, laid back dude. His character (“Craig”) may have owned a gun, but that was a product of living in a rough area, not him being in any gangs or worse. The script was written densely with jokes, it was incredibly casted, the characters were realistically portrayed no matter how crazy they all seemed to be at times, to the point that you almost felt like you knew them (or people like them). More importantly, it didn’t view the hood as a war zone everyone imagined it to be, but a working class neighborhood with everyday people, involved in their daily routines. It’s part of the reason why it resonated so much with my generation, regardless of race or even class. You didn’t have to be from the hood to love and appreciate Friday. Cube was able to pull you into his world regardless of who you were. It was unexpected, but judging from his fearless ability to create, I don’t think we should have been surprised.
The Rise of Chris Tucker
Chris Tucker’s impact from this movie is quite honestly pretty consistent with what my generation was witnessing, if you compare Tucker’s start to what we were seeing in hip hop during that time. Between 1992 – 1996, we were not only listening to some of the next new stars of Hip Hop dropping debut albums, but these new stars helped to forever change the landscape of the genre altogether. Think about some of the groups that came out during this period, I can go on & on about a bunch of artists that came out during this period including some of the acts I’ve previously written about like: Nas, Snoop, A Tribe Called Quest, The Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, etc. The one common denominator aside from all of those artists releasing classic albums, or classic debut albums during this time, was that they were all so very young. Now, with Chris Tucker, I wouldn’t say his career turned out as legendary as the other musical acts I just mentioned, but he shared some of the same traits that they did at the beginning of their careers. He was a young (age 23 at the time of film release), but extremely gifted artist, whose talents may have superseded his much older peers in his profession. He was on Def Comedy Jam back in the early nineties, but he landed the perfect role, at the perfect time of his life.
While playing the role forever known as Smokey, he turned that character into a generational icon. Tucker was such a forceful personality, that even with all the talent that was in the movie, his talents still dominated over everyone else. You couldn’t wait for him to come back on screen. The first time I saw this movie in theatres (it was the day after my Grad night with some friends), I never even heard of Tucker. I caught episodes of Def Comedy Jam (via the VHS express from my friend’s sister), but never seen him on any episodes. In Friday, he acted like it was his 100th movie, not his second (he had a role in House Party 3, the one no one watches ever in life). He was a wave of sharp wit, straight up ignorance, quirky, with comical facial expressions and mannerisms, and a high pitched voice that was just hilarious every time he opened his mouth….. and it was all mixed up in a big haze of weed clouds. If you want to compare this role to any of those classic hip hop albums during that time, feel free and go ahead. Smokey is as timeless as Illmatic, Doggystyle, etc. Watch this movie again, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Tucker never ceases to make you laugh even 20 years later, all his jokes still hold up. It’s also part of the reason why legions of fans are still praying for Tucker to come back and do one more Friday. Even if the premise of watching two forty-something year old weed heads running through the hood might not work out so well, the more thought you put into it.
I’ll add two more points here:
1) If you watched this movie & didn’t laugh at Tucker right away, I don’t know how you don’t laugh through the Angel Dust scene. That might be the perfect example of all his talents in that one scene alone.
2) Apparently Chris Rock and Tommy Davidson were also thought of to play the role of Smokey at the time. I love both of those guys, but no one — & I mean NO ONE– could have pulled that role off quite like Tucker.
The Best Friday Characters
While I won’t include Craig and Smokey for obvious reasons (they’re the main players of the movie), you can’t have a team without the supporting role players. While all of them make the movie as cohesive as they do, some are more important than others. So let’s rank the best characters from Friday, down to the #1 spot.
“Can I borrow your VCR right quick?”
For the social media participants, the whole “Bye Felicia” movement is overrated. However, because it seems to have taken on a life of its own on the internet in the past 12 months, I’ll throw her on here as an honorable mention for the sake of the movement. As long as everyone knows that the “Bye Felicia” phrase is actually more memorable than Felicia herself.
Best Friday Role Players
“Ahhhhh! Quit Playing! Quit Playing! Ahhhhh!”
Do you have any little cousins that would get on your nerves? The one that would make you hide your toys and anything you valued if they came over to your house? To me, that’s Lil Chris. Those annoying cousins I had would kick over people’s trash cans too when they was young, just like him. If my parents, Aunts, or Uncles would catch them doing that in the act, they would have whupped their behinds just like Craig & Smokey did to Lil’ Chris. One of the funnier & real moments of the movie.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, he know what I want!”
Very short role for the late Bernie Mac, but very memorable. He plays the pastor who’s willing to preach the good word and/or backslide at a moment’s notice. He goes from trying to share the faith to asking for a hit of some weed to adultery in a span of five minutes. Yup, pretty much on point with a crooked pastor’s portfolio.
“Hi, you guys.”
The girl next door. The dime piece. The one Craig would shut it all down for. In the 90s, Nia Long mastered the short hair look, to the point that she and Halle Berry needed to get that look trademarked and copyrighted. Between her stint on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and this movie, Nia’s probably one of the reasons why I was weak-kneed for any sweet looking sistas with short hair in high school and college that came my way. Not everyone can pull that look off, but the ones that do, it’s a thing of beauty. Outside of that, she doesn’t have any memorable lines or anything, but her beauty speaks volumes.
Joi (Craig’s Girlfriend)
“You ain’t got to lie Craig! You ain’t got to liiiiie!”
Joi is THE definition of a hoodrat chick. Can’t you see her picture in Webster’s or Urban’s dictionary on the phone with her long ass nails, blonde extensions, chewing on some gum all obnoxiously, ripping into her man like he violated her trust even though there’s a man sleeping right behind her? She nailed all the characteristics of a crazy chick. She flies off the handle at the drop of a hat (ie. “Who is that bitch?!?!”), she calls and hangs up the phone for no reason a million times at least; she flips out if her man is in the vicinity of another woman; much less talking to one. She is also one of a few people to have their own theme music in Friday. That should probably count for something.
The Hot older woman. The former “Cougar” of the block that still shows her goodies off even past the age where other women would start covering it up by now. The “Milf” before the term “Milf” was coined, which is ironic seeing that she didn’t have any kids. Basically, she’s bad as mawfu**in’ shit! Some of the best lines of the movie came from her watering her lawn with her daisy dukes on. My favorite part with Mrs. Parker (other than her watering the grass of course) has nothing to do her getting caught with Pastor Clever, and having her husband (played in stark contrast to her physical specifications by Tony Cox) toss out all of her clothes. It has everything to do with the short “Fake B.S. Woman Convo” that women all around the world have with each other from time to time. Ladies, you know…. the one where you talk bad about the woman only to treat her like your sister 5 seconds later? Craig’s Mom (Mrs. Jones) is so disgusted by what Mrs. Parker is wearing, but then hails her up like their best friends. Which then leads to this exchange….
Mrs. Jones: “Hey girl!”
Mrs. Parker: “How you doing?”
Mrs. Jones: “Good, I’m on my way to work.”
Mrs: Parker: “Call when you get home.”
Mrs. Jones: (Long Pause)….. “Oh-kaaaaay.”
You know Mrs. Jones wants absolutely nothing to do with her, but still has to engage in a fake conversation. You just have to love “Fake B.S. Woman Convos”.
Sidenote: Here’s a situation where “Fake B.S. Woman Convos” goes too far. When I was in college years ago, I went to a wedding. I was actually invited by one of the bridesmaids who I was pretty close with at the time. I got seated with about 3-4 of the bride’s girlfriends. Sitting at the table with a bunch of single females at a wedding? That couldn’t be bad for me, right? Well, from the time the appetizers got served until the dancing started, they ripped this poor girl’s wedding apart. They shitted on her dress, the decorations, the layout of the hall, the floral arrangements, the balloons, why the sun was so bright, EVERYTHING. It was astonishing how far they were going in on their friend, considering this was supposed to be one of the most important days of her life. When she was making the rounds and came by the table to see how everyone was doing, of course they told her they were having a great time & that they loved her dress. It’s was like they all had a split personality that each flicked on and off like a light switch at the same damn time. As soon as she left, they went right back to taking shots. Man, if these were the type of friends that were invited to this wedding, I want to see just who the hell wasn’t invited. These ladies had their Fake B.S. Convo fundamental skills down to a science, to the point that I’ll forever believe they could have hosted seminars on the subject. Okay, let’s keep it going…..
“Ah Man, that’s fu**ed up….”
Deebo’s official whipping boy. Can’t catch a break in the movie. One of the most popular scenes is the story Smokey tells Craig when Red gets knocked out by Deebo for wanting to get his bike back. Otherwise known as the “You got knocked the fu** out!” scene. Red’s an understated, but underrated character. Not entirely sure who’s idea it was for him to run back to his car while sobbing with his hands down, but I salute you, because that was comedic genius. Bonus points for giving him a car alarm that he disarms on his jalopy that further adds to the hilarity.
“My neck! My back! My neck and my back!”
Everybody’s favorite crackhead. He steals anything not nailed down, and will do anything for a buck. He’s also annoying as hell and pops up around Craig & especially Smokey at the worst possible times. His funniest moments are a tie between: 1) finding Smokey at the side of his house taking a shit; and 2) him jumping in the alley after Smokey’s car backfires when they’re all leaving the convenient store. There is never a time in life when I don’t laugh out loud at that part.
“It’s the principle of the whole thing. It’s principalities in this.”
Big Worm is a accurate representation of what we would think a dope dealer in Los Angeles would be like. And when I say that, I mean just like any other dope dealer in the world, but with a perm. He sets the tone about how the rest of the day is going to go for Craig and Smokey, considering his monies is being messed with. Outside of Smokey and Red, Big Worm is one of my favorite characters. Even though he is a big time drug dealer and the potential for violence is always looming, he would still get personally insulted and disappointed by Smokey’s empty promises. Factor in the scene where he rolls up in front of Craig’s house in an Ice Cream truck as the Ice cream man, threatens Smokey & Craig’s life (being guilty by association) & yet still manages to give the little kids no treats of any kind (even taking one kid’s change while calling him “Fatboy”). The level of disrespect they show the kids is funny, including Smokey who treats them like annoying props (including a young Meagan Good), but that scene would probably not work so well in today’s climate. In 2015, there would probably be low-level protests & twitter hashtag campaigns against how the kids were being treated (including Lil’ Chris), but twenty years ago, we held our stomachs and laughed our asses off.
“Every tiiime I come in the kitchen, you in the kitchen…. in the goddamn refrigerator, eating all the food. All the chicken, all the pigs feet, all the collard greens, all the hog maws. I wanna eat some chit’lins. I love pig feet!!”
At one point and time, John Witherspoon was considered one of the funniest older black comedic actors. Since his star turn as the nosy neighbor in House Party, and as David Alan Grier’s Dad in Boomerang, the rest of the 90s was set for him to be type-casted as that crazy-ass Pops. Playing the role as Mr. Jones only added to the resume. The ignorant, feisty, set-in-his-ways, yet lovable old man, is something he’s perfected very well. The only difference is that he was able to provide fatherly guidance to Craig from time to time in this movie, as opposed to just being 100% belligerent in all the other roles he plays. From the time he enters the kitchen sucking on his fingers and his teeth; to when he’s chastising Craig for losing his job while he’s taking a shit; to the very end when he’s rooting for Craig to beat up Deebo, his personality carries as presence as large as anyone in Friday with the exception of Smokey. Just seeing his face alone is comic relief enough.
“That’s my bike punk!”
*** Disclaimer: In no way, shape, or form do I support bullying. ****
Listen, once you get your own theme music every time you enter a scene, and the theme music is from Jaws, isn’t it automatic that you get the #1 spot? Deebo is the movie’s villian, the ultimate bully. The one person the whole neighborhood is afraid of. He’ll knock you out, your boy, your woman, your mother, your father, your grandparents, basically anyone that doesn’t give him what he wants, when he wants it. He played that role so well, you could almost replace the word “Bully” with the word “Deebo”.
For example, in the NBA, Zach Randolph’s nickname is Z-Bo, because on the court & sometimes off the court (just ask Kendrick Perkins), he’ll bully his opponents. Another example: I have a friend who I won’t mention by name, but let’s just say he has a reputation of causing extensive trauma to bathrooms and toilet bowls. Whenever friends of mine have a get together at their house and there’s food involved, people get nervous because they know their bathroom’s in trouble. It’s something he’s weirdly proud of actually. He almost wears the reputation like a purple heart. For that reason, I call him Shit Deebo because, well, he’s a toilet bully. He may as well ride a BMX to your powder room with a plaid shirt on. You see how this Deebo nickname works? Also, if you’re thinking I made this last segment longer than the others just to share that story & shit-shame my friend subliminally, you are getting to know me very well. But that’s the impact Deebo’s had on the movie. He was the scary guy that had the Jaws theme as his own music, in a classic movie that you could barely stop laughing through. Like most bullies, he also got what was coming to him in the end. For the purposes of this segment, he watches over all at the top spot.
Now the normal way to wrap up a blog like this, is to do a little wrap up on the greatness of Friday, mention all the stars that had a part in the movie (including Meagan Good and the late Michael Clarke Duncan who was shooting dice with Deebo, Smokey & Lil Chris when Red got knocked out), throw in the fact that the movie made about $28M in the box office against a $3.5M budget; that it only took 20 days to make; that it was shot in a Crip-infested gang neighborhood; & that no one on set could wear red if they valued their lives. Then tie everything into a nice bow and end off the post saying, “….. and you know this….. MAN!” Ideally, yes, that would work and normally, I would have done that. However, with all the lines and moments in the movie, let’s wrap things off by running off some of the funniest lines from in the movie. Cool? Ok, it’s over…. Biiiiii**h! #IceCubevoice
“Boy, bring yo ass in here, what chu mean ‘you’ll wait ’till I get out?’ I smelled your shit for 22 years, you can’t smell mine for 5 minutes?”
– Mr. Jones brings Craig into his bathroom confessional.
“I don’t wanna have to fu** you up Smokey. Playing with my money is like playing with my emotions.”
– Big Worm, giving Smokey his 1st warning for the day.
“Her mama got ass too. Just give me 3 1/2 minutes, maybe even 4. She’ll be wanting to marry a ni**er.”
“Who? Her Mama?”
“Yeah. Older the berry, the sweeter the juice.”
“It’s the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.”
“Yeah, well… yeah. She blacker than a mawfu**a too.”
– Smoke and Craig’s commentary after Debbie’s morning jog.
“Mrs. Parker finer than a motherfu**er. I’ll knock the dust off that pu***!”
– Smokey, his views on Mrs. Parker while tending to her lawn.
“Don’t nobody go in the bathroom for about 35, 45 minutes. Somebody open a window.”
– Mr. Jones, self explanatory.
“Don’t you ever…. ever….. everevereverevereverever….come back here! Okay?!”
– Smokey, talking to Rita the Janet Jackson impersonator.
“I got mind control over Deebo. He be like, ‘Shut the fu** up,’ I be quiet… but when he leaves, I be talkin’ again.”
– Smokey, venting after a Deebo shakedown attempt.
“You know he gon’ cry in the car.”
– Smokey, after Red’s infamous sob-n-run.
“Excuse me brother. What we call drugs at 74th Street Baptist Church, we call a sinny-sin-sin.”
“Well, around here, between Normandie and Western, we call this here a little twenty-twen-twen (Well)… NI**AH!
– Pastor Clever and Smokey, debating weed and sins.
Cal Cee // South Shore Ave
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