It's hard to believe that it's been a quarter century since the release of New Jack City! On this day in 1991, the world was introduced to a thrilling tale about how the crack epidemic ripped through America's inner cities. New Jack City is easily one of the most important films in Black cinema, even to this day!
Never before had we seen such a gritty, hard-hitting movie that honestly told the story of the drastic effects the drug game had on our communities. The good, the bad and the ugliest sides of the crack epidemic were revealed on the big screen for all to see. New Jack City pulled inspiration from the infamous stories of real life Harlem kingpins such as Nicky Barnes and The Chambers Brothers. It was an unflinching thriller about the war on drugs, where the lines between good and evil were not so clearly defined. A movie where the charismatic bad guy made it hard for you to root against him. Where the good guys had to be just as tough as the bad guys they were trying to catch. A movie with heart, soul and and one jamming ass soundtrack. In the history of Black cinema, New Jack City stands alone. There have been many films about the drug game to come out since then, but none come close to New Jack City.
This all-star cast featured many of today's biggest names in Black Hollywood, early in their careers. Wesley Snipes, Ice-T, Allen Payne, Vanessa Williams and who could forget the break-out performance Chris Rock delivered. The character of Nino Brown resonated with many young black kids growing up and reflected why many of us looked up to the drug dealers in our neighborhoods. His influence was definitely felt in hip-hop for years to come with Master P, Lil Wayne and the Cash Money Millionaires paying homage in their music and careers. New Jack City also introduced us to Ice-T as a leading man in a film. And I find it absolutely hilarious that he portrayed a undercover police officer in this film and a year later released a song entitled, "Cop Killer". Was this his best job as an actor? Probably not. But, Scotty Appleton is easily the most iconic character in Ice-T's acting career. And of course, you can't talk New Jack City or iconic characters without talking about Chris Rock's role as Pookie, the stick-up kid turned crackhead who would eventually lose his life trying to help bring down Nino Brown. It was Chris Rock's performance that added the heart to the story. And he hasn't had a role like it since.
New Jack City had all the elements of a classic movie. There were times that made you laugh and times that made you cry. This movie is almost as addictive as the crack this film revolved around. This film reminds me of a time where Black cinema honestly told the stories of the Black experience in America. A time when diverse stories like Boomerang, Strictly Business, Boyz n' the Hood and The Five Heartbeats were normal! All movies starring Black actors but no two films were the same. It was a better time. This is one of those time capsule films. If a millennial wanted to get a peak at what life was like in the inner city in the 1980s, this would be one of the first films I would tell them to watch. Because here we are 25 years later, and I have yet to see a movie that has told that story better than New Jack City!
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Remon is a multi-media personality. He is the founder of The Urban Advocate.