Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Hip-hop culture and coming-of-age tales combine in ‘Dope’

(Dope official Facebook page)
(‘Dope’ Official Facebook Page)

The tagline of the poster for “Dope,” reads “It’s hard out there for a geek,” and man, is that statement accurate in this great film.

Produced by Forest Whitaker and executively produced by hip-hop moguls Pharrell Williams and Sean Combs, this Rick Famuyiwa-directed movie takes the John Hughes-esque coming-to-age formula and mixes it with hip-hop, drugs and violence.

Instead of taking place within comfortable white suburbia like many other films of this genre, this one takes place in Inglewood, California and follows 17-year-old Malcolm (Shameik Moore) with his two friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) through a series of misadventures in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country.

All three of these characters are complete misfits and outsiders in their environments. They are constantly being picked on by bullies and jocks for doing “white s**t” like “getting good grades, getting into college and liking Donald Glover.” These geeks, for lack of a better term, are incredibly likeable and you do not hesitate to root for them.

A chance encounter between Malcolm and a drug dealer named Dom (A$AP Rocky) results in him getting the attention of his crush Nakia (Zoë Kravitz). This all collides at a club for Dom’s birthday party, where a drug deal turns into a shootout and Malcolm does not realize until the next day that Dom hid $100,000 worth of drugs in his backpack before being arrested.

The ensuing conflict of getting rid of these drugs and Malcolm’s pursuit of an Ivy League education drives the rest of the plot forward, which leads to interesting places not generally seen in film and lend insights on the difficulties of trying to be great and transcend a place where people like Malcolm don’t tend to excel.

Moore is the real star of the show here and his performance will most definitely put him on the map. Supporting actors include Blake Anderson and Rick Fox, also put in solid work. The snappy dialogue and constant banter brings the viewer into this world and you really can’t help but like almost all the characters here.

Famuyiwa directs this strange, wonderful film with extreme confidence and it shows. Beautiful shots of the Californian landscape abound and there’s a sense of exuberant joy throughout the entirety of the movie even in its darkest moments.

“Dope” is simply an enjoyable watching experience. It becomes somewhat too preachy towards the end and tries to tell instead of show, but that does not taint its many phenomenal moments. This film was made for millennials who are obsessed with hip-hop and Internet culture.

References include Casey Veggies, Macklemore, Justin Bieber, Waze (app), Rick Ross and Air Jordans. Rappers even come in supporting roles, like A$AP Rocky and Vince Staples – there’s even a brief cameo by Tyga.

The soundtrack is full of hip-hop classics like Nas’ “The World is Yours”, Black Sheep’s “The Choice is Yours” and A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario.” If you have no idea what any of those references are, I would suggest not seeing this film. You may still have fun with it, but this movie was unapologetically made for its target audience, which is somewhat admirable in today’s day and age.

If you love hip-hop culture or just want to see a great movie, “Dope” is definitely worth checking out. It breaks the mold with its soundtrack, diverse cast, and beautiful storytelling. It’s available to stream now, so don’t hesitate.

Kunal Khunger can be reached at [email protected].

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