dir. DJ Pooh
Now playing at various theaters.
In an interview last week, DJ Pooh told me that he is "working with a hiphop mind" when he makes music and movies; that he is still DJ Pooh, even when behind the camera.
This makes sense. Rap is already cinematic in nature, from the skits on albums to the number of movie references rappers make, and so it would be natural for hiphop to produce film. For DJ Pooh, it's also necessary. "I think hiphop is definitely bigger than music--it's a culture that needs films too. Who else can make hiphop-oriented films besides people who come from hiphop?"
His latest movie, The Wash, stars Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, and features the likes of Eminem, Xzibit, and Ludacris in smaller roles. In it, Snoop and Dre are roommates. Dre is unemployed and can't pay rent, so Snoop gets him a job at the car wash where he works. Eventually Dre becomes Snoop's boss, and power-struggle hijinks result. Then the car wash owner (George Wallace, a "real actor") gets kidnapped.... I don't really need to summarize the rest. It's a silly comedy. See it stoned; if you don't, there's so much weed-smoking in the film, you'll wish you did.
DJ Pooh told me that the rappers definitely had to put forth an effort in shooting their scenes, but it was as easy to work with them on a movie set as it was in the studio: "A natural feeling... because we all know each other so well and know each other's vibes." That said, Snoop ends up playing a role you'd expect him to play (he's thick with attitude, fucks in the car wash's dirty bathroom, and deals weed while on the job), as does Eminem (who was fired from the car wash and makes psychotic, threatening phone calls). The other rappers spend a lot of time clowning, which isn't much of a surprise either.
Dr. Dre is given the character with the most development, and consequently he carries the movie. He goes from being broke and kickin' it (hittin' the blunt while brushing his teeth--you know how he do) to being a ball-busting, responsible boss who is sincere and sensitive to his love interest (Shari Watson), a well-mannered, soft-spoken student. It is difficult to truly see Dre's performance through the film's gags, but he performs with remarkable depth.
At the end of The Wash, a Dr. Dre video plays as credits roll, and immediately one is reminded that Dre is considered to be a "corrupting the minds of youth" artist, having unleashed the shameless hedonism of Snoop and the psychosis of Eminem onto the world, in addition to producing sex-and-violence-riddled raps of his own. This sudden switch in character is alarming--menacing rapper in dramatic videos vs. actor in a goofball comedy--and is an interesting way for audiences to view Dre.
"I've never looked at [the rappers] like that [as being dangerous]," Pooh said. "These guys are good friends of mine, and I just know them as good guys.... There are many different emotions in life, and there are different faces to every artist. Film is a way to express those things visually, where you can get a better sense of who these guys are."
DJ Pooh first worked with Dr. Dre in his NWA days, and Dre took him into the studio to show him the ropes. Knowing these ropes led DJ Pooh to being a part of the L.A. Posse, and to being a part of the production team behind some of rap's classics, like LL Cool J's Bigger and Deffer and Tupac's All Eyez on Me. Now that Pooh has a strong film career (he co-wrote and acted in Friday and Next Friday with Ice Cube, and wrote, directed, and acted in 3 Strikes), he says, "I'm returning the favor and pulling Dre into film." He did this by casting Dre in a role that demonstrates Dre's true, emotive acting talent.
The Wash is a "hiphop film" because it is one that further develops the depths of one of the most important figures in rap music, and in turn, American arts and letters.