'City of God' Remains A Cult Classic 15 Years Later

'City of God' not only won fans over from around the world. 

In 2002, Brazilian director and screenwriter Fernando Meirelles unveiled Cidade de Deus, a film that put the microscope on the epidemic of organized crime that ravaged Rio de Janeiro, transforming it into a haven for political corruption and criminality. Adapted by Bráulio Mantovani from the 1997 novel of the same name written by Paulo Lins, Cidade de Deus is told from the vantage point of "Rocket" --- a resident of the favelas (The hood) with aspirations of becoming a professional photography while attempting to navigate and survive in a world filled with anarchy and nihilism. "Li'l Ze"; a hardened gangster with an unquenchable taste for blood, holds court over the favelas with an iron fist and sparks a war that ends with his demise.

After premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, where it earned rave reviews, and was initially released exclusively in Brazil, Cidade de Deus, which would be released in the U.S. in January 2003, under its American translation City of God, was a critical and commercial success stateside, yielding $7.5 million at the box office.

With a cast that included Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino da Hora, Phellipe Haagensen, Douglas Silva, Alice Braga and Seu Jorge, City of God would be one of the most lauded films of 2003, earning Academy Award nominations in multiple categories, including Best Director (Fernando Meirelles), Best Adapted Screenplay (Braulio Mantovani), Best Cinematography (César Charlone), and Best Film Editing (Daniel Rezende), as well as earning numerous honors for best foreign film.

In spite of its plot and actors not having any direct ties to hip-hop, since it was released, City of God has been received as a cult classic, with rappers like Lil Wayne, J. Cole, Snoop Dogg, The Game, AZ and other rappers giving nods to the film in their lyrics, a testament to its status as a cult classic.

In celebration of the 15th anniversary of its state-side release, we talked to some of our favorite rappers about what makes City of God timeless and one of the greatest movies of its time.

CyHi the Prynce:
“It was a great movie that showed the challenges and mindset of kids growing up in a 3rd world environment trying to overcome poverty with frustration and violence.”

Nitty Scott:
"I had the actual DVD from a friend, the Portugese version Cidade De Deus — I was actually going through this phase where I only wanted to watch like, indie foreign films. There was a wave of joints like this too, Carandiru, Cidade de Homens ... I was on it. Binge-watched them all in my apartment in The Bronx. [My favorite character was] LIL DICE! He was mad bloodthirsty and disturbing in a way that puts other villains to shame. He was an orphan — just a gangsta, fearless kid who took over the City of God by robbing and killing whoever he had to. I think it was the untrained acting by the locals and kids [that makes it a classic], and the fact that the narrative occurs adjacent to the tropical tourist paradise that is Rio. It put the forgotten slums and the lives that exist there right in front you, and I think a lot of people never saw or cared about that reality. And maybe the actors had lines or scenarios to play out, but it didn’t feel inauthentic or exploitative, just like an empathetic capture of an untold story in the favelas.

Tate Kobang:
"My uncle put me on with City of God during a smoke session I seen it first time last year in April. My favorite character has to be Lil Dice, he shares my reckless way of thinking and getting what I want ... by any means. I think that's what makes the movie a classic is them showing not only the come up but the downfall from more than one point of view."

"City Of God was definitely a movie you can’t forget! It definitely puts a huge magnifying glass on drugs and violence that goes on everywhere not just in our own communities!"

Eric Bellinger:
"City of God is one of those classics that you HAVE to see! This movie is epic because its message stays with you. That’s what art, film and entertainment should do. It made you think; it made you conscious and aware of things going on outside the little bubbles we live in, but also how we are all really in search of the same things: love, survival, passion, power, money and loyalty. It's so crazy how they brought so many life altering elements into one story! And the fact that they were so young is even crazier!"

“I love the film so much because the style is so fast paced and in your face. Every scene felt like an unforgettable moment in life, and the way that they captured the emotion and adrenaline in these moments through the cinematography was amazing.”

Noah Caine:
"A friend of mine had been talking about this wild movie with subtitles that was based in Brazil or something where there were “wild things that really happened in the the hood over there,” so naturally me and all the homies wanted to see it. I watched it on DVD. [My favorite character from the movie was] Benny, man! Dude was the perfect example of a D-Boy who woke up mentally and
was finally trying to get out of the life.

He had a chance to make it out of the ghetto and do good for real and he ended up getting killed in some mix up at a party. It’s the perfect example of what people in and around a life like that fear and it was extremely relatable. He was also just a fly, good hearted dude and everybody in his hood had love for him. He was the hood favorite. I know a lot of dudes in the hood that remind me of Benny. That movie is definitely a classic. It’s definitely up there in my top 3 and everybody should watch it or own the DVD. It captures the struggle and conflicts of coming up in poverty from that perspective of despair and how all these different people from different walks of life interact when their paths cross. Like I said, if you’re a person that’s familiar with poverty and unfortunately a life of drugs, gun violence and gang culture, you definitely can relate to all the characters in the movie in some way. Even if you ain't familiar, it still makes you feel like it’s easy to understand their struggles. Ultimately the characters just wanted to make it out or be comfortable within all that madness in some way and the film

Fat Trel:
“Dope movie, I Think it's real and says a lot about the slums. That's how Life goes in the streets. It's one of my favorite movies of all time”

From the Web

More on Vibe


Genres Aside, Here Are Our 25 Favorite Songs Of 2018

Keeping up with all of the music from 2018 was a full-time job, with loads of songs releasing every week and not enough ears to keep track. But the volume of music comes with an advantage: there’s something for everybody. Fittingly, our list of the 25 Best Songs of 2018 represents the multi-genre mayhem that is in everyone’s playlists this year.

Some of the entries on our list, like cuts by Drake, Travis Scott and Childish Gambino, were at the forefront of the conversation in 2018, dominating streaming services and radio around the country. Indie darling Saba made waves, and he’s included here as well. Jazz wizard Kamasi Washington dropped some of the best protest music of the year. But there are also some songs on this year’s list that spoke to the VIBE Tribe in a different way. Cardi B had hits all year, but an album cut impressed us most; Usher and Zaytoven’s new album didn’t make a huge splash commercially, but one of its songs appears here. And Beyonce appears on one of the best songs of the year that never even saw an official release–but that didn’t stop us from including it here.

Music broke the rules this year, and so did we. Read below, and tell us what surprise choices are making your songs of the year list.

READ MORE: Debate Us: The 30 Best Albums Of 2018

Continue Reading
A look back at the collaborator's up and down relationship.
Getty Images

Remember The Time: 10 Times Drake And Kanye West Were Stronger Together

Kanye West and Drake aren’t exactly in the best place at the moment. West’s Dec. 13 Twitter rant detailed their issues, in which he accuses Drake of “sneak dissing” and threatening him.

“You sneak dissing on [Travis Scott] records and texting Kris [Jenner] talking about how’s the family.” he wrote among many other tweets and allegations against the Scorpion MC.

While this is a bump in the road, the two haven’t always been enemies. Despite the shenanigans surrounding them, Kanye West and Drake have had a very fruitful relationship. All drama aside, the duo have created many memorable moments in hip-hop and pop culture. They’ve written and recorded some incredible songs and shared countless stages during concerts and tours.

To abstain from dwelling on the negativity, VIBE has collected a list of moments taking you through the high points in the rappers’ relationship. Check it out below.


Drake's Freestyles Over Many Beats By 'Ye

Before he was one of the most sought-after rappers in the world, Drizzy has looked up to Kanye West and sampled his work. For “Say What’s Real,” a single off his mixtape So Far Gone, the “In My Feelings” MC sampled Yeezy’s “Say You Will” off of his 2008 album 808s & Heartbreak. The admiration continued throughout the years, resulting in more freestyles over songs like “Swagga Like Us” and “Barry Bonds.” Both tracks feature beats created by the Chi-town native. 

‘Thank Me Later’ Proves Their Shared Power 

After meeting in 2009, the duo came together to bring Drake's Thank Me Later album to the next level. They collaborated on two tracks- the futuristic love songs “Show Me A Good Time,” and “Find Your Love.” With West holding down production, deep-pocketed 808’s and table-top scratch sounds were highlighted. The accolades for the latter song resulted in the No. 5 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 charts as they created their own lane.

Drake Calls Kanye “The Most Influential Person”

In a 2009 interview, the then-industry rookie had some nice words for West. Speaking specifically about the 41-year-old’s 808’s and Heartbreak album, the Toronto rapper described ‘Ye as "the most influential person” who was important to young emcees in the game.

"Before I ever got the chance to meet him, Kanye West shaped a lot of what I do, as far as music goes," Drake said. He knows how to utilize great sounds and great music. So before I met him, I had the utmost respect for Kanye West. I'd even go as far as to say he's the most influential person as far as a musician that I'd ever had in my life."

Their Collaborations On Wax 

The pair has been making music together for nearly 10 years, with some standout tracks including “Forever,” the remix to “All Of The Lights,” and “Pop Style.” On their 2017 song “Glow” off of Drake’s playlist More Life, both rappers discuss their growing, limitless success. West was rumored to initially appear on Drizzy’s smash-hit “Nice For What.” He reportedly had a verse on the critically-acclaimed track until the beef between Drake and his G.O.O.D. Music cohort Pusha T became lethal.

The Joint Mixtape That Never Happened

Drake and Kanye are no strangers when it comes to making joint albums with other artists. Drake worked with Future on the platinum-selling album What A Time To Be Alive, while Kanye released Watch The Throne with JAY-Z to critical acclaim. However, it has been hinted for the longest time that the two were working on a full-length album of their own.

Kanye confirmed the plan to release an album with Drake to Vogue in 2016, shortly after hinting at a joint project during OVO Fest. The Take Care rapper co-signed the announcement, saying "What my brother was asking before was, are you ready if we make an album?"

Drake Writing For Kanye’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’

Drake wrote a song for Kanye’s 2016 effort, The Life of Pablo. The Canadian hip-hop star helped pen the Isaac Hayes and Nelly-sampled “30 Hours.” Drizzy was also reportedly on the original, unreleased version of Pablo’s “Wolves,” which featured Icelandic artist Bjork (the album version features Vic Mensa and Sia).

The Duo Become Friendly, Competitive Neighbors

By the time of their initial meeting in 2009, Kanye already clocked in nearly a decade of music industry knowledge, and Drake was making the transition from teen TV star to full-time rapper. But who would have thought the duo would have eventually become actual neighbors?

Drake eventually moved to Calabasas, Calif.- a neighborhood in Los Angeles many celebrities call home- around the same time West began publicly dating his now-wife, Kim Kardashian. In the 2016 bop “Summer Sixteen,” Drizzy jokes, “Now I got a house in LA, now I got a bigger pool than Ye / And look man, Ye’s pool is nice, mine's just bigger's what I’m saying.”


View this post on Instagram


There goes the neighborhood

A post shared by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on Nov 7, 2016 at 3:05am PST

Kanye Supports OVO Fest

Drake created a hip-hop festival called OVO Fest in 2010. Not only does it feature notable acts in urban music, but it also gave a platform to upcoming artists from Canada who might not have gotten a platform back home. Kanye West was one of the first supports of the music event, performing at three of the festivals.

He also admitted that Drake inspired him and JAY-Z to record Watch The Throne during 2013’s OVO Fest, stating, "Me and Hov would've never made Watch the Throne if this ni**a wasn't putting pressure on us like that, so I just wanna pay my respects.”

Kanye Apologizes To Drake Over G.O.O.D. Music Album Rollouts

Earlier this fall, Kanye West apologized to Drake in a series of tweets for planning the rollout of albums by artists under his G.O.O.D music roster around the proposed release of Scorpion.

In one of the tweets, Kanye wrote “Let me start by apologizing for stepping on your release date in the first place. We were building a bond and working on music together including squashing the issues with Cudi at our office.” In another tweet, ‘Ye revealed that he never listened to the diss tracks between him and Pusha, and didn’t have conversations regarding Drake’s child with him.

Let me start by apologizing for stepping on your release date in the first place … We were building a bond and working on music together including squashing the issues with Cudi at our office.

— ye (@kanyewest) September 5, 2018

They Shared Laughs Over Meek Mill Memes

Drake and Meek Mill were in an infamous feud back in 2015. After performing his diss track aimed at Meek- "Back to Back”- at the 2015 OVO Fest, Drizzy, Kanye, and Will Smith enjoyed a laugh over the countless memes mocking the Philly MC.

Continue Reading
VIBE / Nick Rice

Debate Us: The 30 Best Albums Of 2018

What a year 2018 has been for music lovers.

Listeners enjoyed a buffet of diverse melodies, savoring in the choice of curating the tunes they craved as opposed to consuming more than they can digest. Rumored albums from veterans like Lil Wayne's Tha Carter V and The Carters' first joint project battled its way to the top of our personal charts alongside music's innovators like Noname, The Internet, Buddy, and Janelle Monae.

Within that aforementioned list of artists, a new generation of lyricists and vocalists found their footing with fans and critics alike. The rising crop of talent released projects that should motivate each of them to carve out space for forthcoming awards. While we took into account the albums released from Dec. 1, 2017 to Nov. 20, 2018, that moved us emotionally, we also checked off a list of requirements like replay value, overall production, critical reception, and cultural impact.

Here are the 30 albums (in alphabetical order, not ranked), that instilled pride in our culture, made us take a look within, and encouraged us to appreciate music all over again.

READ MORE: 25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018

Continue Reading

Top Stories