When we first heard that the great Nina Simone would be getting a biopic, the old soul in us was elated. As everyone in Hollywood knows, a film is the ultimate gesture of true greatness– similar to a star on the “Walk of Fame” or rehab center created in namesake. But the Nina movie news also got our minds racing, leading us to a gamut of musicians (past and present) whose lives we’d love to see played out on the big screen. Click through to see who they are and why they deserve our movie stub.
—Words by Kevin L. Clark (@DLYDJ)
“The Mistress of Storytelling” — MC Lyte
Before rap fiends fell all over themselves for Lil’ Kim, Lauryn Hill and Nicki Minaj, the undisputed queen of lyricism was MC Lyte. The Brooklyn, New York native has had a story book career that deserves to be recognized by the world. In making a biopic about the “Lyte As A Rock” rapper, she could usher in a new crop of female MCs who would aim to return balance to the game of Hip-Hop.
“100 Miles & Running” — N.W.A.
In the 1990s, there was no force more terrifying to White America than N.W.A. Armed and dangerous with vivid lyrics and hardcore imagery, the Compton, California collective even had regular rappers shook by the threat of their presence. New Line Cinema is actually working on developing N.W.A.’s story into a feature film for theatrical release, but there is no confirmation as to who will play Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, DJ Yella and the fireplug, Eazy-E.
With John Singleton rumored to be helming the biopic, it’s only a matter of time before those rumors of Lil’ Eazy-E and O’Shea Jackson II being involved are true or not.
“The Originator” — DJ Kool Herc
The Jamaican-born, Bronx-established DJ Kool Herc is widely credited with blossoming this thing we now know as Hip-Hop. After blowing up blocks with his booming speakers in the South Bronx, Herc created a mythos straight from the impact of his neighborhood jamborees. As the culture moved on, it seemed to forget its roots as it became commercialized glam that we now see all over the world.
A biopic about the life and times of DJ Kool Herc could put things into perspective, while adhering to the tenants of Universal Zulu Nation. Focusing on the roots of the culture and telling Herc’s story within those break beats would be a once-in-a-lifetime thank you to the person responsible for all the success many are enjoying now and hope to enjoy in the future.
“Enter The 36 Chambers: The Movie” — The Wu-Tang Clan
While The RZA will celebrate his directorial debut today (11/2) with “The Man With the Iron Fists,” we’re itching for him to bring the entire clan to the big screen. You know all their names, but do you really know the story? This biopic would detail how Shaolin’s finest linked up to create one of the most celebrated collectives in Hip-Hop.
“Enter The 36 Chambers: The Movie” would show off the trials, the tribulations, drama and jubilation that took Staten Island’s most dangerous lyrical assassins and propelled them into the global stratosphere. Hell, if that doesn’t whet your appetite, there’s always holding out for that Ol’ Dirty Bastard biopic…
“No Way Out” — Diddy
From Howard University chief party rocka to Bad Boy billionaire, Diddy has led a life that anyone would love to have lived. Born Sean Combs to a mother who stressed hard work and a father who put in his own hard work on the streets, the man the world would later know as Puff Daddy is an example of the American nightmare turning into a beautiful dream. With a healthy resume in Hollywood already, Diddy could ask anyone to direct, but would most likely save the starring role for himself (and his son, Justin, playing him at a younger age).
Three things we can count on if this biopic were to ever become actualized: 1) The musical soundtrack would be full of classic joints to jam to; 2) Audiences would be enthralled to learn something new involving the murders of The Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac; and 3) Shyne would not be allowed into any movie theaters for a sneak preview.
“Kind Of Blue” — Miles Davis
Don Cheadle has been trying to make this picture happen for years. With Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) on hand as director, Cheadle aims to star as the mercurial jazz trumpeter in a “gangster” biopic that “Miles Davis would have wanted to star in,” according to Cheadle. Interestingly enough, Cheadle’s feature film would not focus on any grandiose period of the “Blue Cool” musicians life; focusing more on a time where Davis actually was not playing any music.
While a Miles Davis biopic would not be a cradle-to-the-grave feature like most musical biopics, we would certainly hope that it would illuminate the genius and the madness within the brilliant mind of such a powerful artist.
“Penny For A Pentz” — Diplo
Known the world over by his stage name, Diplo, Thomas Wesley Pentz has a unique back story that would make for a compelling biopic. The Tupelo, Mississippi born musician left his country roots for the Sound of Philadelphia where he invested in his future through hard work. After making a smash under the Hooked on Hollerphonix moniker, Diplo turned heads and made friends with some of the best musicians in the game.
But “Penny For A Pentz” would deal with life before the glitz and VIBE Magazine covers. Focusing on when he worked as a school teacher in Philadelphia, Diplo humble roots to big chunes tale would be told for the masses to enjoy and rock out to.
“Who Will Survive In America?” — Gil Scott-Heron
The legendary Gil Scott-Heron was a musical influence to many and a scourge to others. Known primarily for his work as a spoken word performer, Heron said that the “revolution would not be televised.” Which is perfect since audiences would focus on his early years and infractions with the law.
Audiences could learn the root of Gil Scott-Heron’s soulful anger that drove his written and performed works of art.
“All Is By My Side” — Jimi Hendrix
Sure, Wood Harris played the legendary psychadelic guitarist in a Showtime biopic, but many were even calling for Andre 3000 to play that role back then. Now, the ATLien has his shot to fill the bell-bottoms of Jimi Hendrix in a biopic entitled, “All Is By My Side.” Directed by John Ridley, 3-Stacks portrays the Rock ‘n Roll legend during his pre-fame years.
Most of the successful films about legendary musicians, like “Ray” and “Walk The Line,” have an air of distinction about it, and “All Is By My Side” is looking like a blockbuster winner.
“Q: Soul Bossa Nova” — Quincy Jones
Cinephiles will remember seeing a brief flash of a young Quincy Jones in the Oscar award winning biopic, “Ray,” with Jamie Foxx. But never did we get a chance to dig deeper into Ray Charles and Quincy’s relationship during that time period. With the chance to atone for such erroneous mistakes, “Soul Bossa Nova” would be a music lover’s opportunity to see Quincy in the beginning of his storied career — way before “Thriller,” way before “We Are the World.”
For good measure (and cinematic chutzpah), those moments should be included, but the moment someone gets behind this and makes it happen would be the moment when Q finally can get his just due in the theatrical world of biopics.
“Strange Fruit: A Love Story” — Nina Simone
Yes, there is quite the controversy going on with the real production of this Nina Simone biopic (which stars Zoe Saldana in the titular role). But beyond the light skin vs. dark skin rhetoric; the bad make-up jobs and the overall disdain being directed at “Nina,” we have to note that it is not an official, co-signed project by Nina Simone’s estate. So, with that in mind, an alternate one starring Adepero Oduye should quickly go into production.
Whether the film focuses on her travels abroad, her issues with racism in America or all of the above — the best thing about biopics is casting — and Adepero would make a fine Nina Simone. If you want to know where most singers got their grit from, then this would be the film to watch to learn.
“The Queen Of Soul” — Aretha Franklin
The much-gestated Aretha Franklin biopic has had everyone and their mama mentioned, yet no one attached to play the venerable Queen of Soul.
Taylor Hackford, director of Ray, the Ray Charles biopic and husband of Helen Mirren, has signed on to direct the forthcoming biopic about soul diva Aretha Franklin. Most recently Taylor Hackford (“Ray”) signed on to direct this project which would focus on the Soul singer’s early-to-peak years of her singing careers and the all the struggles involved. While we would love to see this picture come to fruition, the major thing stopping it is — you guessed it — Aretha Franklin.
If she needs any help to make sure this project hits the stage, all she has to do is “Call Me,” and we’ll be right there to make sure her biopic gets the “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” it deserves.
“One In A Million” — Aaliyah
Aaliyah is such a beloved figure within the music world that any mere mention of her name drives fans into a frenzy. So, when her brother Rashad Haughton shut down the idea, it caused many people to walk away bewildered. But let’s face it: this is bound to happen eventually, so why not be the one’s in the driver seat?
While no one may truly capture the full beauty Aaliyah presented on stage and on screen, the story of her upbringing from the mean streets of Detroit to becoming a pop princess who toured the globe is a story that would make hardcore fans happy while introducing her to a whole new audience. With Timbaland and Missy Elliott as the music supervisors for the project, we promise to keep Drake off the set and away from sneaking his homage tattoo onto the cameras.
“Wonderland” — Stevie Wonder
Stevland Morris, better known to the world as Stevie Wonder, has been in front of the spotlight since the ripe old age of 13. When you’re so gifted as he is there should have already been a biopic about the Motown legend. Starting from “Fingertips” (Pt. 2) to the classic period of his career, we would get a chance to see Stevie develop into the multi-instrumentalist that he is today and get a look at the personal battles he won in order to retain ownership of his music.
“The Unauthorized Biopic of DMX” — DMX
Much like his biography that told the rough and tough tale of Earl Simmons, this biopic would allow fans and cinephiles a closer look at the man known for his affinity of dogs, dark beats and holy prayer. DMX has sold over 30 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling hip-hop artists of all time so it’s only right that he gets the biopic treatment.
Def Jam in its prime, Murder I.N.C. before its collapse, and the Ruff Ryders crew all behind a stark, raving mad lyricist who pours out his heart inside and outside the booth would make this a must-see for hardcore East Coast rap fans.
“Today Was A Good Day” — Ice Cube
A Hip-Hop legend and a West Coast warlord, Ice Cube’s biopic could enthrall audiences looking to see how one of rap’s greatest storytellers got his start. The film could focus on the early, pre-N.W.A. days when Cube was but a shorty attending Taft High School. While the N.W.A. biopic could re-introduce audiences to Amerikkka’s worst nightmare, “Today Was A Good Day” would focus on his early rap groups: The C.I.A., Stereo Crew and his brief stint as a writer for Dr. Dre’s World Class Wreckin’ Cru.
“Life Is More Than A Grand Hustle” — T.I.
The Rubberband Man. The Legend. The King. Who wouldn’t want to see the tumultuous story of how the self-proclaimed ‘King of the South’ came from Bankhead to butlers on the big screen? We’ve seen a glimpse into T.I. nowadays through his VH1 show “T.I. Family Hustle,” but we know there’s much more to the Heathcliff Huxtable persona he likes to put on.
“Unapologetic Love” — Chris Brown & Rihanna
We know you’re thinking: Here comes, “What’s Love Got to Do With It” Part II (Rumble In The Caribbean). But you’re wrong! The story of the sweet Barbadian teen who falls in love with a simple boy from Virginia would play out innocently. Until the unnatural forces of the entertainment industry– obviously the Illuminati– cause violence and greed to corrupt the two. Still on the fence about this being partly fictional…
“What’s The 411?” — Mary J. Blige
Nothing is better than a triumph story and Mary J. is the ultimate one. The proud New Yorker went through men, drugs and several hairstyles before finding peace. While this wouldn’t be as depressing as “Precious,” we do imagine moviegoers would champion for Mary till the end.
“All Eyez On Me” — Tupac Shakur
The life of Tupac Shakur has been depicted in many ways, but there has yet to be a complete film solely focused on the Death Row rapper. Delivered behind the bars of a jail cell to a Black Panther, Tupac was born a fighter. Sadly, we know the end of his tragic tale, but with guidance from Jada Pinkett Smith, Jasmine Guy and his mother, Afina Shakur, all the missing blanks would be filled in for film.
“We Have Something In Common” — Bobby Brown
If Bobby Brown’s life were to be on film, we guarantee there would have to be some sort of intermission, because the man has lived several lives in his 43 years. Born in Boston, the rapper/singer/dancer gained fame and money at a young age. From his shotgun marriage to his avid drug use and indifference with group, New Edition, there’s not one scene that wouldn’t be juicy.
“Superfreak: The Life & Crimes Of Rick James” — Rick James
Rick James was one bad brother. Aside from his strong ties to Motown, he wrote, produced and performed classics that still make babies today. Known for his ostentatious locks, affinity to cocaine and Liberace-bright outfits, the man was a walking show. We miss him, but would gladly love to reminisce in a film about his glamorous life.
“From Last to First: My Name Is Skrillex” — Skrillex
Twipz, also known as Skrillex is a growing legend in the dance/electro/dubstep scene. Interestingly enough, his skills came while he was a burgeoning DJ in Northern Californina. The feature film could focus on his adolescent life when he dropped out of school at the age of 14 due to bullying to go after his dreams. The biopic could expose audiences to the underground world of Mexican-American punk rock and electro club raves while cementing his place as one of the premiere sound warriors in the game!
“Mercy, Mercy Me” — Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye is an American icon who has had a biopic in the works for almost as long as he’s been in the grave. Many people were considered for the role such as Usher, O.T. Fagbenle and Jesse L. Martin all vying for the right to portray the legendary Motown singer. With three versions of the film all in the production, “Mercy, Mercy Me” would focus on the period in Gaye’s life where he transitioned from pop singer to conscious singer.
“The Truth From The Traphouse” — Gucci Mane
Other than T.I., name another Atlanta rapper who has stirred up as much controversy? A biopic about Radric Davis and his many illustrious moments (Who can forget “So Icy”…?) within the rap culture could make for an interesting conversational piece. The biopic could also shed light on the much ballyhooed beef between the “Trap-A-Thon” rapper and Young Jeezy by dramatizing the origin of their dispute.