THE ESSENTIALS: John Singleton


John Singelton was a trailblazing black director. His filmography means so much to The Culture and will no doubt stand the test of time. His ability to capture the essence of the young black experience in America (specifically in the 1990’s) was a special gift much needed in Hollywood at the time. So in honor of is life and legacy we have gathered the top 5 projects he either wrote and/or directed and/or produced. These are John Singleton’s ESSENTIALS.


The mainstream college experience for young people of color is something rarely seen on the big or small screen. And Singleton showed it with the rawness and grittiness you had come to expect from the director by that time. Tackling racism (both institutional and blatant), sex, sports mental health and violence, Higher Learning was both an inspirational and cautionary tale for young men and women of color interested in or just entering college life in the 90’s.


One of the most unique coming-of-age ever put on film, Baby Boy is not only considered a hood classic, it’s also the film that started the conversation within The Culture about maturation of young black men in our communities. The struggle of singer-turned-actor Tyreese’s Jody trying to deal with becoming a farther while still not fully mature himself was relatable to so many people. Everybody on the hood knows a Jody. And Singleton took the character and those themes to some interesting places while still being entertaining and funny. The film is beloved for it’s many memorable lines and also for being the breakout role for a young Taraji P. Hensen.


Michael Jackson was just as much the King of Music Videos as he was the King of Pop so to direct one of his most iconic is a true accomplishment. Singleton hit it out of the park with “Remember The Time” an epic Egyptian video closer to a short film than a mere music video. The telling of a story of forbidden love between Jackson’s entertainer and the Queen of Egypt played by model Iman was something major. Other stars included Eddie Murphy as the King and Magic Johnson. An epic culture classic video. 


hustle & flow

Singelton’s exemplirary eye for talent and storytelling extended to more than just his personal creations as he was one fo the first people to get behind a small indie flick about a pimp turned rapper (played masterfully bu Terrance Howard). Producing the film and helping it reach a worldwide audience, Singleton played a major role in making the film a commercial and critical success which included it grossing ten times it’s original budget, winning an Oscar for Best Original Song and becoming a culture classic.


boyz n the hood

The genesis. Not only for Singleton’s career but for of hip-hop meeting Hollywood. The 1991 film written and directed by Singleton washis directorial debut centered around a young man, his father and his friends trying to navigate life in the unforgiving streets of South Central L.A. It touched on so many topics facing young African-American men in the 90’s (and even to this day) including gang violence, police brutality, black fatherhood, sports vs education, socio-economical issues and more…basically life in “the hood.” Singleton’s subsequent Oscar nominations were historic on two levels. He was the youngest person ever nominated for Best Director and the first African-American to be nominated for the award. Boyz N The Hood was a game changer and one of the most important pieces of art representing The Culture ever made and had to be the most essential work in Singleton’s illustrious catalog.

That’s all we got, hit us up on Twitter and let us know if we missed anything. And while you’re still here check out or other Essential List:

Written by @TalentedMrFord

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