"Every Ghetto, Every City" - A look back at the classic, Menace II Society (review)

"Every Ghetto, Every City" - A look back at the classic, Menace II Society (review)
90 Degrees

COVER STORY | The movie that picked up where New Jack City and Boyz N The Hood left off and saw the tag team of the then, music video directors, brothers Albert and Allen Hughes in their movie directorial debut, and the controversial replacement of actor/rapper, the late great, Tupac (2Pac) Shakur. 1993’s MENACE II SOCIETY was more than a joyride through Watts, CA. It was a stop at ya granny’s for ribs, greens, and cornbread, a visit to ya favorite uncle’s for a cold beer, laughs and dominos in the park, and literally, a drive-by shooting to culminate what a day in the life of the “Hood” could be.

Caine & O-Dog | Courtesy of Google Images

Menace kicks off when teenagers Caine (Tyrin Turner) and O-Dog (Larenz Tate) walk into a local liquor store for a nightly summer beer run, and while doing so, the Korean owners follow them around to see if they would steal anything. Of course, being judged doesn’t sit well with the ever so turnt-up, O-Dog. After an insult to O-Dog’s mother (everybody knows, shots at a Black man’s mother is no, no) followed by the famous line, “What you say about my momma?” in response, it was on and poppin’. Literally. O-Dog shoots and kills both store owners and flees the store with cash and the surveillance tape (cause he hood-smart) but not before Caine, startled by the unexpected gunshots, drops his 40oz glass beer bottle on the store’s floor.  What a way to kick off a summer – an accessory to murder and robbery,  fresh out of high school. The hood is funny like that, but not in a laughable way, and Menace took us on that authentic journey of how to survive there and how easily you could get caught up.

Menace is a classic example of how a Black male in the hood is forced to grow up way too fast and forced to survive by any means necessary. From seeing his father kill others then witnessing his father’s own murder to his mother overdosing on drugs, Caine resorted to the life of selling drugs to survive like most in the hood do. “You either slang crack rock or you gotta wicked jump-shot.”

After being shot himself, and seeing his cousin murdered, Caine is asked by his grandfather, “If he cares if he lives or die?”. This stumps Caine, because, like most teenagers in the hood, it’s not something he’d ever really thought about, though it’s definitely something he should’ve been considering all along.

Menace is a story of choices, jewels that make you think, being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and what affects the hood will have on you whether you’re ready for it or not.

Packed with classic jams from the soundtrack like Top of the World, Dopeman, StrEIHT Up Menace, and Honey Love, I remember jamming out as a youth, wishing it was me in an entanglement with Ronnie’s (Jada Pinkett-Smith) fine ass, and wondering as Caine did at the end of the movie – What if… What if he didn’t stomp out Ilena’s cousin? What if he didn’t beat up Chauncy? What if O-Dog didn’t murder the Koreans? What if Caine cared about dying before it was too late? What if…

This classic hood tale is by far in my top 3 movies of all-time because of the truth it tells and how relatable it was for me and my friends at the time. For me, Menace II Society never gets old, just like most things in the 90’s. And if you haven’t seen it in a while, I encourage you to, especially if you’re from a hood like myself. It will take you down memory lane, no matter where you’re from. Cause like DJ Quik said, “[insert wherever you’re from], it’s just like Compton.” Meaning it’s all the same.

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