John “Rappin’” Hood and his merry men: Ice-T and Dr. Benton
I won’t go into the whys and wherefores and wherefore art thous, but I found myself watching a film from 1985 called Rappin’ recently. I would imagine it was one of the first films to try and incorporate hip-hop into its narrative, because it’s utterly appalling.
Mario Van Peebles plays a man called John Hood, who, to the ears of everyone around him, is a brilliant rapper. The viewer soon realises this is not the case. Or, most viewers do – here’s The New York Times around the time of the film’s release:
Rappin’ has a finale that gives everyone in the cast a chance to rap a line or two. Some of them, like Mr. Van Peebles, are quite good at this; most are not.
Anyway, whatever his verbal abilities, obviously the protagonist ends up being known as John “Rappin’” Hood.
His crew contains Eriq LaSalle, aka Dr. Peter Benton from ER, and they use this rapping stuff to try and fight off dratted property developers who are attempting to evict people so they can build a MegaMall or something. Ice-T pops up for a bit, in a significantly less scary form than in the years that followed.
If you’d like to watch it for yourself, it’s on Lovefilm’s online service. Maybe don’t make it your primary reason for taking out a subscription, though.