Remembering Friday

Remembering Friday

I maintain that Yo! MTV Raps impacted race in the post-Baby Boomer generation more than anything else. It wasn’t Vanilla Ice or MC Hammer that made in-roads into suburbia and resulted in a few spoofs like CB4 and In Fear of A Black Hat, it was the Ed Lover Dance. What wide eyed, white kid could resist that? Certainly, someone along the way must have referred to all of that as a sort of new timey minstrel show. And while it could be understood that way, every afternoon folks all over the country were able to witness a music that had its roots in the ‘80s, been incubated for almost a decade, developed its own set of aesthetics – in music and language – and eventually found itself with a wide enough fan base to be incorporated into mainstream America (maybe I should have used ‘KKK’ in lieu of the ‘c’ as a tribute to Ice Cube.).

After the initial inculcation at the beginning of the ‘90s, rap (or hip hop, whatever you wanna call it) resulted in a new branch of the entertainment industry. It’s not that there weren’t films specifically made for black audiences in the past, but most frequently, those features were relegated to second rate theaters not necessarily frequented by a huge span of the American populace. Friday was markedly different.

I recall seeing the film in a theater not too far from my house and being surrounded by a mix of people from various age groups and cultural backgrounds – that means white folks and black folsk, but there could have been a few people of various Asian denominations there as well. It was dark, though.

Anyway, Friday became a surprisingly huge hit, in part due to Ice Cube’s music career, but also because of the script, the film’s acting and the ever so slight message the feature attempted to impart. Whatever the reason, though, the film was directed by F. Gary Gray, who had worked with Ice Cube on the 1992 video for "It Was a Good Day." The song and its accompanying video, which no doubt got a few plays on Yo! MTV Raps, took the emcee to a wider audience and undoubtedly enable him to pursue a career in film. And while we might all be scratching our heads at Ice Cube’s more recent filmic work, in Friday, he was stellar.

It’s a rare occasion when non-actors are able to render a character in the truest tones. Ice Cube’s Craig is probably a lot like someone everyone knows. He has a streak of bad luck, but seems to be a pretty nice guy even as life warrants making some tough decisions that don’t always turn out well.

What made the film as commercially successful as it was, though, seems to be its inclusion of stoner culture as a way of life. Chris Tucker’s Smokey, much like Craig, is a figure that’s an actual person in most of our lives. And while we can’t all relate to being shot at by some guys in a van, being lazy is the universal condition.