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Here's Five Things About 'New Jack City' You Didn't Know

Here's Five Things About 'New Jack City' You Didn't Know

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We continue our celebration of the anniversary of New Jack City by taking a look at one of the pens behind the screenplay, Barry Michael Cooper. In the 25 years since crafting the classic with Thomas Lee WrightNew Jack City has launched the careers of Wesley Snipes, Allen Payne, Ice-T and Chris Rock to name a few. According to Dart Adams, the project served as Hollywood’s wake up call, to witness just what the crack cocaine epidemic was doing to black-and-brown neighborhoods across the country.

As mainstream America thought by saying “Crack Is Wack” or “Just Say No” would make the junkies go away, Barry Michael Cooper experienced the epidemic on the streets of West Baltimore and Harlem. The journalist-turned-screenwriter put his real world occurrences with drug dealers (who were fixtures in the community) and gang bangers into his mind’s blender—first in print, and then in script—and changed how America and Hollywood digested black independent film.

While Cooper would later go on to craft other “hood classics” such as Above The Rim and Sugar Hill — there still is much unknown about the 1991 flick that endeared him to cinephiles near and far. Never having to sell rock for kicks, BMC beautifully captured what it meant to be a street-wise youth, surviving on the mean streets of a drug-infested city. With that said, we encourage you to get familiar with five things that we learned after reading Barry Michael Cooper chat with Ambrosia For Heads. In addition to Martin Lawrence originally playing the role of Pookie, the screenwriter and former music journalist shared the true history behind New Jack City that you should want to know about.

Richard Pryor Has A Spiritual Connection To New Jack City

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The initial conversation between Barry Michael Cooper and George Jackson included a fact not really known to those outside the entertainment community. When the two initially spoke, the latter introduced him as someone who “worked for Indigo,” which, according to BMC was Richard Pryor‘s company. Thanks to the greatest comedian on God’s green Earth, we have New Jack City, a film that has withstood the test of time.

New Jack City Was Based On Nicky Barnes

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Nicky Barnes, the Harlem gangster better known as “Mr. Untouchable,” has been portrayed in movies such as American Gangster and mentioned in Dead Presidents. According to Barry Michael Cooper, Barnes’ story was going to be adapted for The Godfather, Part III, which was being developed by Paramount. “Initially, ‘New Jack’ was the Nicky Barnes story being written for Francis Ford Coppola,” BMC said. In that film, Eddie Murphy was supposed to play the crime lord, Nicky Barnes.

Scotty Was Originally A ‘Heartbeat’ From Being Someone Else

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Ice T, who at the time was basking in the success of his O.G. Original Gangsta album, almost didn’t have the role of NYPD detective Scotty Appleton. “They gave it to Michael Wright,” BMC said, referring to the actor who would play Eddie Kane, Jr. in Robert Townsend’s The Five Heartbeats. Mike turned down the role, but later said that doing so “was the worst mistake of my life.” Ice T proved to be absolutely mesmerizing on screen, as he delved into the character and made Scotty into a street-wise officer who wanted to bring down Nino Brown.

A Familiar Tune Was Sampled For The Carter Raid

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If you playback the scene in New Jack City where the police are going to raid the Cash Money Brothers at The Carter, you’ll hear a familiar track that was beloved by true school hip-hop heads. “We were playin’ Redhead Kingpin [and the F.B.I.’s] first album, A Shade of Red,” Barry Michael Cooper professed. “You hear “Do The Right Thing” when they’re raiding CMB at The Carter.” In addition to BMC, you can thank Doug McHenry and George Jackson for being ace music supervisors.

Cash Money Brothers Has A Not-So-Hidden Meaning

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New Jack City crystalized the impact of the Crack Era that decimated families, friends and communities, while Nino Brown personified the real life boogeyman that held down the corners. For Barry Michael Cooper, he wrote from his experience at West Baltimore to Harlem and had his honesty rewarded with success, a reputation as a true visual creative and, of course, money. “All by God’s grace, the name “CMB” is a testament to that [impactful] moment in my life. It’s my initials, backwards [and serves as] reminders of a moment in time.

Celebrate 25 years of New Jack City with us by telling us your favorite quotes or scenes on Twitter @Okayplayer!


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