Add a film telling the story of Def Jam Recordings to the growing list of potential “hip-hop bios” that may (or may not) have the immense success of Universal’s “Straight Outta Compton” (which is on track to surpass $200 million in global box office) to thank for any studio interest in them.
Deadline is reporting that Universal is considering a feature that would be based on Russell Simmons’ 2002 book “Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, + God,” which documents his journey as a cultural tastemaker, chronicling his numerous business successes and occasional failures – the founding of the legendary Def Jam Records, whose roster included rap icons like L.L. Cool J, Public Enemy, and the Beastie Boys; the launching of Def Comedy Jam, the long-running hit television series that introduced a new generation of black comedic stars like Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac and Chris Rock; his navigating Hollywood, producing hit movies like Eddie Murphy’s “The Nutty Professor;” his clothing line, Phat Farm; and more.
The book highlights his maturation from his drug /sex-filled early days of success, to the husband and father he would become, and the myriad of influential people he would engage along the way.
The project is still in its early stages, but Michael B. Jordan and Jonah Hill are said to both be in contention to play the younger Simmons and Def Jam co-founder Rick Rubin respectively.
It joins an existing list of “hip-hop bios” in the works that includes: a Death Row Records film, with talent agency APA said to be shopping the project around, which will be titled “Welcome to Death Row,” and will focus on the years after N.W.A formed, and all the acts that came after them, forging their own solo careers – rappers like Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, the aforementioned Dogg Pound and others.
Of course, we can’t forget about the rise of Suge Knight who would become one of the most powerful (and feared) executives in the business.
“Welcome to Death Row” is reportedly being shopped as a sequel to “Straight Outta Compton,” based on the book and documentary of the same name by S. Leigh Savidge, who also co-executive produced “Straight Outta Compton.”
There’s also an upcoming Dogg Pound biopic, which, formed in 1992, is made up of West Coast rappers Daz Dillinger and Kurupt, who were signed to Dr Dre’s Death Row Records early in their careers, and played a part in the label’s success.
There was talk of a film that would tell the combined stories of Tupac, Snoop Dogg, and Tha Dogg Pound – rumors fueled by Dogg Pound member, Daz Dillinger, who told TMZ in an interview last month that it was definitely happening.
Daz Dillinger also told VLAD TV 2 weeks ago that Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson was on board to help finance the film, although I couldn’t confirm that.
A Gang Starr film is also a possibility; DJ Premier said he was working on (this was not long about “Compton’s” release.
And also Chuck D suggested that he would entertain the idea of a Public Enemy bio; and the long-in-development Tupac Shakur project looks like it’s alive again, given a recent casting notice I shared on this blog last month, which indicated Carl Franklin was attached to direct, and an actor to play the lead role is being sought; also Master P. has teamed up with Queen Latifah and her Flavor Unit production company, to produce a film on his life.
And I’m sure there are (or will be) others. Strike while the iron is hot, as the saying goes…