Since his unforgettable role in 1994's Pulp Fiction, Ving Rhames has been a powerful force in Hollywood. With numerous film appearances before and starring roles aplenty since, Rhames has been hard at work at producing some films of his own. The actor's present work, The Wrath Of Cain, contains a message about street life in America, as well our commonalities, that are very tangible to the Hip Hop generation. Ving spoke to HipHopDX on Tuesday evening, to discuss the film, his views on youth culture, and two of its co-stars - who happen to be rappers, Gillie Da Kid [click to read] and Nipsey Hussle [click to read].
Produced by Evan Louis and Eugene "Big U" Henley, Wrath of Cain contains a premise resonant in Rhames' eyes. "The storyline is that I'm a guy in a prison - a former gangbanger [who is] doing life in prison, with two sons. One of my sons is a Crip, played by Nipsey Hussle. The other one is a Blood, who's my son, but I don't know he's my son at the beginning of the movie, played by Gillie Da Kid." The film takes the unbenownst brothers who war in the streets, to a war on the inside, amongst their father. "They don't know they're brothers; I don't know that [Gillie's character "JD" is] my son." Rhames says this conflict leads to a powerful ending. "It's gonna be very suprising," Gillie said.
The film focuses on the similarities in people, regardless of skin or bandana color. "I'm trying to show, we're all the same - Crips, Bloods, Mexican gangs. You grew up in this hood, I grew up in that hood; a real nigga is a real nigga regardless." He later added, "They're of the same blood. The only difference between [someone] being a Crip or a Blood is [their] address."
The film starts June 29th in Los Angeles. With Big U as a producer on the film, Ving Rhames has worked with U's South Central neighborhood to enrich, what he calls "the hood's talent." "I have Rolling 60s guys who are going to be apprentices with the camera, who are learning about sound, lighting, directing, wardrobe, what-have-you. They're gonna be a part of this film in an apprentice program." Rhames says after working in the Rolling 60s Crip neighborhood, he aspires to work with a Blood neighborhood next.
With recent events portraying gangs in an arguably misinformed light, Rhames says it's the right time for films like this. "Big U helped me a lot with this. The Rolling 60s sometimes get a bad name. Recently, they busted a club where the Rolling 60s were giving a party [click to read]. There was no guns, there was no fighting in there, no drugs found. Some guys were found skipping probation or what-have-you." Rhames expressed his frustrations with the headline news. "The cops raided a place just based on reputation. But if you think about it, and again, this is cultural sometimes, those police officers know nothing about people of color in general. They certainly don't know anything about what you would call 'gang culture.'" This leads to bigger problems, according to the Mission Impossible actor. "Let's say when two white cops roll up on a group of 50 brothers, how you talk to the brothers will determine how they react to you - especially if they're not doing anything wrong. Sometimes things are done that I think can instigate something happening."
Rhames added that, "If I was at the door of that party the cops raided, trust me, it wouldn't have been raided. Same people inside, but it wouldn't have been raided."
The actor also had an organic introduction to his two emcee co-stars. Rhames revealed to DX, "I got introduced to [Nipsey] oddly enough, through my step-daughter. I was in South Africa doing a movie. My step-daughter put some music on my iPod [for while] I was in South Africa. I'm listening to Nipsey Hussle, I'm like, 'Who is this dude?' A lot of what he was saying was so honest and truthful that it even related to two decades ago, in my life. I could relate. I felt a lot of parallels." The actor connected to his own youth, spent on 126th Street in Harlem at a time when gangs ran the streets of New York. "I met him through his music. For six or seven weeks, honestly, all I really listened to was Nipsey Hussle. Literally."
Once returning to Los Angeles, the actor's work in the streets brought him to meet the Epic Records talent. "I do gang intervention work with a group called Unity One. The head of Unity One knew Big U, and took me to his hood [to introduce us]." I did the financing of the film with him."
Rhames, who in conversation, mentions rappers frequently, says he came to know Philadelphia's Gillie Da Kid in a similar way. "I was doing a movie called Surrogates with Bruce Willis. That comes in September. I'm in Boston, doing Surrogates. I'm in a rich area, and there's a Hip Hop store there. I said, 'Let me check this out.' I buy a Ghetto Report DVD, and Gillie Da Kid is on it. I've never heard of Gillie Da Kid, never heard a song. Again, he was so honest and truthful, I could relate to him. Honestly, it was almost like I was bonded to both of these guys through their music. I never saw them before."
The relationship with Gillie has flourished. Rhames brought the actor on in King of The Avenue, a film in post-production, shot in Puerto Rico. He said, "I put Gillie in the film. He's traveling a bit with me."
Asked about his acting, Gillie says, "I can only go only off of what the people around me tell me, 'cause I haven't really seen any of the movies yet. I have a six-movie deal with Ving. The director of the King Of The Avenue (Ryan Combs) called me for a movie that he's shooting that has absolutely nothing to do with Ving. So I guess I would say I was doing a pretty good job. If I wasn't, he wouldn't have called me for another job."
With mixed opinions from Hollywood on rappers acting in the past, Rhames admits that rappers do little to benefit a film's box office based on promotion. "I try to cast who I feel is right for the role and who I feel is going to be authentic. In general, I think movies help Rap artists more than Rap artists help movies. I'll use Beyonce. If everybody that bought her CDs came to her movies, her movies would be making over 100 million each. That doesn't happen. I could say the same thing back in the day with LL Cool J or Ja Rule or The Game or Xzibit or anybody outside of Will Smith." True to form, both of Wrath of Cain's Rap co-stars have yet to release either of their widely-anticipated albums, making them arguably ahead of the curve.
Stranglely though, Rhames may be helping his pupils with their Rap careers. After appearing on Ludacris' Theater Of The Mind [click to read], Ving charged the DTP star a favor, not a clearance fee. "This is what I did for Luda, and this is the God's honest truth," he began revealing to HipHopDX. "Luda was gonna pay me [to appear on Theater of The Mind]. I said, 'Nah Luda, what I get paid for voiceovers, not that you couldn't afford me, but you don't [want that].' I did it for free. He said I had to charge him something - I charged him one dollar. I had Gillie with me. I said, 'Yo Luda, if you go gold or platinum, do a song with Gillie Da Kid.' That song is now gonna probably be with Gillie Da Kid and Nipsey. 'That's all I want. I'ma shake you in your hand and I'ma look you in your eye, and that's how we made the deal.' I got the hook for the song from a guy from the Grape Street Crips. 'I been through what you been through / Done shed so many tears, done wasted so many years.' That's what I'ma use the favor I did for Luda, that's my favor back. I spoke to him maybe a month ago."
Films like Wrath Of Cain may help gangs in Los Angeles and America find common ground. "The only difference between L.A. and the War In Iraq, World War I, World War II, Vietnam, is there's no Geneva Convention," Rhames deduced.
Gillie Da Kid's I Am Philly will release through InGrooves in July. The single is "Slide Off." Wrath Of Cain will begin shooting this month. HipHopDX will keep you posted on both works.