Director: Ernest Dickerson
Cast: Omar Epps, Tupac Shakur, Jermaine “Huggy” Hopkins, Khalil Kain, Samuel L. Jackson, Cindy Herron, Queen Latifah
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On one level, Juice is obviously a drama which speaks to how guns give the false notion of power, and how power corrupts. On another level, it's inherently a hip-hop film. Ernest Dickerson's directorial debut tells the story of four Harlem teens whose friendship is tried by an internal power struggle. “The Wrecking Crew”—Q (Omar Epps), Bishop (Tupac Shakur), Raheem (Khalil Kain) and Steel (Jermaine Hopkins)—cut school and bullshit through their teens until they decide to rob a local bodega. This changes their lives, the dynamic within the group, and interferes with Q's passion: DJing.
That's where hip-hop comes in, as Q's hip-hop aspirations are one of Juice's main themes, and the planned robbery conflicts with the DJ battle in which he competes. In addition to being 2Pac's breakthrough performance, Juice featured cameos from Queen Latifah, EMPD, Doctor Dré, Ed Lover, Fab 5 Freddy, and Special Ed.
Juice is about power because “juice” is power. The same thing that tore a group of generally good-natured teenagers apart is what made Nas' “I Gave You Power” so compelling. Whether you love DJing or you're still paralyzed by 2Pac's icy glare, Juice remains one of those films you have to stop and watch whenever it's on.