Death, unfortunately, is just a way of life. Life often imitates art, so at times we can become engaged with and even attached to a movie character’s story, celebrating the high points, while also feeling the pain of the lows much like the characters themselves.
When one of our big screen heroes die, we can’t help but feel the kind of pain and sorrow usually reserved for a member of your family. Here, we highlight 10 of the most gripping deaths that we have witnessed thus far in of urban film history. This experience may be a little traumatic for some but don’t worry, TSS happens to have a few psychiatrists on speed dial if you need to cope.
10. Cousin Harold in Menace II Society
We all have that older cousin that we idolize from a young age. The one who seems to exude swag. And we all strive to one day be viewed as an equal by said relative. Well, Harold in Menace II Society was that to Caine. And fresh off graduating high school, Caine finally had arrived at that coming-of-age moment, riding out and kicking it with his hero.
But on that dreaded night at the stoplight, a van full of jackers ruined the moment with ill will and bullets. Harold could’ve took the L and maybe left with his life intact, but pride is a strong thing. And in the hood, your pride can often be the most dangerous thing to your well-being.
Lesson Learned: The man standing less than two feet away with the shotgun pointed at you can hear you when you try to whisper, “I ain’t going out like this.”
9. Mitch in Paid In Full
While Tins has waxed poetic on the significance of Mekhi Phifer’s character, Mitch, from Paid In Full, his death is one that will live in the minds of aspiring go-getters for generations to come. After the kidnapping of his younger brother, Mitch confided in his two right-hand men for help in dealing with the situation at hand.
As usual in matters of the streets, there was a snake lurking in the grass by the name of Rico, remorseless and willing to get his by any means necessary. If you happen to have any smidgen of street-smarts, when he said, “you got 14 bricks right there?” you already knew what it was hitting for. No bricks meant no money for the ransom, thus leaving the family with two funerals to plan. Pour out a little liquor for Mitch, the Michael Jordan of all hustlers.
Lesson: Don’t be alone in the hallway with a man if you’ve seen his sex tape.
8. Raheem in Juice
A contender for the g.o.a.t. award in the annals of urban cinema, Juice was one of the first memorable flicks to almost flawlessly converge Hip-Hop and film. Old-Man Quillis was an expected casualty in the storyline, but I know many peoples’ hearts dropped after the gun struggle between Bishop and Raheem led to Bishop unexpectedly killing Raheem. The death was also one of the most significant on this list, as it set the stage for Bishop’s maniacal rampage to gain the “juice.”
What makes this death even more chilling is when Bishop showed up to Raheem’s funeral and consoled Raheem’s mother without a strand of remorse in his DNA. That’s some cold-blooded shit.
Lesson: If someone says he just doesn’t give a fuck, he may just not give a fuck.
7. Ramo in Beat Street
Beat Street may be the quintessential mainstream film for B-Boys in Hip-Hop history. Although Jon Chardiet’s Ramon (or “Ramo”) isn’t the central character within the film, he may be the best-remembered: he speaks to any kid who’s ever struggled when balancing his or her passion for their art with the pressures of life. He even did what some tend to do at times and conform to the blue-collar mentality of their elders, but the allure of bombing was so strong, along with his territorial pride, that he couldn’t resist, ending in that ill-fated tussle with Spit on the train tracks.
The Notorious B.I.G. even payed homage to Ramo on “Suicidal Thoughts,” further immortalizing Ramo in the hearts and minds of Hip-Hop fans worldwide. But props to Ramo for snatching that tape like a true G.
Lesson Learned: Stay away from that third rail, kids.
6. Cleo in Set It Off
The most gangster of women, Set It Off‘s Cleo was a criminal mastermind, spearheading one of the most legendary sprees of stickups in the history of cinema. Quick to pull a robbery with no f*cks given, she was America’s worst nightmare: black and butch with cornrows and semi-automatic guns. But when sh*t hit the fan, she found herself face to face with a platoon of L.A.’s finest, with nowhere to go but the pen or the grave.
True to her gangster credo, she went out in an unforgettable blaze of glory, all the while making herself a beloved martyr to the urban film buff. Although the outcome was inevitable, there was a part of us that rooted for Chloe and her crew to ride off into the sunset with the Benjamins intact.
Lesson Learned: Cleo kept it realer than your favorite rapper.
5. Goldie’s Mom in The Mack
When you look up pimp on Wikipedia, a picture of a young Goldie accompanied by LuLu should pop up. The man who influenced players like Snoop was a charmer with the ladies, but the woman who held the top spot in his heart was his mom. After getting out of prison, he promised his mother a nice house and all the things sons wish to provide for their mothers, and gradually did just that.
After a beef with a pair of the crookedest cops this side of Alonzo from Training Day, his mother was fatally murdered because of his resistance to the pigs’ extortion. Going on a rampage that resulted in the legendary Pretty Tony’s demise, Goldie and his bro eventually got retribution, but the victory and getaway was bittersweet when all was said and done.
Lesson Learned: Fuck the police.
4. Carlito Brigante in Carlito’s Way
Before we came to know Hov as the ultimate hustler, there was Carlito Brigante. Although a merchant of death, there was something about Carlito that made you want to root for him, as he represented what the American Dream was all about: turning no money into dirty money, then flipping that into a legal-friendly lifestyle. However, his judgement of character is what ultimately did him in.
After a series of questionable moves and near escapes, Carlito was poised to flee to the Caribbean with his pregnant lady and a duffel full of pesos, but instead found himself staring down the barrel of Benny Blanco’s shiny revolver, with his right hand man Pachanga behind it all.
Lesson Learned: The coked up guy that wants your spot is probably not gonna let bygones be bygones after you throw him down a flight of stairs.
3. Radio Raheem in Do The Right Thing
“Love. Hate.” Though those two words have been around since lord knows when, but they were popularized via the four-finger rings of Radio Raheem. Brooklyn to the core, Raheem would stalk the blocks of Bed-Stuy with his boom-box, stopping only for a refill on batteries. But Raheem also stood for something, as evidenced by his and Bugging Out’s standoff with Sal over Sal’s lack of “color” on the walls of his pizza parlor.
What happened in the next few minutes is too much to put in words here, but it ended with Radio Raheem being depicted as yet another victim of police brutality in what was then a hot topic for the Black and Hispanic communities. On that hot summer day in August, all hell broke loose, making for one of the most memorable scenes in not just urban film, but film history as a whole.
Lesson Learned: Try any and all financing options so you can get an air conditioner.
2. Cochise in Cooley High
Cochise was the kind of dude every guy aspires to be: funny, good with the ladies and respected by the fellas. Not to mention having a full-ride scholarship to to play ball. Hell, he even knocked off his best friend’s girl before they did (not that we’re condoning this, just saying). Homie had it made. That is, until a seemingly harmless joyride transpired into that fateful meeting with Stone and Rob under the train tracks.
Accident murder or not, the scuffle rocked the lives of many, even impacting his best friend Preach enough to assess his own purpose in life after witnessing his friend get buried. And when the God MC* thinks enough of a character to namedrop him reverently, that says it all.
Lesson Learned: Try not to even look like snitches, unless you want stitches.
* – “A Million and One Questions” from Vol. 1. Even Jay-Z once envisioned his death to be similar to a beloved figure like Cochise.
1. Ricky in Boyz N Da Hood
In 1991, on a backstreet in South Central Los Angeles, one of the most traumatizing tragedies in urban cinema occurred. A fresh-faced Ricky Baker, on his way out of the gang-infested streets and potentially onto football greatness at USC, had his dream deferred by a double-barrel shotgun, held by the James Earl Ray of cinematic gunmen. Though he probably would’ve clocked a 4.05 40-yard dash during his run from death, it wasn’t fast enough.
We believe that Cam’ron summarized Ricky’s death best on “I Really Mean It”: “Best friend bloody, old lady sighing, wifey screaming, pissy lil’ baby crying. It’s fucked up, man, shit.” While Dough-Boy and company eventually got retribution, the moral victory was irrelevant, as the proverbial cycle continued.
Lesson Learned: Always run in a zig-zag. Always.