“Broke n*gga turned rich/Love the game like Mitch…” – Meek Mill’s “Dreams & Nightmares (Intro)”
Sex, murder and mayhem, romance for the streets. Man, and let the streets tell ya. Paid In Full should’ve been a best seller. Instead, the movie – released 10 years ago today – has grown to become a modern-day classic in its own realm. The brainchild of Dame Dash and the execution of Wood Harris, Mekhi Phifer and Cam’ron – whose roles revolved moderately around the lives of Rich Porter, Alpo and Azie – Paid… was based off the real live war zone which was the Harlem underworld during the crack-cocaine tidal wave of the 1980s.
As with anything in life, especially over time, lessons are to be learned. Ace, Mitch and Rico’s rise, dominance and subsequent fall was a lesson in household economics. Money, power and respect are the keys to life – word to the pre-plastic surgery overall Lil Kim. But it also proved there’s no such thing as enough money, enough power and enough respect whenever greed ranks as the common denominator.
Over the next 10 slides, uncover 10 reasons Paid In Full continues to stand the test of time. And once you’re done, tell a friend to tell a friend. Remember, if the movie preaches nothing else, “Everybody eats.”
1. Ace, Mitch & Rico were the original “Big Three.”
Look at the Big Apple now. There’s Carmelo, Amar’e and Tyson setting up shop in Madison Square Garden. Then, there’s Deron, Joe and Brook in Brooklyn. Both trios are considered the toasts of a town hellbent on remaining in the spotlight. Too bad neither one holds a candle to the original big three Harlem birthed.
Ace was the brains. Mitch was the mouthpiece. Rico was the muscle. And there hasn’t been a fast break offense to hit NYC like this since.
2. It’s one of Roc-A-Fella’s greatest contributions to the culture ever.
Roc-A-Fella’s always going to be identified through the music it birthed during its reign. Reasonable Doubt, The Truth, College Dropout, Come Home With Me, From Me 2 U, Diplomatic Immunity 1, The Blueprint, Tough Luv. The only thing longer than the list of classic albums is the rumors still circulating as to why The Roc crumbled in the first place.
Having said that, Paid In Full earned its spot as at least a top seven release the label has ever been given credit for. Hell, there’s a strong argument for top five. And while he’s hit tough times over the years following the break up, slide some credit to Dame Dash for bringing this film to life, too. One of the greatest minds the rap game ever produced.
This bring us to our next point…
3. It’s become one of the most recognizable hood movies ever.
Not to be confused by the term “hood movie,” this was indeed a film based around the ins-and-outs of the ghetto, but done so in raw, yet quality cinematic fashion. Paid In Full is up there with your Boyz In The Hood’s, your Juice’s, your Menace II Society’s as well as your New Jack City’s. Really, name a hood flick, name its main characters and rest assured P.I.F. and Ace/Mitch/Rico can go toe-to-toe with the best.
4. Wood Harris’ hood pass is stamped with a lifetime seal.
As noted with Leon the other day, Wood Harris’ catalog is certified. Already credited with acting alongside Tupac in Above The Rim, a heavy-hitting role in Remember The Titans (literally) and, just this week, narrating by far one of the finest 30 For 30 films yet in Benji, Wood’s true legacy in Hollywood still probably won’t be appreciated on the grand scale until years down the road.
And check this, Harris not only had Paid In Full release in 2002. He also became Avon Barksdale in some series you may or may not heard of called The Wire which introduced itself to pop culture immortality earlier that summer, too. Pay homage.
5. There’s a case for Cam being Hip-Hop’s MVP in 2002.
Ok, true, Eminem was in the apex of his popularity. Nelly was Nelly. Jay-Z was still a superstar despite being unable to deliver a knockout blow to Nas (it helped he began dating one of the biggest R&B starlets on the map around the same time, too). That said, Cam’s resume during the very same year is one worth noting.
— Come Home With Me, which is seen by many as his best album ever, dropped. “Oh Boy” and “Hey Ma” were everywhere.
— The Diplomats movement was beginning to take steam. Diplomats Vols. 1-3 hit the streets in 2002, setting the stage for the bomb to explode with Diplomatic Immunity 1 a year later. Remember when The Dips main slogan was they were “the only movement moving”? Who do you think helped get that ball rolling in the right direction, putting people on? Rico did.
— Quite possibly the greatest Rap City freestyle ever happened.
— And he capped it all off with Paid In Full.
2002, whether admitted or not, was the year of the Diplomat.
6. You need to be getting it just like this every weekend.
7. Mitch’s “I love to hustle” soliloquy is the Gettysurg Address of hustling.
Whether it’s drugs, a 9-to-5, whatever, some people are put on this planet to hustle. The character Mitch was one of those people.
“But the allure of the game, keeps calling your name
To all the Lauras of the world, I feel your pain
To all the Christies in different cities and Tiffany Lanes
We all hustlers in love with the same thing…”
8. The slang was second to none.
From Rico’s “What’s poppin’, Kermie?!”, “Half these niggas wanna be the man just cuz!” and “Niggas get shot everyday, B.” to Noreaga’s brief, but hilarious scene, to LuLu’s time in the film, the entire movie is essentially one big quotable.
Ask 10 different people what they’re favorite line is, you’re liable to get 10 different answers.
9. Ice was the real life “Scar.”
Not since Scar killed Mufasa in The Lion King and damn near got away with having the empire to himself has there been such a dastardly uncle in a feature length film.
I’m getting choked up right now just thinking about how Ice had Sonny in that abandoned building chopping his fingers off and sending them in the mail as ransom bait.
10. Cam’ron definitely deserved some sort of award.
This is actually the most commonly agreed upon sentiment from the entire movie. With the exception of Pac’s time as “Bishop” has there ever been a live wire so ready to explode at a moment’s notice. Cam made everyone who has seen the movie ponder at least once “Is this mothaf*cka acting or is he for real?” Cam embodied Rico so well because Rico was Cam. He played himself.*
Just know if the Oscar’s ever invent the category “Best Supporting Actor In A Film We Missed Years Ago But We’ll Make Up For It Now,” Cam has to at least be one of the nominees. Because, really, who wouldn’t want to see a Cam’ron acceptance speech at the Oscars?
Furthermore, his role helped spawn one of Killa’s greatest lines from one of his and Just Blaze’s finest moments. And we’re all better people because of it. All hail Cameron Ezike Giles, American icon.
* – Again, credit Dame Dash for giving Cam the role of “Rico” when no one else believed it was the right decision.
Bonus: Revisiting point six, just because.