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John Singleton, from a Fan's Perspective (by Jhantu Randall)

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It’s an odd thing to see those you looked to for inspiration suddenly start passing away at a relatively young age. In a small way, their deaths become a reminder of life for the rest of us.

John Singleton was born on January 6, 1968 in Los Angeles, California and was true to his hometown as it served as a backdrop for many of his movies. Son of Sheila Ward-Johnson, a pharmaceutical sales executive, and Danny Singleton, a real estate agent he grew up to attend Blair High School where he graduated and went to Pasadena City College. From there he went to USC School of Cinematic Arts where he graduated Kappa Alpha Psi in 1990. Initially enrolling to pursue computer science he was persuaded to try USC’s Filmic Writing program which was designed to take students directly into the Hollywood game.

He had always sited Steven Spielberg has a source of inspiration so following that playbook he began to work on his own film. His debut, Boyz n the Hood was released in 1991. The film starred Cuba Gooding Jr, Angela Bassett, Ice Cube and Laurence Fishburne and was a tale of growing up in Compton, which was a daring narrative for mainstream America at that time. The film was met with both critical and commercial success netting Singleton Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director. At only 24 he was the first African-American and youngest person ever to be nominated. As of 2002, Boyz n the Hood was placed in the Library of Congress as it has been deemed a classic that is “Culturally Significant.” From that film John Singleton went on to direct the Michael Jackson special FX driven video “Remember the Time” which featured Eddie Murphy, Iman, and Magic Johnson. His next 2 films Poetic Justice, starring Janet Jackson and 2pac Shakur and Higher Learning Starring Omar Epps, Tyra Banks, Ice Cube and Michael Rapaport were met with mixed reviews. Both held true to Singleton’s style of being unapologetically socially conscious and in my opinion led to Higher Learning feeling much more relevant to today's current climate.

His film Rosewood, a historical drama about racial violence that actually occurred in Rosewood, Florida and the movie Baby Boy, starring Tyrese Gibson, Snoop Dogg and Taraji P. Henson were both met with critical success move the commercial appeal didn’t really build. Moving to the independent route, Singleton was involved in 2 Fast 2 Furious which was the second installment in the Fast and Furious franchise introducing both Tyrese Gibson and Chris Ludacris Bridges to the cast. In 2005, he directed Hustle and Flow starring future Empire stars Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson. This film won the Academy Award for Best Original Song with 3-Six Mafia’s “It’s Hard out here for a Pimp.” Singleton was involved in directing a few episodes of Empire as well as American Crime Story and Billions but was garnering critical acclaim with SnowFall, a show in which he was a co-creator.

In 2003 John Singleton received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and for me as a fan that officially solidified his legacy in my mind. Not only was John Singleton a man who created stories in a way that I could relate, but it was his harsh tones that resonated with me and told me to pay closer attention to what he is putting on screen.

John Singleton suffered a stroke on April 17, 2019 while in Costa Rica. Upon returning it was reported that he was in a coma on April 25th and on April 29, 2019 John Daniel Singleton drew his last breath as he was pulled off of life support. Not only did he garner success on his own terms but he passed on the blueprint to so many that came after him and for that he will be remembered as one of the greats of the silver screen.

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