Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
10/5/2004 5:06:32 AM
Tags and topics realted to this article include Ludacris, Redman, Method Man, Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg.
Rapper Ludacris is easily one of hip-hop's raunchiest artists. He's made millions with his rapid-fire raps about his favorite subject -- sex -- and earned a fair share of "Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics" stickers with such R-rated lyrics as, "I want a lady in the street but a freak in the bed."
Not exactly the kind of artist you'd expect to see featured in the PG-rated "Shark Tale," the new animated feature from DreamWorks that opened last Friday and features an A-list cast topped by Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and Renee Zellweger.
In addition to Ludacris, the soundtrack to "Shark Tale" features Eminem's foul-mouthed proteges, D12. Although hip-hop has long gained crossover status, its high-profile use in a family film represents the biggest splash yet in the effort to channel rap's coarser elements into the cultural mainstream.
Ludacris insists that cleaning up his act for "Shark Tale" is not watering down hip-hop's edginess. The rapper said the opportunity to alter his racy style into child-friendly fare is actually in keeping with hip-hop's creative spirit.
"It wasn't really a challenge at all," said Ludacris, who contributed "Gold Digger," the theme song for a femme fatale fish, seductively voiced by Angelina Jolie. "I'm very multifaceted. All I had to do was make a song without cursing. And it's still staying true to my audience because I'm branching out, reinventing myself. I don't have to do the same thing all the time."
"Shark Tale" floats its story about fish living and playing in a true sub-urban community -- think New York City, underwater -- and could be easily subtitled "Fishz N Da Sea." Smith is the voice of Oscar, a little fish who works the less-than-pleasant tongue duty at the local Whale Wash. Zellweger is Angel, an angelfish with a huge crush on the clueless Oscar. De Niro spoofs his many gangster roles as Don Lino, a great white shark who rules the reef with his mob crew. Other voices include Jack Black and Michael Imperioli of "The Sopranos."
The plot revolves around Oscar, who gets caught between a fin and a hard place when he tells a lie in an effort to gain respect from his fellow fishes. By the end of the film, he has learned a valuable lesson about honesty, life and love, while promoting unity among the fishes.
A validation of hip-hop
Several rap experts have already hailed "Shark Tale" both as a validation of hip-hop culture as well as a welcome shift from the celebration of more high-profile aspects of a universe that focuses on profanity, the mistreatment of women and material wealth.
"This is just further proof that, 25 years after `Rapper's Delight' by the Sugar Hill Gang, hip-hop culture has become American culture," said Kevin Powell, a hip-hop historian who appears frequently on cable channel VH1. "What was once seen as just a trend has now become part of the American fabric."
Casting "Shark Tale" in a hip-hop vein was a part of the film's development from its inception three years ago.
"Hip-hop is now a part of our culture and our world and clothing and our music, and I felt it presented an amazing opportunity to show that," said DreamWorks honcho and "Shark Tale" executive producer Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Crucial to establishing the film's hip credibility was Smith, who has evolved from his beginnings as a rapper to become one of Hollywood's biggest box-office stars.
Said Katzenberg: "He was also instrumental in convincing many of the artists that this would be a hip and a cool movie to do."
Wanting to establish authenticity and credibility, the film's music supervisors, Darren Higman and Laura Wasserman, said they contacted several harder-edged rap artists about contributing to the soundtrack.
D12, which usually raps about drugs and "ho's," was particularly pleased to be involved, Higman said. "They were really into it
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