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Hip Hop
Toback was inspired by the volatile subject matter of "Black and White" -- the combustible mix of actors and non-actors, the spontaneous nature of such a large, diverse cast, and the general sense that anything could happen when you film in the streets of New York. "It adds an air of authenticity that is impossible to fake," he says.

"It's urban New York, and it's real," says Kim Matulova, whose favorite scene was the conversation among the high school kids, Brooke Shields and Robert Downey Jr. in Central Park. "It was cold, it was late and we were in Central Park shooting until six a.m." she remembers. "But we were really putting our feelings into it, it felt so natural and real, all of us just talking freely about everything."

Authenticity also was an issue for New York natives Wu-Tang Clan. Method Man, Power, Raekwon (all of whom appear in the film), Inspectah Deck and other Wu-Tang members painted a mural in 1994 on a wall in Staten Island's Park Hill Projects. There's not a graffiti artist in town who would tag over this monument to hip-hop; however, the Wu intended to repaint the mural for its appearance in the film, but later decided against it. This artwork, first done to promote Wu-Tang's video "Can It Be All So Simple?" appears in the scene when Sam and Terry invite themselves to follow the rappers to "the wall."

Brett Ratner, who directed last year's huge hit "Rush Hour," appears as himself in front of the mural, in a scene where he must convince the black hip-hop artists to let him direct their music video despite the fact that he's white. "Hey, I'm white and I'm from Miami, but I love your music and I understand what you're about," he tells Rich Bower (Power) and Cigar (Raekwon).

"He's going to Hollywood-ize it for us," Rich explains to a skeptical Cigar.

Long before Lauryn Hill made the cover of Time and UPN aired the Source Hip Hop Music Awards, hip hop had arrived in the American consciousness as a powerful musical and cultural force, the voice of a generation. What started as a new musical style homegrown at Bronx street parties has evolved into a billion dollar industry -- with every company from Tommy Hilfiger to Coke clamoring to get on board.

"With hip hop, there's a real connection going on as never before in American history," says Toback. "All the other cultural art forms - even Jazz and R&B - nothing has approached the pervasive revolution that hip hop is affecting. It is an across the board influence."

As rapper Mos Def says, "When you were younger, man, you felt so isolated listening to hip hop like it didn't have any history. Now it's like the grandson, the child of all these different forms of music and style and expression. It's like I'm attached to something that was great before I even thought about it."

At the film's core is the spirit of this generation, be who you are and be unafraid. "The hip hop culture has room in its sensibility for other cultures," says Toback. "That was a real revelation to me." As Raekwon's character Cigar, comments, "Ain't nobody can control hip hop. You got your morals and your common sense. It's all about finding the talent in yourself. Don't be afraid."

It's a message that resonates across cultural lines. In fact, in 1998, 70% of hip hop albums were purchased by white consumers. And thanks<


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