John Singleton, 'Boyz N The Hood' Director, Dies At 51 After Suffering A Stroke The 1991 film earned him two Oscar nods and a spot in history as the youngest person and first African American ever nominated for best director. Singleton died in Los Angeles after a stroke.
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John Singleton, Pioneering Director Of 'Boyz N The Hood,' Dies At 51

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John Singleton, Pioneering Director Of 'Boyz N The Hood,' Dies At 51

John Singleton, Pioneering Director Of 'Boyz N The Hood,' Dies At 51

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Filmmaker John Singleton has died after suffering a stroke. He was 51 years old. Singleton wrote and directed the 1991 film "Boyz N The Hood," and he made history by becoming the youngest person and the first African American nominated for a best director Oscar.

NPR's Mandalit del Barco has this remembrance.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: John Singleton was just 23 years old and fresh out of film school when he made "Boyz N The Hood," an ode to the impoverished and notorious neighborhood where he grew up, South Central LA.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BOYZ N THE HOOD")

ICE CUBE: (As Doughboy) We got a problem here?

DEL BARCO: He showed South Central's young black men trying to make sense of the gang violence around them.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BOYZ N THE HOOD")

CUBE: (As Doughboy) That's why fools be getting shot all the time - trying to show how hard they is. Ignorant.

DEL BARCO: The film starred rapper Ice Cube as the character Doughboy, whose brother is gunned down...

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOT)

DEL BARCO: ...And a young Cuba Gooding Jr., who plays Doughboy's friend, Tre Styles.

The film showed audiences some of the conditions that would lead to the LA riots the following year.

When the movie came out, Singleton told NPR that, growing up in the hood, he was always afraid of getting shot and that joining street gangs was a rite of passage.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

JOHN SINGLETON: If you have the absence of a father, then people create their own rituals, and joining a gang is one of them.

DEL BARCO: Singleton was born in LA in 1968, the son of a pharmaceutical sales rep and a mortgage broker. Like his main character, his mother sent him to live with his father so he would stay out of trouble.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

SINGLETON: My father, you know, just did what he could do to set me straight and, you know, because there's only so far you can go, you know, with your mom. Moms will just, like, will rationalize with you - but pops will say, no, you do this because I said do this. You know? And a lot of my friends didn't have that.

DEL BARCO: Singleton urged other black fathers to man up.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

SINGLETON: Brothers have to be responsible for their children. That's all we're saying with this film - you know, that we have to, you know, nurture - especially our sons - you know, nurture them into manhood.

DEL BARCO: "Boyz N The Hood" depicted all of this and was a hit among critics and audiences. Singleton made Oscar history with his best director and screenplay nominations.

In a talk he gave at Loyola Marymount University in 2014, Singleton reminisced.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SINGLETON: "Boyz N The Hood" wasn't made for everybody. It was made for, like, a young black audience that buys hip-hop records. But I knew that if I got as universal as possible, it would cross over.

DEL BARCO: John Singleton went on to make other films. "Poetic Justice" starred rapper Tupac Shakur, whose biopic Singleton planned to make one day. It also starred singer Janet Jackson. Singleton directed a 1992 music video for her brother, Michael.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REMEMBER THE TIME")

MICHAEL JACKSON: (Vocalizing).

DEL BARCO: Singleton also directed the 2000 remake of "Shaft" with Samuel L. Jackson, and he produced the 2005 movie "Hustle & Flow." For television, Singleton directed episodes of "Empire" and "The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story." And Singleton co-created the series "Snowfall" for the FX network. In 2016, he told the Television Academy Foundation he was happy with his career.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SINGLETON: I've been in this business for over 26 years, and I haven't lost my soul (laughter).

DEL BARCO: But he never stopped challenging the industry to be more diverse.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SINGLETON: Everybody's so interested in black culture, but they ain't letting the black people tell the stories.

DEL BARCO: At least John Singleton got to tell some of his. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF GABRIELLE CHILLMARK'S "FOREST AIR")

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