Sugar Hill (1994)

Rated R

Starring: Wesley Snipes, Michael Wright, Clarence Williams III and Theresa Randle

Rated: R    Drama/Thriller

Sugar Hill is the story of two brothers, RayNathan (DeVaughn Nixon as a teen and Michael Wright as an adult) and Romello (Dulé Hill) as a teen and Wesley Snipes as an adult) Skuggs, and their life, highly influenced by drugs, in Harlem.  Throughout the film, several flashbacks are featured which give further insight in the life of the Skuggs family, including of the death of Ella (Khandi Alexander), their mother, and the shooting of Arthur Romello a.k.a. “AR” (Clarence Williams III), their heroin-addicted, musician father.  Although RayNathan is the oldest, he is often irrational and irresponsible, leaving Romello to be the voice of logic and sole bearer of responsibility.

That responsibility leads Romello to want to quit selling drugs for Gus Molino (Abe Vigoda) and lead a quiet life with his new lady friend, Melissa (Theresa Randle), far away from Harlem.  Romello’s accompanying proposal and plan to leave the drug game and move down South is opposed by Gus for economic reasons, but by RayNathan for personal reasons.  Will he be able to leave the deadly game and if so, at what costs?  Who all involved will have to pay and what really is the price of freedom?  You must tune in and see how it turns out for all, especially Romello!

Sugar Hill is considered to be the third of a Harlem “trilogy” (New Jack City opened in 1991 and Above the Rim, was released also in 1994) by writer, producer and director, Barry Michael Cooper.  Sugar Hill was not received well by several critics but immediately gained a cult following and as Michael Gonzalez wrote in Stop Smiling, the influence Cooper has had on hip-hop culture can be heard in lyrics, ranging from Jay-Z and Nas as well as seen in the lyrics and style of Notorious B.I.G. and Sean “Puffy” Combs.

A soundtrack, was released to accompany the film. While it contained hip-hop tracks by artists such as AfroPlane and Snoman, it also contained tracks by R&B diva Chaka Khan and legendary jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard.  Two of the tracks, “Gonna Love You Right” by After 7 and “Play My Funk” by Simple E were highly ranked on the R&B charts of Billboard.

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