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There’s consequence to your actions. We may never truly realize it sometimes whenever we say things or decide to live in the moment, but there’s an effect on what we do. At all of 25 years, I’ve seen and done things that in hindsight were stupid, dumb and either put me ahead or behind the proverbial eightball. Certain things just stick with you, no matter how hard you may try to shake them off. I know a few of my cousins who’ve made err in their decisions yet none of them really taught me anything. Not like Caine Lawson did, anyway.

As a child of the late 80s, there’s a trio of films that bended on the hyperrealism of urban America especially out in South Central, Los Angeles that raised us and made more rappers emulate, discuss or include in their own albums or lives. Some chose Boyz N The Hood since it was the first and plenty drew ties to Ice Cube from N.W.A and others side with Menace II Society due to the fact that, in the end, it didn’t have a happy ending like Boyz sort of did. Instead, we see Caine get to second guess his decisions in life after he and his innocent friend Sharif were murdered outside of his girlfriend’s house.

“My grandpa asked me one time if I care whether I live or die. Yeah, I do. Now it’s too late.”

The legacy of Menace circles around how larger than life some of the film’s characters seemed. The film was mostly about Caine but it was almost as if he played background to Larenz Tate’s O-Dog who, by and large, could be the life inspiration for Chief Keef right down to the dreads, but that would be a stretch by any definition of the word. O-Dog was described by his best friend as “America’s worst nightmare” and for many, it’s the same kind of lifestyle: unflinching, wide-eyed and unafraid of anything walking. He’s cold, he’s callous and much like life, becomes a wandering figure whose moral compass gets snatched from him.

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The lesson of Menace always gets wrapped up in its characters, about how even with multiple chances, fate may lead down the same path. Like I said earlier, my aunts & uncles could only warn me so much about what happened with my cousins and how they messed up or succeeded. It became one of those movies that, the moment it appears on TV, you quote it. You wait for Bill Duke to determine the moment Caine slipped during interrogation and wince when you see what happens to Harold at the stop light. Such images have become so interwoven into the consciousness of anybody who’s seen the flick more than once, that it’s almost second nature to start quoting the entire movie.

It’s why knowing people who are going through things that you may not really understand, may get to you. You just cherish what you have and hope for the best everywhere else. Same for my best friend who, after years of being a good friend and pillar of advice, got the best news of his life last year when he was cleared for a liver transplant that he got on New Years Eve. He still struggles at times, as I would expect anyone who literally stared death in the face and came close to fully letting it go, trying to get back into a comfort period; but he’s still fighting everyday. I think that’s what Caine was trying to do and escape, but one bad deed overrode everything he wanted to achieve later.

My best friend – who I will always call my brother due to a variety of different circumstances – got his second chance to bless everybody. and all it does is remind me of two of my favorite songs in the past two years: Gee Watts’ “Angels In The Hood” and BJ The Chicago Kid’s “His Pain.” One rattles on much like Caine’s trek through life in Watts and couldn’t possibly see a way out, just hoping that whatever goes on in the hood will shine through the dark. The latter digs deep into dirt and wondering what good can come of previous bad actions, even those we might feel are completely innocent. It’s more of a hymnal than song to me, a track I play in the gym every single time just to push me through.

That’s what Menace taught me … 20 years later, it still teaches about the matters of life, death and consequence.

Gee Watts – “Angels In The Hood”

BJ The Chicago Kid feat. Kendrick Lamar – “His Pain”

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