In his brief two decades of life, Brooklyn’s Pop Smoke already had the makings of a rap legend until his time was tragically cut short. And in the tradition of other legendary rappers before him, like Nas‘ Sincere in Belly or the fiery role of Bishop as played by Tupac in Juice, we can soon catch a glimpse of what Smoke’s acting chops could have been when we see him make his posthumous cinematic debut in Eddie Huang’s Boogie.
Huang’s directorial debut is the coming-of-age story Alfred “Boogie” Chin, a Chinese-American teenager from Queens, New York who has dreams of making it to the NBA but is navigating his way through racial self-identity, cultural expectations, and adolescent love to find himself. Smoke plays Chin’s basketball rival in the movie, Monk. Huang heaped on the praise for the depth Smoke brought to the role, and he spoke about all the love Smoke received from the fans during filming.
“He gave me a thousand percent. They were tough 16-hour days, overnights, and he shot five overnights in a row,” Huang told the New York Times of the lyricist. “Kids were coming on the bridge to watch us shoot the scenes. We would play Pop’s record. All our actors, the extras, the kids on the bridge watching us shoot scenes, everyone was doing the Woo dance. It was pretty special.”
“This has been the same story I’ve [long] been trying to tell whether it was like selling sandwiches or writing Fresh Off the Boat,” Huang shared in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. But he has also remained thoughtful about not alienating moviegoers and retaining the universality of the story. “I’ve been very careful with everyone to not present it as an Asian American film. I am Asian American, that is what I represent. That’s what I come from. But I’m very much into the intersection of all our experiences. And to me, this is an intersectional immigrant story. This is for all immigrants in America.”
Boogie is scheduled for release on March 5.