On Nov. 2, 2018, Bohemian Rhapsody, the biopic about the group Queen, but mostly about the Freddie Mercury, hits theaters nationwide. I can’t wait because I’m a fan of the group and Mercury in particular, and I generally love music biopics and biographies. I always look forward to finding out things that I didn’t know. Hell, it’s the entire reason that I read Bobby Brown’s memoir, Every Little Step: My Story, where he famously talks about cocaine fried chicken, sleeping with ghosts and his beef with the Houston family.
Now I realize that every biopic isn’t good. For every Ray, What’s Love Got to Do With It or The New Edition Story, you have that shit Lifetime did with Aaliyah, or La Bamba or Nina, which I’m fairly sure many of us had no idea it was ever actually released. But despite the potential for shit, there are lots of artists, especially black artists, I’d love to get the biopic treatment. Bobby Brown is on deck, and we talked about Jodeci last year, but here are 10 other artists I’d love to see get the theatrical, either big or small screen, treatment.
1. Donny Hathaway
Donny is not only one of my favorite artists of all time, but is easily my favorite singer ever. He left an indelible mark on music, though his catalog is pretty small, compared to his contemporaries. Donny’s fingerprints are all over Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, Roberta Flack, etc. He’s associated with legends while largely being a legend we only truly, actively, think about during Christmastime because we can’t get away from his definitive version of “This Christmas.” His life story, down to his time spent at Howard University and working with Curtis Mayfield or Chess Records to his untimely death in 1979, is ripe for the big screen.
2. Phyllis Hyman
Another otherworldly talent who met an unfortunate and untimely demise. One of my favorite singers, Hyman had career that makes it perfect for the big screen. She dealt with a lot of personal struggles, despite the respect she received from all of her peers. Maybe this one is just personal, but I really think Hyman’s story needs more telling.
3. Marvin Gaye
Why this doesn’t exist is beyond me. There have been several starts and stops and Dr. Dre is supposed to be bringing a Marvin Gaye biopic to life. Of all the artists that we hold in such high regard in the black community, the lack of a true Marvin Gaye biopic is the most surprising. His life story, particularly surrounding his family—and we all know how that ended—is fascinating beyond measure. This is an artist who created one of the top five greatest albums of all time (arguably the greatest) with What’s Going On? and we don’t have a proper biopic?
4. Public Enemy
Any group that features Chuck D alongside Flavor Flav, and which had a Minister of Information—Professor Griff—with production from one of the best collectives of all time, the Bomb Squad, needs a biopic. It just does. Especially when you consider all of the controversies and where Flavor landed in the reality television world. I want to see that story dammit.
5. Sam Cooke
To know soul music is to know Sam Cooke. To know Sam Cooke is to know the tragic ending of Sam Cooke. Allegedly, a biopic about his murder is in the works, which I imagine would include his whole life story. But it’s been in the works for a while. We need this quick, fast and in a hurry.
6. MC Hammer
The stories about MC Hammer are way more legendary than even the music he created, which was popcorn rap, hence why so many people hated his ascent, though he had some real bangers. Real hip-hoppers didn’t fuck with Hammer. Until they found out the hard way what that really looked like. MC Serch, to this day, doesn’t fuck with MC Hammer because of the alleged hit Hammer put out on his life in Los Angeles. Redman also has interesting stories about how real Hammer was back in the day, a persona that didn’t fit with the image he crafted that eventually made it to Saturday morning cartoons. The story of Stanley Burrell might need to get the movie treatment.
7. JJ Fad
The SoCal quintet turned duo was the first successful act on Ruthless Records and their song “Supersonic” still bangs to this day. But they largely fell to the wayside almost as soon as they hit it big. They were also not even mentioned in the story of Ruthless Records in the Hollywood blockbuster, Straight Outta Compton, a story all of the women associated with Ruthless share. But their story HAS to be epic considering who they were around at the time and considering the climate back then. Need. Want.
Legends. Their hip-hop story goes from the ’80s to the ’90s and beyond and I think that given everything we saw about Roxanne Shante in her Netflix biopic, I can only imagine the story of Cheryl and Sandy, and all of the people intertwined in their story, would be.
9. Quincy Jones
This one is easy: Just read his biography, Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones, and you’ll understand how if anybody needs a biopic, it’s Quincy Delight Jones Jr. That book came out in 2002. When you consider his shenanigans as of late, well, we need to see this whole story fried, dyed and laid to the side.
10. Betty Davis
I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that while Betty Davis is one of the more influential artists for black artists today, she was way ahead of her time. We often associate her with Miles Davis because of their brief marriage but lawd does she have so much more to offer the world of music. She’s credited with opening up Miles and inspiring him to go into new directions with his sound. Plus, if you add in the Jimi Hendrix storyline, then you have an explosion of personalities that make for great viewing. Let’s get on that.