MOVING BEYOND THE BOUNDARIES:
HOW THE USE OF MUSIC
DEVELOPS JOHN SINGLETON’S
BOYZ N THE HOOD
John Singleton’s movie Boyz N The Hood is the story of three young men who are forced to deal with the reality of life in South Central, Los Angeles. Singleton uses this setting to illustrate the obstacles facing these young black men who unavoidably encounter violence all around them. Singleton refrains from portraying his characters as inner-city misfits but instead he characterizes them as average American teenagers who are caught in a situation in which they have no control. Doughboy is an average American teenager but his behavior is not that of an average teenager. It is a result of the influence from the society he has experienced. The music used throughout the movie allows the film to move beyond the boundaries of just telling a story. Through the use of music in the film Singleton is able to accentuate significant situations and display the contrast between characters. The use of music in Boyz N The Hood allows Singleton to thematically advance the film.
Singleton magnifies significant situations through the use of music. With each song, the choice of instruments and lyrics creates an emotional response by the viewer which gives the scene a new dimension. The main instrument in the movie is the wailing saxophone. When the saxophone is played it allows for the intensity of the scene to build to its climax. The saxophone is utilized in the scenes in which a person breaks into Furious’s house and when Ricky is shot. The saxophone is always present when violence is going to take place. The other type of instrumental music that is used is a soft, slow sound which creates a feeling of relaxation and tenderness. This type of music is used when Tre is receiving a lesson from one of his parents. The soft music played during these moments illustrates his parent’s loving nature and the concern they both have about his future. By utilizing this symbolic background music, Singleton expresses to the audience that the parent’s feelings are authentic. Many scenes are emphasized through the lyrics of the music. When Tre is in the car with his father the lyrics Things are gonna get easier can be heard in the background. These lyrics convey the message that things will get easier for Tre now that he’s living with his father and that his father has the opportunity to teach Tre how to become a man, which is what Tre’s mother anticipated. Singleton’s selective use of music enables him to empathize certain situations and add a new dimension to them.
The differences between characters is established through the diverse styles of music. The differences between each character is regarding age, lifestyle, and future aspirations. The music connected with Tre and his friends when they are young is soft instrumental music and soul music. Soft instrumental music and soul music displays the innocence of childhood and the potential for a child to be successful in life. Rap music is introduced when Tre and his friends mature seven years. The rap music is a sharp contrast to the music of their childhood. The lyrics of the rap music deal with drugs and violence. This is associated with the harsh reality of living in South Central, Los Angeles. The choice of lifestyle for the characters in Boyz N The Hood divides the characters into two distinct groups: upper and lower class. An example of this class distinction is demonstrated when Furious is on the phone with Tre’s mother. The music playing in the background for Furious is soul music, which is associated with blue-collar, lower class society. Whereas Tre’s mother has a piano playing in the background, which displays her place in upper class society. These two distinct styles of music illustrate how music separates the two different classes of people in Boyz N The Hood. The future aspirations of the teenagers in the movie further divides the characters. Tre and Ricky look to the future in search of a way to escape the violence in the hood and a way to create a better life for themselves. At the other end of the spectrum is Doughboy and his friends who live on the street and choose not to look to the future. When Tre and Ricky are writing the S.A.T’s, a soft instrumental is played which affirms the positive choices they have made and the hope for their future. The antithesis to this scene is later when Doughboy and his friends are on the porch drinking while in the background rap music is being played. The lyrics of the rap music describe drugs and violence. This demonstrates the path in life that these characters have chosen. Doughboy and his friends have chosen to neglect the inevitability of the future and instead waste their lives. They have been consumed by the violence and drugs of the society they live in and they don’t know how to escape this lifestyle. Singleton is able to present a different perception of each character to the viewer through the diverse styles of music that are used throughout the film.
In Boyz N The Hood John Singleton uses music to accentuate significant situations and to display the contrast present in each character. By using music in this context, Singleton enables the music itself to work as a vehicle for the film. Through the use of music Singleton is able to clearly develop each character and demonstrate apparent similarities and contrasts between characters. He enables the film to illustrate the problems that young black men face when they are surrounded by a society that doesn’t allow for them to live the life of the average teenager but instead confronts them with a life in which violence is everywhere they turn.
MOVING BEYOND THE BOUNDARIES: