Less than fourteen days after John Singleton suffered a massive stroke, the trailblazing movie producer has died on in Los Angeles at the age of 51. The director, who made history with 1991’s Boyz n the Hood as the most youthful individual and first African American ever nominated for a best chief Oscar, died Monday at Cedars-Sinai Hospital after his family took him off life support.
“This was an agonizing decision, one that our family made, over a number of days, with the careful counsel of John’s doctors,” the family said in a statement released to NPR, adding that he “passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family and friends.”
“John Singleton is a prolific, ground-breaking director,” they said, “who changed the game and opened doors in Hollywood, a world that was just a few miles away, yet worlds away, from the neighborhood in which he grew up.”
Singleton squandered brief time leaving his blemish on the film industry. At only 23 years of age, fresh out of the University of Southern California’s film school, the youthful movie producer propelled into the undertaking that would turn into his signature achievement: Boyz n the Hood.
The film was a tribute to the area where he grew up, South Central LA, a zone famous for its unavoidable destitution and group savagery. The film’s stars ponder that environment onscreen, attempting to understand the network pressures that catalyzed the mobs that ejected in LA the following year.
Among those characters is Doughboy, played by rapper Ice Cube. Doughboy’s relative is gunned down — a destiny that Singleton himself dreaded while growing up, as he told NPR around the time the film was released.
Yet, Singleton, the child of a pharmaceutical deals rep and a mortgage broker, likewise clarified that he most likely imparted more in like common with Tre Styles — played by a young Cuba Gooding Jr. Like the character, his mother sent him to live with his father to keep him out of trouble.
“My father, you know, just did what he could do to set me straight, and you know, because it’s only so far you can go, you know, with your mom. Moms just like will rationalize what she [asks] — but Pops will say, ‘No, you do this because I said do this,’ you know?” he said in 1991. “And a lot of my friends didn’t have that.”
What they had rather, Singleton included, was a model rooted in the hopelessness of life in the ‘hood.
“It’s like: ‘My brother went to jail. My daddy went to jail. I know I’m going to go to jail.’ You know what I’m saying? That’s the mentality,” he said. “It’s like it’s a given. It’s like there’s no future.”
The movie earned him Oscar gestures for director and screenplay. Singleton was the primary African American to be nominated for directing, and at just 24, he was the youngest nominee in that category’s history — a record that stands today.
In 2002, over 10 years after the film’s release, Singleton thought about the earnestness of his venture — and how that contrasted from a portion of the imitators conceived of its success.
“If you see the films I make and if they are in an urban setting, I basically have an agenda to not only entertain, but for you to feel something and to say something. Because this is where I’m from, you know what I mean?” he explained. “I’m making you feel something for this environment. I’m not exploiting it.”
His seminal first film was far from his last.
Among different movies, Singleton proceeded to direct 1993’s Poetic Justice, featuring Janet Jackson and a 22-year-old Tupac Shakur, and the 2000 blockbuster remake of Shaft. More recently, he shifted his attention to the small screen, directing episodes of Empire and The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. He also co-created Snowfall, an FX drama about the crack cocaine epidemic that returned Singleton to his roots in South Central LA.
All through, he kept on provoking the film business to recount to the sorts of stories — and see the kinds of faces — he never had the chance to see when he was a film student. And he didn’t forget to enjoy himself while he was at it.
“I’ve been in this business for over 26 years, and I haven’t lost my soul.” Singleton told the Television Academy Foundation in 2016. “There are a whole lot of people who are very, very successful that they don’t even know which way is up anymore, right? And I feel really cool that I’ve had my highs and my lows and stuff — and I’m happy, you know what I mean?”