The Most Unforgettable Scenes From ‘Belly’
Today marks the 15th anniversary of the hood classic Belly. The film was directed by celebrated video director Hype Williams and features a cast of hip-hop-related superstars including DMX, Nas, Method Man, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and singer/actor Taral Hicks. In the 15 years since Belly's release, the film has enjoyed a reputation as a cult classic amongst hip-hop fans and is celebrated for rapper DMX's magnetic lead performance as a crazed street criminal and Hype Williams' bugged-out visual style that was innovative as hell for 1998.
It is no secret that Belly is not exactly a great film, though. For all its visual flair, the film is rightfully criticized as having a hard-to-follow plot and often amateur-ish performances from many of the film's leads. Despite what the film might lack in story and performance, it makes up in the ability to capture a truly memorable scene that makes Belly easily one of the most entertaining "hood films" of all-time.
XXL is examining 8 of the film's most iconic scenes today in celebration of the film's 15 anniversary.
The Opening Robbery Sequence
Hype Williams' true gift as a director is his flair for visually-striking cinematography. No sequence in Belly better illustrates this than the virtuosic opening robbery sequence of the film. Hype bathes the scene in the neon blue glow of a seedy New York club that instantly gives the film a pulp edge that is perfect for the late 1990s. Set to the strains of Soul II Soul's "Back To Life (However Do You Want It"), Tommy, Sincere and the crew enter the club in cinematic slow-motion that feels in a way the indirect inspiration of a classic Chappelle Show skit. John Woo meets Puff Daddy.
Happening shortly after the robbery, the basement scene in the film gives the audience the first real glimpse of how unhinged DMX's character, Tommy, is in the film. After Black, an associate of the crew, bucks at the division of the money from last night's robbery, DMX attacks Black, forcing him to strip naked and wildly firing gunshots into the ground. It's a scene that feels crazed but instantly unforgettable by the sheer audacity of it.
DMX Wears A Wig
In one of the most supremely bizarre scenes in the movie, a sojourn in Jamaica turns violent and bloody. On orders of a Jamaican crime boss, DMX dons a dread wig and assassinates a mohawked rasta.
The Dinner Scene
The primary point of reference for DMX's performance as Tommy remains Tupac Shakur's legendary performance as Bishop in the 1992 film Juice. Tommy comes across as simultaneously charismatic and deeply deranged. DMX takes Tommy's nihilistic "Don't Give A Fuck" mantra to its logical extreme during the famous dinner scene. In this scene, Tommy sits at dinner in crowded, fancy restaurant with two of his junior partners in crime and subtly goads them into a bloody stand-off. After a man is shot dead in the restaurant in full-view of civilians, Tommy casually sits at the table sipping on his drink as the cops arrive.
Nas Drops Knowledge
Considering that Nas co-wrote the story of the film, it should come as little surprise that Nas' character of Sincere seems to be a thinly-veiled characterization of the rapper himself. The thoughtful Sincere shares Nas' passion for learning and African nationalism. In a scene that occurs late in the film, Nas has a soul-searching conversation with a pre-teen drug dealer while sitting on a project bench. Nas tells the kid that life does not have to be this way and to "rise above the madness."
"Africa Is Far!"
For reasons that are not entirely fleshed out in the film, Sincere decides that he's going to pack up his family and move to Africa as his plan to escape the criminal lifestyle. In a scene that does not exactly highlight Nas' chops as a thespian, Sincere delivers a monologue to his girlfriend Tionne (played by T-Boz) about wanting to go to Africa. Tionne's reaction to Nas' desires is classic in it's dumbfounded simplicity: "Africa is far."
DMX & The Minister
The climax of the film involves Tommy attempting to assassinate a Farrakhan-esque figure who is only referred to in the film as "The Minister". On New Year's Eve, DMX bursts into the Minister's chamber and prepares to shoot the leader in the head. Instead, the Minister deliver a monologue about black responsibility and the future of the country that convinces DMX not to kill the man.
DMX's Sex Scene
Arguably in the film's most famous scene, Keisha (Taral Hicks) confronts Tommy while he is in the shower about cheating on her. What proceeds is one of the wildest, most unbelievable scenes in cinema history. Keisha and Tommy enjoy wild make-up sex scored to the rhythmic sounds of African drums. What's striking about this scene - other than the graphic shots of DMX's naked body grinding on Taral Hicks - is that it even happened at all. In 1998, DMX was a gigantic star, having achieved the rare feat of having two multiplatinum albums in one year. Thus, it was beyond shocking to see a nude DMX be involved in a raw sex scene in a film. The sequence seems incredibly realistic to the point that the viewer is left wondering how "real" it all was.