Reflecting on the legacy of Boyz N the Hood director, John Singleton

10 May 2019

The director, screenwriter and producer John Singleton died on 29 April, having been hospitalised following a stroke on 17 April. He passed away at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, surrounded by his family and friends. He was only 51 years old.

Although Singleton’s personal life was far from squeaky clean, SAE would like to reflect on his achievements as an artist in a tribute to his passing.

John Singleton was born in LA on 6 January 1968, the child of a mortgage broker and real estate agent, and a sales executive for a pharmaceutical company.

He attended Blair High School in Pasadena, California, and Pasadena City College. In 1986 he enrolled on the University of Southern California’s film writing course with three script ideas, one of which later became Boyz N the Hood (1991).

John Singleton was only 22 when he made Boyz N the Hood, a story of three friends growing up amongst the gang violence and drunk culture of South Central LA. The film took its title from a song by the rapper Ice Cube, who stars in the film, alongside Cuba Gooding Jr and Morris Chestnut.  

The film was nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay at the 64th Academy Awards. Although Singleton didn’t win, with the Oscar instead going to Jonathan Demme for Silence of the Lambs, the 24-year-old beat Orson Welles’ record as the youngest filmmaker to be nominated for the award. Singleton was also the first African American to be nominated for Best Director.

We spoke to Dino Jacovides, Digital Film Production lecturer at SAE London about Singleton’s legacy. He said:

“John Singleton was a driving a force and ambassador for African American cinema, his seminal work Boyz in the Hood, served as a new age of filmmaking, representing street life of the black American youth. He will be sorely missed as a driving force for change and perspective through the cinematic lens, not only for America but for western cinema as a whole.”

Ten years after the success of his debut, John Singleton returned to the LA neighbourhoods with Baby Boy (2001). This is a coming of age film that follows bicycle mechanic and father of two, Joseph ‘Jody’ Summers (Tyrese Gibson), who still lives with his mother and struggles with the increasing pressures of adult responsibility throughout the film.

John Singleton enjoyed further success with 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003), the second title in the well-known action franchise, The Fast and the Furious.

He has made great contributions to cinema, and his death is a tremendous loss to the filmmaking community.