Singleton brought black experience to the world

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John SingletonImage copyright
EPA

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John Singleton became the first African-American nominated for a best director Oscar

Stars from around the world of music, film and beyond have paid tribute to Oscar-nominated director John Singleton, who has died aged 51.

Singleton, best known for 1991’s Boyz N The Hood “passed away peacefully” after being removed from life support in Los Angeles, his family confirmed.

The filmmaker had been in intensive care following a stroke last week.

Janet Jackson praised Singleton for “all you have done for Black culture, women and young filmmakers”.

Jackson, who made the move from music to movies in Singleton’s 1993 film Poetic Justice, posted on Instagram: “You gave me my first movie role, my first Oscar nomination and so much more.

“I will miss you John. Keeping your family in my prayers.”

Chance the Rapper, pointed to one of Singleton’s memorable music videos for Jackson’s brother, Michael.

He wrote: “Rest up John Singleton. We never met, but Remember The Time literally changed my life. Thank you so much. God Bless you.”

Music producer Quincy Jones, added his condolences, posting on Twitter: “RIP to my dear brother, John Singleton. Gone far, far too soon…your storytelling & contributions to our culture will endure forever.”

Rapper-turned-actor, Ice Cube, who made his own acting debut in Singleton’s first film said “he loved [to] bring the black experience to the world.”

Busta Rhymes, who starred in Singleton’s remake of detective movie Shaft, described him as “one of my big brothers in this fraternity of the entertainment industry”.

“Gave me guidance,” he added, “believed in me, and when it came to film he saw greater potential in me that I saw in myself.”

Born in LA, Singleton was considered a trailblazer for African-American directors in the 1990s.

In 1992, he became the first African-American filmmaker to be nominated for the best director Oscar with his debut feature Boyz N The Hood.

Fresh out of college, he also became the youngest ever director to be nominated for the accolade.

He received a second nomination for best original screenplay for the film.

‘Agonising decision’

Early on Monday, the director’s family announced they had taken the “agonising decision” to remove him from life-support.

“We are grateful to his fans, friends and colleagues for the outpour of love and prayers during this incredibly difficult time,” they said.

“We want to thank all the doctors at Cedars Sinai for the impeccable care he received.”

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Getty Images

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Boyz N The Hood starred Ice Cube (left) and focused on inner-city violence in Los Angeles

Later, a spokesperson for the family confirmed the father-of-seven had died surrounded by friends and family.

In their statements, the family also took the opportunity to raise awareness around hypertension, or high blood pressure, in the African-American community.

They said the director had “silently struggled” with the condition, and urged people to familiarise themselves with symptoms.

‘A brave artist’

Filmmaker Jordan Peele, who is behind titles like Get Out and Us, was among those who reacted to the news of Singleton’s death.

“John was a brave artist and a true inspiration. His vision changed everything,” he said in a tweet.

Spike Lee posted a touching Instagram tribute to the late director, in which he recalled meeting him while he was a film student.

“With His Passion, His Heart, The Way He Talked About His Love For Cinema And Black Folks I Could See John Would Make It Happen, And He Did,” the post said.

Recent Best Actress Oscar-winner Regina King, who worked with Singleton on a number of films, shared an old photograph of the pair in her tribute.

Samuel L Jackson also paid tribute on Twitter, saying the 51-year-old had “gone way too soon”.

Breakout success

Singleton was born in 1968 and grew up in South Central Los Angeles. He told the Hollywood Reporter in 2014 his upbringing had made him “more of a fighter, more of a hustler, and it made me really appreciate life in a different way as a storyteller”.

After studying at a high school in Pasadena, Singleton went on to get a place at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Less than a month after graduation, he was making his formative Boyz N the Hood alongside producer Steve Nicolaides.

The film, partly inspired by his childhood, explored themes of youth and friendship with the backdrop of inner-city violence in Los Angeles.

The film was met with high-praise on its Cannes debut and went on to become a box-office success.

It offered breakout roles for actors including Angela Bassett, Nia Long and Cuba Gooding Jr. It also offered rapper Ice Cube his acting debut.

Outspoken critic

Alongside the Shaft remake in 2000, Singleton’s other credits include Higher Learning and the aforementioned Poetic Justice, starring Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur.

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Getty Images

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Singleton was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003

He also directed 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious and Michael Jackson’s video for Remember the Time.

More recently, he had focused on TV projects, directing episodes of Empire and American Crime Story, as well as acting as creator and executive producer on 2017’s Snowfall.

In interviews, Singleton has accused Hollywood of trying to “homogenise” black film-making.

“They want black people to be who they want them to be, as opposed to what they are. The black films now – so-called black films now – they’re great. They’re great films. But they’re just product,” he said in 2014.

“They’re not moving the bar forward creatively … when you try to make it homogenised, when you try to make it appeal to everybody, then you don’t have anything that’s special.”

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