"It's a slippery slope"
At first glance, Dope was seemded to project an amalgamation of urban SoCal coming of age films like The Wood, Poetic Justice & Boyz In The Hood. The intrigue for a low budget niche indie film was increased exponentially with the inclusion of new York rapper A$AP Rocky and executive credits to Forest Whitaker and megastar Pharrell Williams.
Most indie, coming of age films in recent memory are limited in scope. This is not the case with Dope. An ambitious social commentary, this Inglewood take touches on a multitude of current urban issues: inner city public education, gangs, narcotics, the one percent, prestige within the Ivy League, prejudice & the technology of the current black market. Ample doses of comedy within a story categorized as realism.
Malcolm is a versatile and bright young student who dissects 90s hip hop as thesis work for upper level courses or college acceptance essays. He has ambitions and credentials to enroll at Harvard University, an unlikely scenerio for a kid from a violent Inglewood neighborhood known as The Bottoms. There aren’t many limitations on Malcolm (Shameik Moore), nor his best friends- Jib and Diggy. The three do not fit a preconceived notion of what a modern urban youth is. They have a punk rock band (that sounds awful) and are into many hobbies not commonly associated with their demographic. This movie does not let the audience forget that fact that young African American men are not limited to the gangster rap influences the media portrays. The preachiness is this regard mars an otherwise fantastic film; the script stresses the 'Melting Pot' aspect of young black kids like Malcolm that prescribe to rather than the compartmentalized notion of a 'Mixed Salad' America.
NYC rapper A$AP Rocky’s role as charismatic drug dealer Dom undoubtedly secured more box office purchases. Not only was this a smart business decision, A$AP Rocky plays his part more than competently serve his role as the introduction into Malcolm’s parlay into the gan-ridden underbelly of society. However, what Malcolm learns about crookedness and influence shapes a worldview without the same inhibitions.