Apparently I’ve been having an emo few weeks or something. With that in mind, a few weeks back, I was surfing through the channels and saw that Boyz N The Hood was on. As is typical, I decided to watch from wherever it was in the movie. Like 99 percent of all Black people I know, I’ve seen this movie so many times I lost count two decades ago. I know the plot back and forth. I know what’s about to happen. I know when what’s about to happen happens and even Google mapped the South Central neighborhood to see what the houses look like now.
I still remember seeing it in a movie theater in (probably) Opelika, Alabama, in the summer of 1991 and spoiler alert – in case the name in the title didn’t immediately resonate since most of us probably don’t remember he and Darren aka Doughboy’s last name – I remember being in all of the 12 year old feelings I could muster when Ricky got shot. Even as a pre-teen, I knew that you had to zig and zag. Why didn’t Ricky zig and zag? Who the hell runs in a straight line trying to outrun a 12-gauge shotgun? And why was my man such a good aim? Fuck that dude, by the way.
Boyz N The Hood has maintained some sort of cultural relevance largely because of the death of Ricky, moreso than say Cochise (of Cooley High fame whose death still confuses the shit out of me; 50 took nine shots and Cochise died by hitting his head on a rail?), was senseless in every conceivable way. His death stemmed from a Black-as-fuck interaction possibly some days prior on Crenshaw when Ferris (a Blood who “can’t fight so he’s always looking for a reason to shoot somebody”) bumped into Ricky who was standing next to Doughboy’s car with Trey talking. Black male ego, pride, and I’m guessing South Central LA-ism took over and shit got bad fast, devolving into a situation where somebody got to die. Black pride has killed more Black men than cancer.
Luckily, nobody died that night. But on a fateful spring day, Ricky is sent to the store to get some cornmeal, walks outside, a sibling squabble erupts, and Ricky and Trey storm off down the street while Ricky’s test scores from the SAT come back, scores that we’d later find would qualify him for a football scholarship to USC, his dream. Ricky was going to make it out. Trey was already going somewhere (Morehouse) as was his girlfriend (Brandy).
[Quick point of note on movie timing: The infamous Crenshaw scene takes place on the same day as Trey and Ricky take the SAT, which is the same day that Trey fights the air which is apparently an aphrodisiac leading to the eventual loss of his virginity to Brandy. The NEXT DAMN DAY, his test scores are in the mail. Nope.]
We all know what happens. Ricky catches the ultimate L. A promising life mowed down on the unforgiving streets of South Central Los Angeles. A story that for too many wasn’t uncommon. Doughboy recites the famous “either they don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what goes on in the hood” the next morning after having executed revenge on Ferris and his boys, and as he walks back home disappears in the ether as the screen tells us that he too would be killed two weeks later completing a horrid cycle of motherless children left to try to live in the wake of senseless violence, Doughboy’s death one that while not okay seems to be the karmic result of a life lived on borrowed time anyway.
I know I just rehashed a plot everybody knows. And I know you could probably rewind those scenes in your head with vivid clarity. But for some reason, I’m STILL not over it. In February 2016, I wrote this:
“But do you want to know when I really shed some thug tears? It’s when Doughboy, Monster, and Dookie find Ferris and ‘nem at the burger spot and pull the drive by moves. And instead of driving off, Dough gets out of the car to look Ferris in the face and shoot him. The pain in Ice Cube’s face at that moment as he pulls the trigger really got to me. It looked like though he was about to kill this man, the pain he felt from losing his brother was so real he didn’t know what else to do in the world he lived. But it hurt me. I still cry. I watched it a few weeks ago and yep, still tears. I wanted to hug Doughboy and let him know it would be okay. Stanley Clarke’s saxophone blaring as “Black On Black Crime” plays doesn’t help either.”
Every. Damn. Time.
My girl saw me as I watched it and said, “you look like you’ve never seen this before…” as my eyes welled up and I thought about who Ricky could have become. It’s been roughly 26 years since Ricky died in 1991. And it’s a death that still rocks me every time I see it like the first time like I knew him. And he’s not even real.
RIP Rick. Gone too soon.