The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
Although it appeared earlier on, the Godfather was one of the first films to both romanticize mafia life and delve deep into the mafioso psyche. It set a standard and paved the way for future films that have had an even more direct influence on hip-hop, such as Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas and Abel Ferrara's King Of New York. The trilogy as a whole remains a point of reference in the rap game to this day.
Example: The album cover of Nas, Foxy Brown, AZ and Natures's 1997 group project The Firm was styled after the aesthetic of the film, both in font and imagery. Peep it in the gallery above.
There's also Tony Yayo's recent "Godfather Of The Ghetto" mixtape, which you can stream and/or DL below.
Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
Once again, this one needs little explanation. Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas is one of the most important mob flicks ever released, and it's loved in the hip-hop community and beyond. Although an ill-fated rags-to-riches story much like Scarface, Henry Hill's relentless drive for success remains an inspiration to this day. The fact that it's based on true events doesn't hurt either.
Example: Compton's Most Wanted's 1992 track "Def Wish II" samples some of Henry Hill's narrative reflections.
There's also Vado's September 2010 cut of the same name, which you can stream and/or download below.
Casino (Martin Scorsese, 1995)
Martin Scorsese has mob moviemaking down to a science, and we didn't think twice about including two of his films here. His adaption of author Nicholas Pileggi's novel* of the same name defined our perception of the gambling underworld. It's based on real-life handicapper Frank Rosenthal, who the Chicago Outfit hired to run the Hacienda, Fremont and Stardust casinos in Vegas for in the 70s and 80s.
De Niro's Sam Rothstein is a powerful gambling handicapper enlisted by the mob to run the fictional Tangiers Casino in Vegas, and Joe Pesci's Nicky Santoro is a ruthless enforcer who keeps the operation in check. Despite an ultimately negative outcome, power is the focus and the appeal is there, and many emcees compare themselves to both.
Casino also happens to be #5 on the list of films that use the word "fuck" the most.
"Waited for a while, though you was my right thing / Then things got frightening, peep the scene / Sort of like Sam Rothstein." -The Notorious B.I.G., 'Another'
"Niggas walkin' across the casino floor like Sam Rothstein / Striding like Goliath and we ain't sweatin' the small things." -Crooked I, 'Vegas On Biz'
*Pileggi also wrote 'Wiseguys', which inspired Goodfellas.
King Of New York (Abel Ferrara, 1990)
"If a nickel bag gets sold in the park, I want in."
With NYC being the birthplace of hip-hop, how could Abel Ferrara's King Of New York not have had an effect? Christopher Walken's Frank White is a charismatic but ruthless drug kingpin aiming for total control of the city, similar to how many emcees aim for dominance in their respective cities. He's an anti-hero, but a hero nonetheless, and his name continues to ring throughout the rap game.
Example: "The nigga Bigge Smalls tryna turn into the black Frank White."
-The Notorious B.I.G.
There's also Papoose's October 2011 mixtape of the same name, which you can stream and/or DL below.
Scarface (Brian De Palma, 1983)
"The world is yours."
This one speaks for itself. Brian De Palma's Scarface is possibly the most referenced film in all of hip-hop. Countless rappers name-drop Tony Montana and identify with his rags-to-riches story, and although the celebrated anti-hero meets a violent end, his ruthless ambition remains an inspiration.
Examples: Veteran Houston emcee Scarface (of the Geto Boys), Nas' "The World Is Yours" and samples in Raekwon's "Criminology".
And need we remind y'all of Future's "Tony Montana"?
A comprehensive list of 5 mob films that have become essential to the hip-hop culture.
The inspiration rappers draw from mob films can't be denied. Flicks such as The Godfather, King Of New York, Casino, Goodfellas and Scarface have helped shape the persona of many of your favorite emcees. Artists tend identify with characters that rise above all odds and prosper, in a criminal field or otherwise. Tony Montana, Frank White, Vito Corleone, Sam Rothstein - the list of "inspirational" characters is a long one.
Other than character inspiration, mob movie references appear constantly in rap lyrics, whether an artist is repainting a particular scene or comparing his or herself to a specific character. Also, sampling mob flick scores and dialogue has been a staple of hip-hop production since the early years.
Read on, and if you haven't seen all of these films, do so ASAP.
(Keep in mind, they appear in no particular order).
Sponsored by the upcoming crime lord flick "Force Of Execution" starring Steven Seagal, Ving Rhames and Danny Trejo, out for release December 17th.