'Carmen: A Hip Hopera': 11 Facts Worth Remembering About Beyoncé's Major Acting Debut
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Nostalgia , Television

'Carmen: A Hip Hopera': 11 Facts Worth Remembering About Beyoncé's Major Acting Debut

The world’s first successful hip-hop and R&B musical shall never be forgotten.

2019 marks the 18th anniversary of the oft-forgotten musical special, Carmen: A Hip Hopera, which the world has to thank for Beyoncé Knowles’ major acting debut and her first performance in a film. The 2001 made-for-tv romance starred the Destiny’s Child frontwoman alongside Mekhi Phifer (Paid In Full, Soul Food).

Infusing R&B and rap, the TV-to-DVD film was directed by Robert Townsend, known for cult classics such as B.A.P.S. and The Five Heartbeats. With a star-studded cast, now embarrassing 2000 fashion trends and music straight out of a Spanish-to-English musical telenovela, it stole the hearts of young Black millennials.

The modern interpretation of the film was loosely based off of the 1954 drama and romance film, starring Hollywood icons Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte. Marketed as a “timeless story told through rhyme,” this Hollyhood favorite, written by Michael Elliot and produced by MTV, premiered on the network May 8, 2001, before becoming the first widely-released musical of its genre.

Now that the movie has reached its year of legal maturity, it’s only right that we take a step back and discuss it from an adult perspective. The theatrics were aplenty, plot twists astounding and green screens cheesy, but the film was full of drama and entertainment.

Note: Spoilers are not a thing when the movie is old enough to have its own McDonalds money.

Here are 11 facts we all forgot about Beyoncé’s acting debut film, Carmen: A Hip Hopera.

1. Da Brat narrated the whole thing wearing a rhinestone-studded durag and an extremely baggy two-piece jean set.

 

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Photo: New Line Television

Da Brat led the intro and the outro of the movie. It wasn’t necessarily her most memorable moment but it was certainly a fashion statement. Androgyny is not new but this particular look shall not be repeated (we beg of you).

 

2. Let’s end the speculation: Carmen “my looks are killin’ you” Brown was a homewrecker!

hiphopera Photo: New Line Television

That fact may have flown over our heads at the time but it is clear as day now. Carmen (Beyoncé’s character) is an undeniable siren! This is most exemplified when she walks into a bar and epically disses Lieutenant Miller (Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def) and his sidekick Nathaniel (Sam Sarpong) to flirt with an obviously taken man at the movie’s start.

“And I got a mind, too / I wouldn’t bless you / if your first name was ‘Ha-choo’ / on a Sunday singing gospel,” she sings while pushing up on an engaged man standing directly next to his woman.

Before the scene’s end, Carmen is arrested for fighting with another woman over a man she doesn’t even want but couldn’t resist teasing. Of course, the rest of the movie did its best to convince us the seductress was wholesome but like Maya Angelou taught us, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

 

 

3. 19-year-old Beyonce floated on each song and proved she could hold her own in rap.

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Photo: New Line Television

Well before Queen Bey went solo and dominated the game, her rap career (yes, she has a rap career) began with a “subpar” review. Written by Sekani Williams and produced by Kip Collins, the opera’s songs went overly relatively well with the intended audience (given that it was for MTV and not theaters) but were reviewed negatively by major news publications. The songs were far from hit records on the radio but, to this day, are enjoyable to sing and watch. There are still many musical gems to be explored here, Mos Def and Beyonce were in the cast, for goodness sake! Not to mention, the leading lady went from “merely speak[ing] over the beats” to becoming a lyrical beast on songs like “Mi Gente Remix.” Here’s to humble beginnings!

 

4. Sgt. Derek Hill was trifling.

Photo: New Line Television

In case your memory deceives you, the movie really gets rolling in the bar scene when Hill (Mekhi Phifer) is introduced to the audience as a man deeply in love with his long-time partner and fiancé Micaëla. “Caela” (Reagan Gomez-Preston) is a cocktail waitress at the lounge. Their relationship drama unfolds after Carmen fails to seduce him from his honey--in front of her! (Somebody cue the Lion from Wizard of Oz because she had the nerve!) Caela eventually reveals that her only fear is that she’ll end up a widow: “Cop found slain/ that kind of pain / lasts forever,” she sings. Poor thing.

5. Everything that led to Hill’s downfall began the moment he met Carmen.

Photo: New Line Television

How can you be in love with someone who jeopardizes your reputation, your career and your freedom for their own self-gain? #QTBA (questions to be answered). After the bar’s owner decided to press charges against Carmen for disturbing the peace, Lt. Miller arrests Carmen and forces Hill to take her in for booking. As the story goes, she coaxes the lustful man to take her back to her place where she entices him with a night he literally never recovers from. Not only is he found half-naked on Carmen’s couch and exposed as a cheater in front of his fiancé the next morning, but he’s also demoted from his position as a sergeant and thrown in jail for disobeying his duties as a cop.

6. Lt. Miller is a crooked cop with an agenda but he’s the smartest one in the movie until his ego drove him mad.

Photo: New Line Television

Miller may have been toxic for the community but his character is one fans love to hate. The villain, who honestly shared the most honest opinions about Hill and Carmen’s ridiculous love affair, was also the most exciting aspect of the script with his hilarious wittiness and sharp-shooter pettiness. We shall never forget, he has one of the most memorable scenes in the movie the day after arresting Hill at Carmen’s home. The macho interaction caused the newly enchanted madman to flee Philly altogether (with a warrant out for his arrest, mind you) after hitting his superior for calling Carmen a “silly h*e.” Yikes... It’s worth watching for the full effect.

“I see you’re slick with the words now / Gassed ‘cause you got a chick with some curves now.”

 

 

7. Four-foot-eleven Lil’ Bow Wow was thrown into the same jail cell as grown men.

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Photo: New Line Television

Months prior to the movie’s release, the 14-year-old Snoop Dogg mentee released his debut album, Beware Of Dog, which eventually went double platinum (don’t sleep). The pubescent rapper jumps on the scene as Jalil, an unsuspecting accomplice to a carjacker played by Tracy Morgan. After the melee ends with a police chase, the young street rat is framed by Lt. Miller and ends up behind bars alongside Hill, a drug dealer named “Pockets” played by his So So Def label CEO Jermaine Dupri and a gang of men who clearly outdated the artist’s birthday by at least 10 years each.

Bow Wow was even the first to throw hands during a scuffle in the prison yard and for some reason, how did none of us questioned the absurdity of it all

 

8. Cheap green screens, Microsoft word art and chic fashions made entirely out of denim were the epitome of the early 2000s.

Photo: New Line Television

Before Carmen manipulated her cop-turned-fugitive hubby into ruining his life for a rat-infested motel in Los Angeles, she played sweet and innocent with her two homegirls Nikki (Joy Bryant) and Rasheeda (Rah Digga) first. In an attempt to persuade Carmen to join them, they sang and danced about their future life in the City of Angels and inundated the audience with cheesy background visuals, low-rider jeans and the never-ending rhinestones trend that just seemed to never die soon enough. Good stuff.

 

9. Carmen ruined a man’s life then abandoned him. Goals?

Honestly, I am somewhat inclined to champion Carmen's form of self-love but, sis was just as toxic as her obsessed man. She certainly didn’t force Hill to leave his partner and skip town with her although she did encourage it. And yet, the game is the game. The young adult character saw the lavish life her friends were living with their rapper friend Blaze (Casey Lee), who just so happened to have a crush on her, and was ready to cash in as soon as possible. After a rough few weeks of living in a slump and being passed over during auditions, the hopeful actress decided she no longer wanted a man who couldn’t provide for her despite it literally being her fault that he couldn’t. But what are facts to an opportunist? Cheers, ya both played yourselves!

10. Wyclef Jean was more convincible than Miss Cleo as a fortune teller.

Photo: New Line Television

Donned in a purple turban with a matching dashiki, Wyclef Jean performs the most epic song of them all in the “Cards Never Lie” scene. Carmen and her posse of two venture into his mystical storefront to hear about their great fortune but the good day comes to an abrupt end when the tarot reader decides to pass on telling the money-driven lead her fate. “Ain’t no house in Malibu,” he says seconds prior to breaking out in song. The struggling artist then grabs his cards without permission (yet another mistake) and proceeds to find that she’s scheduled for death. Watch the sizzling drama below.

“If you have a dream you need to go and let him know it / ‘Cause you could wake up in the morning and it could be over.”

 

 

11. Hill basically died because his so-called best friend, Porter, is a snitch.

Screen Shot 2019-05-13 at 9.55.01 PM Photo: New Line Television

It’s not easy to recall all of the small mistakes each individual made that led to the movie’s final scene, but the truth is that none of it would have gone down if Porter hadn’t snitched on Hill. The former cop confided in his trusted friend that he would be at Blaze’s show that night to win Carmen back and he went and told his number-one enemy. After surviving Blaze’s horrible songs, (yes, I must admit, these were terrible), Miller shoots and erroneously kills Carmen. Then, Hill follows and fights Miller before mistakenly pushing him off the balcony. We can only assume that the narcissist decision-maker served time for both deaths. (Somebody cue the malt liquor.)

All in all, the movie remains a classic. Besides the reminder that we all need to forgive and forget about the early 2000 fashions, it just goes to show that you don’t have to receive rave reviews to create impactful art. Carmen Brown: there will be none other. And your fave could never.

READ MORE:

The Other Black 'Carmen' Film You've Probably Never Seen...

'Homecoming': Beyoncé Crafts A Cinematic Love Letter To Black People And HBCUs For Netflix [REVIEW]

 

Photo: New Line Television