How Jeezy’s ‘Soul Survivor’ Proves ‘Paid in Full’ is the Greatest Movie of All Time
When it comes to cinematic visuals, hip-hop creatives usually turn to gangster films like Scarface and The Godfather for inspiration, but for Young Jeezy’s “Soul Survivor,” acclaimed film and music video director Benny Boom turned to the 2002 Harlem cult classic Paid in Full for inspiration. The video played a large part helping the single become a Billboard hit (peaking at No. 4), but what took place behind the scenes, was an experience where life almost imitated art.
While the film, which starred Cam'ron, Mekhi Phifer and Wood Harris is a coming-of-age drama based on the Harlem's drug scene in the '80s, the video was a present-day 2005 rendition, with the who's who of hip-hop showing up on set. “The day was just crazy. We started early. It was shot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.” Boom told Complex in 2015. “Jay-Z was running the label at the time, and it was a priority. Jay-Z showed up to the set, and he was there for most of the day. Everybody who was anybody showed up to that shoot.” The shoot drew cameos from everyone from Cam’ron to Fabolous, DJ Clue and Lil Wayne, to name a few. One of the key attendees was Jeezy's close friend, Demetrius Edward Flenory, better known as Big Meech, a notorious gangster from the Black Mafia Family who showed up on the set with two Maybachs, blocking Hov’s own Maybach as though to stamp his authority on the set.
The result was a glossy product that was nowhere the gritty street aesthetic of the original film, but it still played on classic moments from the movie with Jeezy taking on the role of Ace Boogie, who was initially portrayed by Wood Harris. “The thing about Paid in full is that’s the story you know without reading the script if you’re from Harlem,” Cam’ron said in an interview with Hip Hop Motivation. “I basically wanted the part so bad that when I came to the audition to do the reading of the script, I had a real gun on me.”
Cam claims he was only paid $8,500 for the movie and Damon Dash thew hands on Harvey Weinstein. “No disrespecting the ladies, word from my team. That’s the reason Dame smacked Harvey Weinstein. On the set of Paid in Full, y’all gave him hell about it. Some foul shit happened once, Capo, tell ‘em about it.” The film was produced by Harvey’s brother, Bob Weinstein for Division Films, and Harvey refused to release the film, as Dash explained in his 2002 interview with The New York Times. Dash had also claimed —in a separate interview —that Cam’ron was shot in real life for playing the film’s antagonist Rico. “The movie was real,” Dash said. “I guess because the person he was playing was too close to home. I guess. That’s one of the theories. That’s how serious it was. Even though the story wasn’t true, the fact that it was inspired by — people really still took it seriously.”
What went on behind the scenes of the film made the project stand out as a hood classic. The frustrations, anger and passion put into making the project is why it’s one of the best gangster films of all time. Giving all of the drug references on Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101 (Jeezy said he won Trapper of the Year four times in a row), it was a no-brainer that the Atlanta rapper used Paid in Full as the storyline for the "Soul Survivor" video. However it leads us to wonder, is the reason why Jeezy used Paid in Full for the video is that it reminds him of his former lifestyle where he reportedly received a lifetime supply of baking soda and clientele?
Watch Jeezy's "Soul Survivor."