Carmen: A Hip Hopera

From Academic Kids

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Carmen: A Hip Hopera is an MTV production from 2001 starring Beyoncé Knowles, Mos Def, Rah Digga, Wyclef Jean, Mekhi Phifer, Da Brat, Joy Bryant, Jermaine Dupri and Lil' Bow Wow, directed by Robert Townsend. It is based on Georges Bizet's opera, Carmen, but set in Philadelphia and Los Angeles in modern times.

Though it received some negative reviews (, fans of Beyoncé generally enjoyed the musical numbers.

Beyoncé plays Carmen Brown, a seductive, aspiring actress who causes trouble everywhere she goes. She gets involved with Phifer's character, Derek Hill, who is engaged to the cocktail waitress, Caela. At Lou's Bar, Carmen gets into a fight with a jealous woman. The crooked Lieutenant Miller, played by Mos Def, orders Hill to bring Carmen to jail. Carmen tries unsuccessfully to seduce Hill, but she convinces him to let her stop at her apartment to change clothes. There, she puts on lingerie and wins him over. He is caught in the morning by Lieutenant Miller, who brings Caela with him as he arrests Hill. She slaps him and tells him she hates him.

While in jail, Hill cannot stop thinking about Carmen. She writes him a letter, and he shares his obsession with cellmates Lil' Bow Wow and Jermaine Dupri. While Hill is in jail, Carmen meets the famous rapper Blaze at a nightclub, The Spot. He wants to bring her to Los Angeles, but succeeds only in bringing her best friends. Carmen promises to meet them in LA once Hill is out of jail. Unfortunately, Hill is facing a year of probation once he gets out. However, after he punches the lieutenant in the face during an argument at the bar, he and Carmen flee Philadelphia.

Things in Los Angeles don't go well. Carmen can't find an acting job, and since Hill is a fugitive, he can't find any job. She runs into her friends, Rasheeda and Nikki, who are being treated like royalty by Blaze. The three of them have their tarot cards read by Wyclef Jean. Rasheeda and Nikki receive favorable fortunes, but Carmen's cards cards read "ruin," "despair" and "death." She decides that it's time for a change. She goes to Blaze's rehearsal and wins an invitation to be his date to his next concert.

Shortly afterwards, Carmen breaks up with Hill and moves in with her friends in a house apparently owned by Blaze. Much like his counterpart in the original opera, Hill is devastated. He also learns from Caela, who hates him but still loves him, that he is in danger. Since Hill knows how crooked he is, Miller wants to get rid of him. The movie ends at Blaze's concert, where Carmen and the lieutenant are both killed.

The movie's plot is driven by the musical numbers, most of which are rapped. There are about a dozen numbers in the movie, most of them involving Carmen and Hill. Carmen is known for outrageous, campy lyrics. Here are some examples:

  • Carmen to the lieutenant: "Give me a chair cause I don't care I ain't feelin' your style."
  • Hill to Caela: "You know I love you I don't have to say it verbally, wouldn't leave you in Berlin in post-war Germany."
  • Carmen to Hill: "I live my life to the fullest, party every chance I get; Friday nights the Spot is the place I hit; decked out, chest out, me and my girls roll up in the Spot like we own the world."
  • Jalil (Lil' Bow Wow) to Hill: "Slices in a pizzeria! Age ain't nothin' shoulda listened to Aaliyah cause the stories that you're tellin' sounds like Tony and Maria."
  • Rasheeda and Nikki to Carmen: "Watch me in the Peach Pit schemin' like Kelly (cause she's gotta have it), Spike Lee on the cellie!"
  • Carmen to Rasheeda and Nikki: "I still want Perellis I'm just not in a hurry I mean, sushi is nice but I still like some curry."
  • Carmen to Hill: "It's funny how things turn around, last night you tryin' to get down you act like you down. Any other time it's like you steady hatin' on Brown; I'm tryin' to see my name in lights you tryin' to short out the ground."

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