In 1998, on November 4, a classic hip-hop movie was born. The music video director genius, Hype Williams, decided to make his feature-film debut, and with a little help from his musician friends, Belly became a cult classic, 20 years on.
To assist in telling the story, which follows the catastrophic web of drugs and money that spans from New York City to Jamaica, Hype carefully selected a handful of artists he knew would fulfill the roles, including Method Man & Ghostface Killah of Wu-Tang Clan.
DMX (who Hype insisted he play the role of Tommy instead of Jay-Z), Nas and the talented Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, who was able to keep her own government name in the movie.
Fast forwarding 20 years to present day, the movie has managed to stand the test of time.
ComplexCon invited the on-screen couple T-Boz and Nas, who play the characters Tionne and Sincere in the movie, to join the ComplexCon event to discuss the importance of Belly, two decades later, along with the director, Hype Williams.
T-Boz informed the panel that Belly had achieved cult status, according to her peers. “It’s a big deal. That’s what I hear on the streets, that’s what everyone says to me. You know, Boyz N The Hood, Menace To Society and Belly is now added to that, so I thought that was pretty awesome“.
“It’s like Tionne said”, Nas co-signs. “It’s like a hood classic thing. That’s really a serious title to have. That’s better than anything we could ask for.”
Nas and T-Boz went on to thank Hype Willams for giving them the opportunity to star in the movie. “I just wanna say about Hype“, Tionne interjects, “it’s awesome to have people who are visionaries and leaders, not followers.”
“Because if he had listened to everybody else and not did what was in his heart and what he wanted to do — he sparked off a lot of things for a lot of us, it takes people like that to make us thrive. He did some major stuff in this industry and he deserves all of his props“.
Nas echoed those sentiments. “Hype took a chance with us. He felt that we were the people that fit inside his vision. He could of got some top actors, everybody was a fan of his work, but he comes from music and he saw us. So, I appreciate him for that!“.
Touching on that undeniable chemistry Nas and T-Boz had on-screen, Nas shared his feelings on working with T! “This is T-Boz of TLC, like, the biggest group in the world!“, Nas exclaims. “Everyone liked TLC, like, each member, so I was lit because I get to have T-Boz as my girl, I was on fire! It was crazy! It was dope.“
Belly didn’t go down well with the critics at the time it was released, but hip-hop fans ensured the movie achieved the success it deserved at the box office and in history.
Tionne received praise for being a Ride Or Die chick for her man, Sincere, when she pulled her gun out on gangsters in her house, sternly telling them to “get the fuck out of my house!“, and for having intellectual conversations with him to help him give up the drug life and enough was enough.
Complex gave it’s verdict on how the roles were portrayed by the actors, and they gave T-Boz a very healthy grade B:
T-Boz, playing Sincere’s girlfriend and baby’s mother, is kinda good. She makes great concerned faces, like when Kionna is expressing concern about Buns during a heart-to-heart walk or when she visits Kionna in jail (a scene that works especially well because, like most of Belly’s best scenes, there’s no dialogue).
Elsewhere, she doesn’t sound like she’s reading from a teleprompter during her moments with Nas. (This is more than you can say about Nas.) It’s sweet when Sincere asks her if she loves him, and she says that of course she does. She also has great platinum-white hair.