Mad Max is all the rage this week, as it should be. Fury Road is one of the most inventive (and most thoroughly bonkers) action movies to come out in years. It’s also a reminder of just how influential and insane the original Max films were, especially 1985’s apocalyptic odyssey Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The sequel’s dreary desert landscape and nomadic riff-raff inspired countless homages and rip-offs, but the one that looms largest today: Tupac Shakur’s Beyond Thunderdome-inspired “California Love” featuring Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman.
Released in 1996, the “Love” video came near the end of an era when music labels were pouring hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of dollars into making flashy, outrageous videos that could be spectacles in themselves. Directed by Hype Williams, the video was shot with the Belly filmmaker’s characteristically hyper-stylized look. Still, the homage felt a little odd and random at the time, considering the Mad Max trilogy had wrapped up 11 years earlier, and as far as hip-hop cred goes, the series wasn’t exactly Scarface.
But somehow, it worked, with Oakland standing in for Bartertown and the iconic death cage replacing what most rappers of the time would’ve set at a lavish mansion poolside. Plus it featured cameos from Chris Tucker (right around the time of his Friday fame-explosion) and Tony Cox (Bad Santa), who put his own twist on the diminutive Master character.
The visuals gave the infectious West Coast anthem some additional grit, and the sight of the late Shakur in spiked shoulder pads became eternally burned into our consciences (the rapper was killed the same year of the video’s release). In 1999, MTV named “California Love” the ninth greatest music video ever made.
Let’s just pray the video doesn’t prove prophetic: Considering the droughts of late, hopefully this isn’t what California will actually look like in the year 2095.
Mad Max: Fury Road opens Friday. Watch George Miller spill secrets from four of the series’ best stunts: