The proud South Central LA native studied screenwriting at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, where he became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
Over the course of his collegiate career, Singleton won various writing awards from the university, landed a contract with Creative Artists Agency and penned the screenplay for the coming-of-age film that would eventually become Boyz n the Hood.
After he graduated in 1990, the film was picked up by Columbia Pictures and released the following year. The riveting depiction of life for three friends growing up on the dangerous streets of South Central received a 20-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, Bloomberg reports.
Boyz n the Hood earned Singleton two Academy Awards nominations. He was the first African-American, and at age 24, the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Best Director Oscar.
In 2002, the Library of Congress named Boyz n the Hood “culturally significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.
After garnering success with his film debut, Singleton headed to the small screen. In 1992, he was brought on by music legend Michael Jackson to direct the video for his song “Remember the Time,” which, at the time, was one the few videos showcasing a star studded all-Black cast. In addition to Jackson, Iman, Eddie Murphy, Magic Johnson and a slew of other notable names appeared.
John Singleton discussing the making of “Remember the Time.”
Singleton headed back to film with the 1993 Janet Jackson- and Tupac Shakur-led Poetic Justice. Two years later, he tackled racial and social injustice on college campuses with the controversial film Higher Learning.
He would go on to direct Baby Boy, another coming-of-age film; Shaft, a remake of the popular blaxploitation era film; Four Brothers; and 2 Fast 2 Furious, the second installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise.
Along with his skills as a director, Singleton produced the 2005 hit film Hustle & Flow.
He also directed episodes of Empire, American Crime Story and Marion Jones: Press Pause for ESPN’s 30 for 30.
Most recently, he co-created the FX series Snowfall, which was picked up for a third season by the network.
There were conflicting reports about the status of Singleton’s health prior to his death. After seeking medical treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center April 17 for leg pain he was experiencing, he suffered a massive stroke.
News of his medical condition surfaced after court documents filed by his mother, Sheila Ward, were leaked online. According to TMZ, Ward requested that she be appointed Singleton’s temporary conservator to make medical and financial decisions while he was in a coma.
On Friday, the director’s daughter Cleopatra Singleton, filed a motion disputing the claim. She released a statement to The New York Times denying that her father was in a coma. “My father is not in a coma,” Cleopatra said. “My father had a stroke on April 17, 2019, and at this point, we are optimistic about a full recovery.”
Earlier today, the family released a statement announcing their decision to take Singleton off life support. “It is with heavy hearts we announce that our beloved son, father and friend, John Daniel Singleton will be taken off life support today. This was an agonizing decision, one that our family made, over a number of days, with the careful counsel of John’s doctors.”
Jordan Peele, Spike Lee and others took to social media to mourn the loss of the director.
In addition to his mother and daughter, Singleton is survived by his father, Danny Singleton; and six other children: daughters Justice, Hadar, Selenesol and Issis; and sons Maasai and Seven.
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Jasmine Washington is a beauty-obsessed journalist by day and a trap music connoisseur by night. A lifelong New Yorker, she got her start as an intern at the now-defunct Juicy Magazine. Jasmine joined the EBONY.com team as a writer, penning daily stories on all things Black culture and entertainment.