You can’t talk Detroit hip-hop without bringing up the name Curtis Franklin, aka Al Nuke. His ’90s albums Lifestyles of the Rich & Infamous, Under Pressure, and My World made him a Detroit all-star and helped restore a sonic thump back in Detroit hip-hop.
“In ’95 and ’96 you had an era where it was kind of dead, and it took myself and a few others to bring the music back,” Nuke tells Metro Times by phone.
In 2010, Nuke relocated to Atlanta to pursue other avenues in the entertainment biz.
“Everybody in Atlanta knows Al Nuke bleeds Detroit. I’m in Atlanta as a spy for Detroit,” he says with a chuckle.
While in Atlanta, Nuke went on to manage the multi-platinum producer Zaytoven and play roles in the careers of Future, The Migos, and Young Dolph as they ascended to become hip-hop superstars. He’s filmed several movies and TV shows, most notably Birds of a Feather (2013) and Birds of a Feather 2 (2018). With all that success under his belt, he knew it was time to do something major for Detroit.
“I had to make sure I was straight first. Then I knew I had to put my city on,” he says. “God called me to do a movie about our culture, our music, our city.”
Enter Detroit Dreams, a film (made in conjunction with Lite Skin Films) that details the rise of a young Detroiter trying to make it big in the hip-hop game, but also to bring notoriety back to Detroit’s music scene.
“It’s about a music producer [and] promoter by the name of Bobby, that’s trying to put his artist on and the city on at the same time, because Detroit has never got its right shine,” says Nuke. “He ends up putting his artist on by catching a big break with a record.”
After Bobby achieves his initial success, he starts to get pushback from envious friends and aspiring artists from his neighborhood who feel Bobby owes them something. He finds himself stuck in the middle of a proverbial shitstorm trying to please everybody. Although the script is fictional, Nuke can identify with the plight of the main character.
“I was inspired to make the movie from Krush Groove. When you look at that movie and how Russell Simmons was trying to break into the industry and push New York music, I think this was our time to do the same thing,” Nuke adds. “We had those same heartaches, those same pressures, those same pains.”
The movie stars Detroiters Crystal The Doll and Kaamel Hasaun, and features cameos from rappers Big Herc, Supa Emcee, Street Lord Juan, Icewear Vezzo, Babyface Ray, and many others.
“What was really important to me was to mix the pioneers and the forefathers with the new mix of bulls and grizzlies,” he says.
Nuke promises that viewers will enjoy the nostalgic trips down memory lane, but will also leave inspired.
“You’re going to feel what the Belle Isle strip felt like back in the day all the way to what’s going on now,” he says. “It’s about what are you leaving on this Earth? That’s the main thing I want people to walk away thinking. What kind of footprint are you leaving for your family, your friends, your neighborhood?”
Detroit Dreams will premiere at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 1 at The Garden Theater; 3929 Woodward Ave., Detroit; thegardentheater.com. Tickets start at $40 and are available at eventbrite.com.