A quote from Psalm 27:1 appears on black:
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
Fade In: Emergency Room, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center – Night
Feet running. Wheels rolling. Blood dripping on the floor. Medics swiftly move the patient into the operating room. Controlled chaos set to the sound of a fading heartbeat.
Cut To: A man violently tapping his feet, praying for the fate of his best friend. The doctor comes in, her face reflecting the severity of the diagnosis. She ushers him into the patient’s room. His friend is hooked up to a ventilator.
*Cues “Life After Death (Intro)”*
INT: Patient’s Room, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center – Night
Puffy is talking to his friend, his face hidden from the camera. He thinks about the life that could have been, the opportunities lost, the relationship permanently severed.
After saying his goodbyes, Puffy leaves the room, telling his friend: “Live your life.”
Flatline. Fade to black.
*Cues “Somebody’s Gotta Die”*
INT: Brooklyn Mansion – Night – Raining
Doorbell ringing. Tracking shot down the stairs. Camera switches perspective. We see an imposing figure in a Versace bathrobe holding a .44 with Rottweilers barking nearby—Francis M.H. White.
The camera pans out. Two men are in full view, both wary of the other’s intentions. The one with bloody sneakers says, “C-Rock’s been hit!” Frank’s face morphs to show sympathy and regret, he invites Sing in. Sing tells Frank what happened.
Flashback: C-Rock and Jason form a crew, Jason’s family gets robbed, Jason riddles C-Rock with fifty bullets.
Cut To: Frank and Sing in a Chevy Suburban, listening to The Dramatics’ “In The Rain.” The reverb effect on the guitar made more prominent with the silence between both men, both heavily armed and focused on their next move.
The car stops in front of a gas station. Jason is seen hanging out with his new crew, still bragging about C-Rock’s murder. Frank and Sing put on their ski masks. Before stepping out of the car, Frank warns Sing: “Ain’t no slugs gonna be wasted.”
The men approach Jason. Jason is bouncing up and down, his arms occupied. Frank considers it an attack.
A couple of feet away from their target, Frank screams out, “Ay yo, playboy!” Jason turns around but before we can see what he’s carrying. Frank squeezes the trigger six times. Jason drops to the floor, his newborn daughter right beside him. Two souls join the underworld, two reapers disappear into the night.
*Cues Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You”*
EXT: Brooklyn Corner – Day
A man in a black Rastafarian hat preaches about the ruins of materialism and the drug trade. A crowd forms around him. He speaks with the fiery eloquence of Malcolm X.
Amongst this crowd, Sing steps forward. He shoots the preacher, standing over him as the crowd disperses in a panic. Sing says, “This is for those that choose to use disrespectful views on the King of NY,” and shoots the preacher again.
Cut To: A soul food restaurant in Staten Island. It’s a full house. Customers are enjoying themselves, basking in the pleasures of a hot summer’s day. One particular customer is enjoying his meal, saying that it’s so good he has to compliment the chef.
As the waiter goes to get the chef from the kitchen, the camera makes a quick cut to a man called Pretty Toney. He co-owns the restaurant with the chef and is praising a woman on her caramel complexion, calling her the black Miss America.
The chef comes out of the kitchen to greet Caesar. As soon as he’s about to shake his hand, Caesar pulls out a small bottle of bleach and throws it in the chef’s eye. The chef screams in agony.
Pretty Toney comes to the chef’s aid but Caesar shoots both of them in the head, leaving a tip on the table as he walks out the restaurant.
Cut To: An apartment in Queensbridge Houses. Local drug dealer Nas Escobar and his younger brother playing chess on the dining room table. The front door kicked down. Frank White steps into frame.
Escobar gestures for his brother to leave the room. Frank sits opposite Mr. Escobar. Escobar gets up and pours himself and Frank a glass of Hennessy.
The two men sit in silence until Escobar openly reflects on the circle of life: “A baby's being born the same time a man is murdered, the beginning and end.” Frank shrugs and thinks back on last night.
After they’ve finished their drinks, Escobar suddenly pulls a gun from the underside of the table and says, “One life, one love, so there can only be one king.” The gun jams. Frank laughs.
Frank overpowers Escobar and beats him to a bloody pulp until Escobar says, “No more.” Frank complies and shoots Escobar between the eyes. Frank slowly walks out of the apartment, his coronation complete.
*Cues “I Love The Dough”*
EXT: Backyard Pool, Brooklyn Mansion – Day
A huge splash of water. Music playing at absurd levels. Nothing but party and bullshit.
With his main rivals six-feet-under, Frank opens his house to those who know him best. Puffy popping bottles with models. Caesar and Sing arguing over a recording of the Tyson/Seldon fight. Meanwhile, a familiar face graces the screen: Shawn Carter.
After his near-death experience outside Marcy Projects, Shawn has kept a relatively low profile. There have been rumors about him leaving the game.
Frank waves Shawn into his study. His latest business proposal? The Commission.
INT: Study Room, Brooklyn Mansion – Day
The only place left for Frank’s nationwide empire is L.A.
Shawn nods in agreement but one word leaves his lips: “Makaveli.”
Frank sighs at the thought of a friend turned enemy turned memory.
Frank and Shawn light up their Cuban cigars and make arrangements. Shawn will hold things down East while Frank ventures out West.
The two men raise their champagne glasses and toast to their future success, the few years of friendship between them taking a brotherly turn.
Cut to black. The sound of an airplane taking off.
*Cues “Going Back To Cali”*
Montage: Shots of palm trees, beaches, and the Hollywood sign. A series of handshakes. Dollars and drugs exchanged between those from all walks of life: bohemians and businessmen, pimps and politicians. A close-up of people entering The Playa’s Club in Beverly Hills, its neon logo piercing the night sky. Fade out.
*Cues “Playa Hater”*
Fade In: The Playa’s Club, Beverly Hills – Night
Spotlight. Frank is on-stage, singing.
Frank interacts with the crowd, holding ladies’ hands while crooning off-key. They are taken in by his presence.
Puffy joins Frank, his misguided attempt at falsetto evoking a chorus of laughter.
The other lights come on. A standing ovation soon follows. Puffy takes a bow while Frank asks the drummer for a beat.
Frank dazzles everyone with a rap, the words flowing as smoothly as water in the Danube. The crowd’s silence is the highest form of applause.
*Cues Bobby Caldwell’s “My Flame”*
Cut To: Waiters making space for a dancefloor. The band playing an old-school soul record. Everybody’s up on their feet.
Frank is dancing with a woman with fair skin and blonde hair, a familiar shadow of his estranged wife.
Frank soaks in the moment, counting his wins and losses, grateful for the current tally. He brings the woman in close, uttering a prayer only he can hear: “If the game shakes me or breaks me, I hope it makes me a better man.”
Fade to black.
*Cues “My Downfall”*
INT: Penthouse Apartment, Beverly Hills – Night
Tracking shot up the stairs to a two-floor, penthouse apartment. A portrait of Frank hanging outside the master bedroom. The answering machine plays: “I’mma kill you, you motherfucker.”
A round of bullets rip through Frank’s bed, shreds of goose feathers and Egyptian cotton twirling in the air. Silence.
The sound of a double-barreled shotgun fired. The camera falls to the floor. Bedroom slippers walk across the screen.
Cut To: Another assailant at the bottom of the stairs, Frank hands him the same fate as his colleague above.
Frank picks up an Uzi from the floor, firing off warning shots to see who else is in the vicinity. He counts two sets of footsteps.
Frank stands behind a pillar on the ground floor, grand piano right beside him. Two masked figures enter the foyer. Frank shoots them both, killing one, injuring the other.
Before the injured man can speak, Frank strangles him until the life seeps through his body. Misguided vengeance for Makaveli or karma for Jason? It doesn’t matter. Every dog has its day.
INT: Chevy Suburban, Wilshire Boulevard – Night
Frank is in the passenger seat—rattled, paranoid and tired. His crew split into two teams: one searching his apartment for clues, the other with Puffy in the car behind him.
Dean Martin’s “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You” plays. Christmas music.
Frank stops the driver from changing channels, he’s drawn in by the smooth elegance of this tune.
The song keeps playing. It bothers Frank that all players in this game eventually lose. It bothers Frank that all names eventually dissolve in the quicksand of time.
Flashback: Jermaine, a big-time hustler in the ‘80s, dressed head-to-toe in suede with massive Gucci frames. Staring down at a young Frank White, Jermaine gives Frank a crucial piece of advice: “You’re nobody till somebody kills you.”
Cut To: Frank repeating those same words as Dean Martin’s song trails off. Four gunshots ring out. Cut to black.
EXT: Chevy Suburban, Wilshire Boulevard – Dawn
A wide angle shot of the car. Bullet holes on the side. Steam coming out the front. The sound of a fading heartbeat. Flatline.
Puffy’s phrase “live your life” can be heard again. Frank steps out of the car unharmed, dressed in all black.
Frank dusts himself off and walks up Wilshire Boulevard. His figure disappearing in the distance.
Fade to black, Psalm 23:6 overlaid on-screen:
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”