Wednesday, March 15, 2006

It's bigger than hip hop

Saturday I spent the day in Brookaleen and Manhattan - brunching with Philly et al. and investigating for Kate's party. In the evening, Jeeves and I went to see Dave Chappelle's Block Party. Incidentally, Rajeev, the lucky bastard, is currently in Austin at the South by Southwest Music Festival. Ah, the life of a student. Anyway, back to the movie.

Block Party chronicles Dave's attempt to throw one great concert in Bed Stuy back in the fall of 2004. He got The Roots, Erykah Badu, Mos Def (Kate and I continue to fight over whose boyfriend Mos is - I'm afraid I must insist he's mine), Talib Kweli, Kanye West, Common, Dead Prez, Jill Scott and the Fugees(!) together and threw one kick ass party in front of the Broken Angel. The film, directed by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind's Michael Gondry follows Dave as he recruits people from his hometown in Ohio to attend the concert and sets about throwing a great party.

I, of course love love love Dave Chappelle and have mourned the loss of Chappelle's Show like all fans. And not surprisingly, I loved Block Party. Kate actually saw it the same night and lamented that she would have liked more funny and less music. I understand that complaint, but I don't think Dave was trying to make a funny movie. That being said, there are plenty of funny moments. But I think the heart of the film is about music, which any fan of Chappelle's Show knows is very important to Dave. And it also addresses the democratic importance and political nature of rap - just look at the lineup. Even Kanye West with "Jesus Walks" tends to rap about subjects that aren't a part of the 50 Cent and The Game milieu of rap that's popular today. At one point in the film Dave laments that you'll never hear Dead Prez on the radio, and he proceeds to quote their lyrics. The film then cuts to DP's performance (which was incendiary and one of my favorites of the movie), and indeed, their lyrics are dead on with the theme, and more advanced than anything you'll hear on the radio:

"I'm sick of that fake thug, r & b, rap scenario all day on the radio/ Same scenes in the video, monotonous material, y’all don’t hear me though/These record labels sling our tapes like dope/ You can be next in line, and signed, and still be writing rhymes and broke/ You would rather have a Lexus, or justice, a dream or some substance? A Beamer, a necklace or freedom?"

Most of the critics agree with me on the quality - 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Highlights for me, other than every moment that Dave was being Dave, were the DP aforementioned performance, Erykah Badu, and The Roots. Of course, there's also a lot of Mos Def, and that doesn't hurt either. Entertainment Weekly, which gave it an "A," stated: "The buzz comes from the music, which has a loose, burning joy that's rare to behold in a live rap performance, and also from Chappelle's wicked prankster's glee, which spreads through the movie like a happy virus."

Ah, if only Wu Tang could have been there.

1 comment: