Marc Cabrera has nothing better to do than watch a lot of movies and television, and listen to a lot of music. Luckily, he has a job that pays him to blog about local and national arts, entertainment and pop culture. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'll be the fist to admit that I went into Chappelle's concert/documentary fully anticipating to love every minute of it. But could you blame me for my bias?
Seriously, this was like a dream lineup of all my favorite rappers and musicians: Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Kanye West, The Roots, Erykah Badu, Cody Chestnutt, Jill Scott, even Big Daddy Kane and Kool G. Rap show up (more on that later). Hosted by the funniest guy on the planet (sorry, Chris Rock, but it's true). How could it not be great?
So the trick in doing this review is to not review it at all. What passes as my review is this: The movie is fantastic, from the hilarious intro where Dave pokes in on two unassuming men trying to get their car started,to the closing that shows Dave saying "This is the single best day of my career."
The cameras follow him around on his week-long journey leading up to the concert, as he prepared to re-create Richard Pryor's "Wattstax" concert, another ambitious attempt by a comic to meld musicians and comedians into one urban affair (I'll do a blog on that sometime in the near future to explain Wattstax and it's influence on "Block Party").
In leiu of a review, I'll simply list the highlights, and remind you to go check out this movie (I'm already planning on seeing it again this weekend with my girl):
- In the opening scene, Chappelle walks through Dayton, Ohio, and hands out "golden tickets" ala Willie Wonka. Recipients recieve them and get travel and lodging to the concert in Brooklyn, NYC. At one point, two lucky ticket winners tell the story of how they didn't beat up a white guy who called one of them the N-word, because they didn't want to miss the concert. "We didn't whip nobody's ass for you, Dave," they shreik.
- The music scenes are particularly inspiring, although the bill's biggest star, Kanye West, is rarely seen. He does a furious number with Common and Kweli, "Get 'em High," and later, an intense rendition of "Jesus Walks" with the Central State University marching band. But he's gone within the first half-hour.
- Black Star doing "Re-Definition" live with The Roots backing them up. One word: Whoa!
- Although the movie has no real plot, there is some dramatic buildup when Dave invites the CSU band to the show. The band leader has to call the school president, who comes to the band rehearsal to meet with Chappelle. When the band leader announces that they will be making the trip, the ensuing celebration scene is pretty moving.
- Chappelle does this really cool bit explaining how much he loves Thelonious Monk because of his timing, and then draws a corrolation between a musician's timing and a comedian's timing. It's actually pretty informative.
- Favorite scene in the movie pt. I: After Chappelle does a Mexican Lil' Jon impersonation (Que? Siii!), Dead Prez come on and do the "Ya Basta" sign made famous by Zapatista leader Subcommandante Marcos. M-1 explains the meaning to Dave, and he uses it to say "Have you had enough potatoes? Ya Basta. I've had enough!"
- Chappelle visits Biggie's old neighborhood, since he's shooting in Bed-Stuy, where Notorious BIG was from. Lil Cease explains how his friendship with Biggie and the Junior Mafia was "bigger than hip-hop" which segues perfectly into the Dead Prez anthem "Hip-Hop."
- Erykah Badu's wig starts to fly off, so she just pulls it off completely to reveal some nappy roots underneath.
- Erykah and Common join one another for the song "Love of My Life," which they recorded when they were a couple. Neither looked particularly comfortable during the spot, and I got a flashback of when Cher reluctantly joined Sonny Bono on the David Letterman show to sing "I Got You Babe" like 20 years ago.
- Michel Gondry (the movie's director) asks Jill Scott if she's nervous about going on after Erykah. She laughs loud and asks "Have You seen ME perform?" No, Michel, she's not nervous.
- The Roots (my favorite rock band of all time) do the song "Boom" with Big Daddy Kane and Kool G. Rap. This is significant because: 1) the original version features rapper Black Thought doing an impressive impression of both rappers and 2) Kane gets greeted like a retired boxing champ coming home from glory, while barely a ripple happens when G. Rap grabs the mic.
- Chappelle does a funny bit about the power of a James Brown hit. "If you go into a meeting for a raise, you might get more money, like "I want more money, bitch! *dunt* You might get the raise."
- Favorite scene in the movie Pt. 2: Jill Scott and Erykah come together to sing "You Got Me" with The Roots. This song always makes me want to cry, and seeing both of these ladies sing together seriously got me all 'motional and stuff.
- Fred Hampton Jr. shows up to spit some knowledge. It's a nice sentiment, but it almost doesn't fit in with the flow of the show.
- The Fugees reunion was an added bonus. Although they were already billed in the movie, the way Dave introduces them, you get the feeling that you are there to see them perform live for the first time in years. L-Boogie kills "Killing Me Softly," but we don't get to see her do "Lost Ones," which was originally a diss aimed at Wyclef. Print reports of the performance say that was the knockout punch right there.
- The film ends with Dave yelling "We shook up the world!" This is hip-hop history, y'all, so your boy is right (now only if he'd get his act together and do a new season of Chappelle's Show, everything would be alright).