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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Dave Chappelle's Block Party

If you get a chance, I recommend the docu-concert film Dave Chappelle's Block Party. Ol' Dave sets up a block party in Brooklyn with his favorite artists like Kanye West, The Roots, and Erykah Badu, and then buses in people from his hometown in Ohio.

The resulting film presents many interesting characters, but fails in following up on them throughout the concert and afterward. There's plenty of footage of Dave goofing off in the rehearsal space with his high-profile buddies like ?uestlove and Mos Def, and it is here that the film's humor really shines. Chappelle is a funny and likeable guy, and this is what really carries the film, along with the fantastic music performances.

Hip hop can be a boring live act, but the concert is filmed unobtrusively and the performers are active and engaging. The house band is fantastic, and no one performs to tracks. Hardly a DJ and turntables can be seen. The film culminates with a reuniting of The Fugees, and yes they perform "Killing Me Softly." Fantastic.

Chappelle's main point is bringing people together. Though his racially charged humor offended some during the run of his show on Comedy Central, his true motives are revealed here, though some contradictory evidence rears its head in two segments. Dead Prez, a hip hop duo, sing a song that says something about "rushin' the crackers in city hall" and that their community won't be good until they "get all the crackers out." Dave applauds them, saying that songs like these will never get played on the radio. The other segment features the son of a slain Black Panther, who demands freeing the New York three on stage during a concert.

With all of Chappelle's feel-good humanism, especially in the final scenes, these two moments feel odd. Why are these black power messages tolerated? Did they not seem contradictory to those involved? Were they meant to be contradictory? Perhaps. These message could be answered during a scene where Wyclef Jean speaks to the marching band Chappelle bused in from Ohio, telling them to not blame white people, and "go and get theirs." Jean is apparently from Haiti, and immigrated to the US, teaching himself English.

Overall, a fun film, lots of insights into the innerworkings of the concert and its members. Keep an eye out for the small scenes involving ?uestlove from The Roots. Very intelligent and articulate. He knows how to tell a compelling story and you can tell the guy knows his music. Check it out.


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