I guess many of the readers of this blog will never have heard of Dave Chapelle, whose movie Dave Chapelle’s Block Party kept me up late last night. And, given that it is a film about a hip-hop concert, many will no doubt want to stop reading right now.
But for me there were moments of revelation amidst the comedy (often coarse and often funny) and noise of the concert. When Kanye West sings ‘Jesus Walks’ he brings the house/block down. This is an extraordinary rap song: Amazing Grace for the hip-hop generation. You can read the lyrics here (but don’t click if swearing offends you). And when Lauryn Hill, and a reunited Fugees, come on at the end to sing "Killing Me Softly’ there is a real sense in which, for a moment, the Block Party becomes church. It is the combination of real authenticity and a sense of community that enables a film like this to communicate across a wide expanse of cultural, social and political distance. Overall the movie has the same force as When we Were Kings, the documentary about the Ali-Foreman Rumble in the Jungle. On the surface it is about a cultural event that, on the face of it, lacks any real significance. But scratch the surface and speaks of deeper themes: identity; race; hope etc.
I guess this post also functions as a revelation of the fact that, unlike many of my fellow bloggers, my musical tastes do not lean towards the Indie/Rock/Folk (cf endless posts on the meaning of Bob Dylan – I mean who cares?!) but revolve around the music of my North London soulboy upbringing (with church for us being the Royalty in Southgate and Caister being our Spring Harvest) and more contemporary hip-hop/Nu Soul divas (Lauryn Hill; Angie Stone; Erykah Badu and Jill Scott – the last two of whom are also in the movie).