Monday, January 21, 2013

"Re-plant This in Our Handbooks": A Look at the Modern Day Hip Hop Rendition of MLK's "I Have a Dream"

"Go inside, climb a pyramid's incline
I see the promised land planned in Martin Luther's mind"
- Kevlaar 7, "Up There Beyond"

[In early 2011, Kevlaar 7 of the Detroit-based crew The Wisemen released his first album, an EP entitled Who Got the Camera? The revolutionary, scathing social and political material was perfectly in tune with the aura of dissent that was springing forth at that time. Reflecting on this intensely meaningful piece of music, I wrote what I believe are some of my best pieces ever. The following essay is a close analysis of the record's single, "I Have a Dream", originally published on a now defunct blog exactly two years ago and reproduced here in a re-edited format.]

"I Have a Dream" was the first song released from Who Got the Camera? As Kevlaar 7 described it, "this is the great Dr. Martin Luther King's famous speech, 'I have a dream' in hip hop form, our version" and fittingly it was released on Martin Luther King Day.

As the sixth track on the album, it's revealing to consider that the number 6 in the Supreme Mathematics represents "Equality", that principle which the venerable Dr. King was so vehemently and passionately striving for. Equality between all of "God's children," a recurring phrase in King's speech, and we hear this same phrase echoed in Kevlaar's lyrics. The song contains many metaphors and images from the original speech, even produced in the same chronological format as King's paragraphs. This essay will dig thoroughly into the lyrics and shed light on the references to Dr. King's speech and what it means for today. Through this process we will evaluate the song's overall vision and intention as a modern musical version of King's legendary address.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tarantino on Charlie Rose

The art of film has occupied my mind a good deal as of late and the luminous scenes of Quentin Tarantino's latest flick have me digging for more analysis and appreciation of his work in particular.

I've seen a lot of the interviews he's done recently in promoting Django Unchained but none that came close to his interview with Charlie Rose. Here he gets very candid in passionately explaining his artistic craft, especially the writing aspect of it, about which he emphasizes how important it is to remember his movies all start with a pen and paper. He also reveals that he's written book-length unpublished pieces of "subtextual film criticism" which sounds absolutely fucking awesome and only fans the flames on the "subtextual criticism" or interpretations I've been working on for a couple years now for a few different modes of art (if you read this blog at all, you'll know what I'm talking about).

Anyway, it's a lengthy interview (48 minutes) but uninterrupted by commercials and filled with legitimately great stuff from a masterful artist discussing his craft. Highly recommended.

(Video after the jump)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Reflections on Django Unchained

(Last night I got to see the new Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained for the second time in five days and so I've got many thoughts about it swirling around in my head which I'll attempt to elucidate here. Django's awesome theme song also continues to waltz in my head.)

The summer during which I turned 14 in 1999 was among the most memorable of my life. That summer I had my first job ever, working as a messenger for my mom's business in downtown Manhattan traveling around on foot picking up and delivering documents and paperwork, taking many breaks in between to explore what the city had to offer. Throughout that same year, members of the Wu-Tang Clan released their second round of solo albums and, as a devout Wu fan, I became a regular customer at the Sam Goody store located in the mall directly underneath the World Trade Center.

When the summer ended and I stopped working to begin my freshmen year of high school in Staten Island, I still had a bunch of soon-to-be-released Wu-Tang records reserved and paid for (at a discounted price) at that World Trade Center Sam Goody store. When each album was eventually released, I got a notification that it was waiting for me, and asked my mom to pick it up. Sometimes she'd have the regular messenger, a tall and very funny black man named Phil Jackson who had originally shown me the ropes, pick up the new CDs for me during his travels.

In September, Ol' Dirty Bastard's newest album was released entitled N***a Please. My parents were always giving me a hard time about my musical tastes anyway and now, as a 14-year-old white kid, I had to somehow defend this new CD I'd pre-purchased which had the words "Ol' Dirty Bastard" and "N*gga Please" scrawled in sloppy crayon across its cover. Phil Jackson was also less than pleased with the package he retrieved.