Stop whatever you're doing and go see Dave Chappelle's Block Party right now. Seriously, it's a cool movie. Even Foxy J says so, and she's not particularly into (read: obsessed with) the Roots, Common, Erykah Badu, and the Fugees in the way I am. A big chunk of the movie is a hip-hop concert, and a big part of the appeal for me was seeing my favorite artists perform my favorite songs, but the movie is a lot of other things too: it's a comedy show put on by a funny, funny man; it's a story about a bunch of random people from Ohio who got randomly invited to a big party in Brooklyn and had the time of their lives; and it's a taste of a part of Black American culture that is not represented by gangsta rap (read: this film and the music in it have nothing to do with last night's Best Original Song).
I should probably mention that Block Party is rated R for strong language (read: even though Foxy J was pleased that there were not as many F bombs as she feared there would be, there were more than a couple; neither Dave Chappelle nor hip-hop are known for squeaky clean language).
My favorite moments:
- Seeing the faces of Central State University's marching band when they found out they would be going to New York with Dave Chappelle.
- Seeing the marching band perform "Jesus Walks" with Kanye West.
- Seeing Common lead a prayer with the other artists before the show.
- Seeing Dave talk to the scary old hippies who live in the abandoned cathedral next to the block party site. I was impressed throughout the film by what a charismatic people person he is.
- Seeing the Fugees' first performance together in 7 years. This was, of course, the main reason I saw the film. Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, and Pras rapped "Nappy Heads," then Ms. Hill sang a beautiful rendition of "Killing Me Softly" despite the fact that her voice is not quite what it was ten years ago. It makes me a little sad to confirm that the raspiness and the narrower vocal range are not a one-time thing from her 2001 MTV Unplugged performance, but the fact is that when she started with the Fugees she was 18, and now she's a 31-year-old mother of four, so it's natural that her voice will have changed. She's still one of the most powerful singers and most gifted emcees out there (and certainly the only artist who excels to her level at both). She's still Lauryn Hill and to see her performing with the up-close-and-personal feel of a close-up shot on a giant movie screen is Master Fob's dream come true.