We know you are not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but these funerals are pushing it. We can understand having a crazy, funky wedding…but a funeral? COME ON!
Quentin Tarantino’s idea of American slavery pictures Jamie Foxx riding horseback and spinning a pistol on his index finger while wearing a ridiculous blue getup with white ruffles, spewing corny-if-rebellious catch phrases like, “I like the way you die, boy.” Yes, the godfather of motion picture vengeance’s latest, Django Unchained, reverts to a significant era in history to swap victim with victor (much like 2009’s Holocaust-based Inglorious Basterds). Instead of a group of Jewish soldiers vengefully plotting against Nazi leaders, Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave turned bounty hunter, guns down any white man who impedes in the rescue of his enslaved wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Despite Tarantino being an equal opportunity history books trivializer, the problem with Django Unchained is it’s being presented as the “hip-hop generation’s Roots” as opposed to the feel-good revisionist history it is.
Per usual, Tarantino wanted to make his audience uncomfortable. I cringed as I sat through an early December screening of Django amongst a predominantly white audience in New York City’s School of Visual Arts Theatre watching horrific, graphic scenes that included freshly welted black backs and canines eating an enslaved man alive. Even more unbearable, though, were the snickers heard during such a visually intense movie that makes light of centuries of injustice. Jonah Hill’s three-minute cameo scores cheap laughs off an amateur racist sect’s poorly constructed masks (“I can’t see sh*t!” one Klansman blurts). The word “nigger” is spat more than 100 times through the film’s two-hour-and-45-minute span.
To save you the $13 cost of admission, here’s a rundown of the plot: Two years before the Civil War in the antebellum south, German bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) purchases Django to identify three murdering thieves known as the Brittle brothers who have price tags on their heads. In exchange, Dr. Schultz mentors Django in the art of murder, playing Batman to Django’s Robin in the pursuit of his lady. They take off for Mississippi when they learn of Broomhilda’s whereabouts, at Calvin Candie’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) vast Candyland plantation deep in the racism-rich South. It’s like the King of Diamonds of plantations—female house slaves dress in fine bouffant dresses and his right-hand house slave, Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), gives insight on business matters, and even sasses white visitors. Candie himself is a sarcastic, slick-talking overseer who indulges in violent Mandingo fights while his slave mistress watches, cocktail in hand. As the film nears its end, Tarantino’s signature twists lead to an expected bout of bloody, gory action.
All trigger-happy abolitionist fun, right? A good ol’ spaghetti western complete with Rick Ross and a James Brown/2pac mash-up on the soundtrack. You’ve got to wonder how many moviegoers will watch, munching on nachos and popcorn, and depart their seats thinking, “Slavery wasn’t too bad after all,” or worse, “Why didn’t all slaves just revolt?” Let’s get real. Django’s opportunity to shoot down slavemasters one-by-one would’ve never happened—he’d be hung after the first white man he killed, but most likely would’ve never sought revenge at all. The institution of slavery was deeper than whips and chains; it was a deep-rooted mental oppression that psychologically suppressed its sufferers.
Sure, Django Unchained is not a documentary intended to inform. But even though Tarantino has stated that he was “uncomfortable” presenting the slave experience, the whipping scenes and BS phrenologist comparisons of a slave’s skull to that of a free man don’t always play that way on screen. I wish that he would have put the same level of thought into developing Jackson’s well-acted role, which hardly surpasses the “house nigger” caricature. Or avoiding the Great White Hope meme (see: Glory, Dangerous Minds, Blind Side, The Help) that finds Foxx playing sidekick and Washington as a voiceless damsel. In reality, there was no nice German savior swooping in to emancipate the enslaved. Freedom was an impossible task seldom achieved by slaves making ultimate sacrifices.
Tarantino lauded himself for being familiar enough with the subject of slavery and black culture to critique Roots, Alex Haley’s thorough cinematic exploration of American slavery. “When you look at Roots, nothing about it rings true in the storytelling, and none of the performances ring true for me either,” he told The Daily Beast of the film adapted from literary fiction masterpiece Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The enslavement of Africans in the U.S. for more than 400 years was much worse than could ever be portrayed on screen, yet Roots is still the closest depiction of the often-closeted atrocity. Django Unchained is no Roots. The problem, however, is Tarantino’s packaging of his latest effort as some type of eye-opening, thought-provoking, progressive piece of art.
Slavery has long been America’s dirty little secret that’s often left untouched. Most Americans aren’t versed enough on the effects that unfortunately linger today. Any film, entertainment or not, has a responsibility to address the topic with a certain level of information—and acknowledgement of slavery’s lasting effects—presented.
Jamie Foxx told VIBE magazine that “Every two, three years there is a movie about the holocaust because they want you to remember and they want you to be reminded of what it was.” He argued African-Americans should recall slavery with the same urgency, and that’s why this film must be supported. Difference is, America doesn’t wish to forget the Holocaust. And Django Unchained may very well remind America of its dark twisted past, it does so by misinforming and making the masses feel good about it first.
When we were freshmen in high school ten years ago, Eminem’s portrayal of struggling rapper Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith (A.K.A. himself) in 8 Mile was an inspiration. The monster hit “Lose Yourself” from the soundtrack became our personal pump up jam to run laps during gym class, and gave us the confidence to take that “one shot” and ask Jenna to the prom, try out for the class play, or pass that chem test! Plus it was also notable for changing the way we thought of the phrase “mom’s spaghetti” forever.
However as we got a little older, we realized the one shot ol’ Marshall Matthers was rapping about was much more serious than our day to day high school drama. It was about reconciling hopes and dreams with growing up and responsibility, all against the bleek Detroit backdrop. By no means a quick flick rushed out to capitalize on his skyrocketing fame, Eminem gave an incredible performance, made all the more amazing considering it was his first movie!
But Eminem is by no means the only rapper who tried his hand at acting. In fact, it seemed like every MC has made the jump to films at one time or another. Some totally killed it and became a successful multi-talented crossover artist, while others…made Soul Plane. So in honor of Em’s epic 8 Mile turning 10 years old today, we’ve decided to take a look back at some of our favorite rappers-turned-movie stars over the years. Enjoy!
[Photo: Universal/Warner Brothers/Miramax]
Tupac Shakur just can’t get a break lately. Even though he’s been dead for over fifteen years, he’s still making headlines in the most awkward ways possible. First there were those bizarre reports by the rapper’s former bandmates who claim to have smoked his cremated remains in a blunt. Those rumors were furiously denied by his family, but now here’s another moment (and body part) ‘Pac would probably want under wraps.
Apparently a five minute sex tape of featuring Tupuc has surfaced…and it even features an unreleased song! TMZ claims to have seen the film, and it sounds more like a submition to America’s Sleaziest Home Videos. The clip takes place at a house party in 1991, and bald-headed ‘Pac makes his grand entrance into the room shirtless with gold bling chains and his pants around his ankles. At first it seems like he’s doing his drunk Mr. T impression, but the vid quickly takes a turn as he goes over to one of the many groupies in the room. While she begins to perform oral sex on the rapper, he starts to sing and dance one of his own unreleased songs playing on the stereo! Weird, we thought he was more of a Barry White man. TMZ reports that the owner of the tape is taking steps to get it released. Can we just take the lost track, please?
[Photo: Getty Images]
Here’s a story they didn’t prepare us for in Fab Life school. The family of slain rapper Tupac Shakur is denying reports that his ashes were smoked in tribute. This follows a video that was posted on VladTV yesterday by Tupac’s former group The Outlawz, who claimed that they cut some marijuana with their dead band-mate’s ashes and blazed up, while Pac’s mother Afeni looked on. But now his family members are (predictably) calling BS and saying that there’s no way this could have ever happened. A spokesperson gave TMZ the priceless/insane quote that his mother would “never participate in smoking her son.” While the Shakurs can’t totally prove this bizarre memorial never took place, they insist that the Outlawz “would have had to sneak the remains past the family member in charge of keeping an eye on the ashes at the memorial.” Considering that no one in the family would let that happen, it looks like the Outlawz’s bizarre story is up in smoke.
Eric Breed, a rare “breed” of MC in that he was both from the midwest and artistically influential during the 90’s, died in his sleep at a friend’s house near Detroit on Saturday. In September, the Flint, Michigan-based rapper collapsed due to kidney failure while playing a game of pickup basketball in Atlanta.
MC Breed is best known for his 1993 hit “Gotta Get Mine,” featuring Tupac Shakur. He also collaborated with Too Short. Sadly, Eric was said to be working on a DVD about his life titled “Where is MC Breed.” Rap star heaven, we hope.
There’s no tradition in hip-hop more exciting than the feud. Since the earliest days of street-corner rhyme battles, MCs have been taking each other head-on, fighting to be the best on the block, the hottest in the neighborhood, or the king of the whole game. Rap beefs can originate anywhere, from a subtle slight to a full-on threat. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re tragic, and sometimes they’re just plain weird. Here, from old-school word wars to semi-automatic shootouts, we count down the ten biggest feuds in rap history. Click into the gallery below to begin. [Photos: Getty Images]