written by terri sapp
There are a few times in my life when something makes me say, “Damn, I wish I’d been there!” Watching Dave Chapelle’s Block Party DVD made me want to delve into the world of time travel! Anyone who ever watched Dave Chapelle on cable television, or on the movies, and laughed should head out to the video store immediately and rent or buy Dave Chapelle’s Block Party. Especially if you like Hip-Hop music, you WILL NOT regret it. I loved this DVD so much, I watched it twice in the time I had it. Dave Chapelle’s comedy is not the only reason to catch this documentary style hip-hop comedy mix. Among other reasons are, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Kanye West, Common, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Dead Prez, The Fugees, and the Roots acting as the house band! I had no idea what I was in for when a friend popped this disc into the player.
To spread the word of this party he was throwing, Dave Chapelle rode around in a car with a bull horn announcing that there would be a block party. No one knew where the party would take place, or who would be involved, they just knew Dave was throwing it, so it would be a must see. Chapelle even took a trip to his old home base in Ohio with a handful of “golden tickets,” which happened to be good for a bus ride to Brooklyn from Ohio, a place to stay, and entrance and backstage access to the show itself! DAMN! Among the folks Dave asked to join him in Brooklyn for this amazing block party were Dave’s old probation officers, random guys off the street, old white ladies, convenient store clerks, barber shop workers, and many other random locals that otherwise would never have been to a “rap party.” The Brooklyn folks were just given a place to meet some busses. They lined up on the day of the party, by the thousands, and were shipped over to the location for many great times. The location of the party was actually Mos Def’s old neighborhood, and took place in front of this very interesting ho-made house called the “Broken Angel.” September 18, 2004 undoubtedly burned a place in that neighborhood’s memory forever. Two eccentric souls who more than probably did a great deal of LSD in the 60’s have built up the most unusual house with shoots, ladders, multiple levels, many animals, and not much floor! As of 2004, the building was reportedly only 1/3 completed. Dave chose to make an entire segment on this house and these people, because he must have known this footage would be priceless. I would say that, even though the music and comedy are enough to make a hit DVD, the segments involving the “Broken Angel” couple are worth watching the whole DVD just to catch.
Dave threw in some of his own “jazz comedy,” with funny man Mos Def, dimples, smile, and all, as his drumming sidekick. He battled an audience member, which was a hoot. Dave also had segments thrown in throughout the concert footage of him playing around and being funny with people outside of the actual Block Party. For example, he beat boxed for a rapping waiter, hangs with some kids, and plays basketball with some other kids.
Some of the songs that the artists performed include the following: “Two Words” with Kanye West and Mos Def; “Get ‘Em High” with Kanye West, Talib Kweli, and Common; “Definition,” with Mos Def and Talib Kweli; “Round Midnight” by Thelonious Monk, but performed by and intensely studied by Dave Chapelle; “Move Something” with Talib Kweli, Common, and Mos Def; “Jesus Walks” with Kanye West, featuring the Central State University Band, John Legend singing, and Common; “Turn Off The Radio a.k.a. Radio Freq” and “It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop” with Dead Prez; “Back in The Day” with Erykah Badu; “Love of my Life” with Erykah Badu, joined by (then boyfriend) Common just before her stage dive in the crowd (she gets all the hot and sexy ass!); “The Way” and “You Got Me” with Jill Scott, the later joined by Erykah Badu; “Boom” by the Roots, featuring Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap; “Get By” with Talib Kweli, Mos Def, and Common; “Umi Says” with Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, and Chairman Fred Hampton, Jr.; “Nappy Heads” and “Killing Me Softly” with the Fugees, reunion-style; and “President” with Wyclef and the kids from the Central University Band. The lyrics of this song were really funny to me, “If I was President, I’d get elected on Friday, assassinated on Saturday, buried on Sunday, then go back to work on Monday. If I was President.”
I am compelled to talk a bit about my personal standouts in the Block Party DVD, Dead Prez. These guys are very political, speaking of propaganda, mind control, and corruption. I love these guys. However, of all of the artists playing the Block Party, Dead Prez is the only act I have not already seen perform live…that is going to change as soon as possible. Chapelle even devotes a segment to making sure everyone knows why you won’t hear them on the radio. Not just because of the lyrics, “Turn off that radio, turn off the Bullshit!” But also brilliant lyrics like, “White House is the Rock House, Uncle Sam is the mutha fuckin’ pusha man. What I gotta do to make you understand?” and, “Who shot Tupac? We don’t get them, they gone get us all. I’m up for runnin’ up on these crackers in they City Hall,” or, “You rather have a Lexus or justice…A dream or some substance…a Beamer, a necklace, or freedom? See, a nigga like me don’t playa hate. I just stay awake.” Take your pick! Dead Prez has a lot of important things to say, and bring it with a BIG VOICE, and phat beats (not to mention they ain’t bad to look at).
Providing the beats all through the party was the best damn house band in the land, The Roots. They were really a perfect choice for this event, because they have played for and backed up most of the artists on the bill before they were all household names. The Roots are a force within themselves, due to the fact that they have the funkin soul of any rap group out there, AND they play their music live. They sport the guitar, amazing drums, bass, DJ, keyboards, trumpet, congas, saxophone, trombone, and vocals and rap. To top that off, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, the drums and force behind The Roots, even arranged and produced the concert music for this fine Block Party. Big props out to those guys.
Among the special appearances were Cody Chestnut, John Legend, Keyshia Cole, Big Daddy Kane, and many others. Special features include extended musical acts, Ohio Players: The Bus Ride, plus, September in Brooklyn: The Making of Block Party. Many fun times to be had at a Dave Chapelle Block Party. This was, Dave claims, the best day of his career!