Notes From the Field: I Really Hope You’re Enjoying The CDs You Stole From Me, Anonymous Dude From Back In The Day

Back in college, somebody stole a bunch of my CDs from my dorm room, and the tough thing about having your CDs stolen is that you don’t always know which ones are gone until you try to listen to something, so every time you look for something and it’s gone, you feel pissed all over again. One interesting side effect of CD theft is that there are sometimes albums that you loved but haven’t heard in years. One such album for me was Bringing Down The Horse by the Wallflowers. Music often means something to us because of the place or time or stage of life, and I wondered: was it just through the foggy haze of nostalgia and memory that I viewed this album so fondly? I was afraid to listen to it, just in case it hadn’t held up. It would be better to remember it as it was rather than see it in broad daylight with all its flaws and foibles, silently feeling foolish for ever liking such crappy music.

But no. I listened to it and it’s still awesome. So, anonymous person who stole my albums which included Ginuwine’s 100% (definitely not going to risk listening to that one for the reasons listed above) and my DMX and a bunch of other stuff, I hope you listened to Bringing Down The Horse on repeat and appreciate it for what it is.  Because the only thing worse than having your music stolen is finding out that the person who stole it is using it for a weed plate.

Belly: You Don’t Realize How Good This Movie Actually Is

 

Belly is one of the most important movies in the history of Black cinema.

Yeah, I said it, and I’m not afraid of any of y’all. This movie is hotly debated among Black people. “It looks like a music video.” “It’s dark. No, not the mood, the lighting.” “It makes no sense.” “What is that movie even supposed to be about?”  “That’s what happens when you give rappers acting jobs.” “That’s why they never should’ve given these people money.”

Is the movie a cinematic masterpiece? In a word, no. But it’s valuable because it captured so much of the ethos of the time it came out, in 1998. For one thing, it showed things as they were in people’s heads, and reflected how they interacted with the culture. Kids today won’t understand, but people actually used to sit around the TV watching hours and hours of music videos. You’d wait for a music video you really loved to come on, and you’d discover entirely new music that way. Music videos had reached the level of short feature films. The budgets had grown huge and production values had gone through the roof. You’d see helicopters, speedboats, exotic locations, explosions, quality computer generated images, and crazy cameo appearances. Music videos started to get to be longer than the actual songs. At R. Kelly’s peak, his “Down Low” video series was epic. They singlehandedly reenergized Ron Isley’s career as Mr. Big. R. Kelly kept on banging Mr. Big’s women, until finally Mr. Big had him beat down and dropped off to die in the desert. For a while, there was talk of an R. Kelly/Mr. Big movie, WHICH I WOULD STILL GLADLY PAY MONEY TO SEE. During that time, Hype Williams was one of the most prolific and sought after video directors. So it was inevitable that he would one day make a feature length film, and when he did, its opening sequence would look like this. I’m sorry I can’t embed it, but you need to click on that link. I can say this without hyperbole: I’m going to let you finish, but Hype Williams created one of the greatest opening film sequences of all time. Of course it looks like a music video. It’s the point. The music videoness of it makes the scene matter as much as it does. And that sequence breathed new life into Soul II Soul’s “Back To Life.” I can’t even hear that song without thinking about a slow motion robbery happening under ultraviolet lights. Continue Reading