Tuesday, May 02, 2006

How Kona got her groove back without marrying a much younger man and finding out like, ten years later that he's gay, which, come on. Ten years?

I've been in a little bit of a musical rut lately (for almost a year.) My music rotation has been a largely uninterrupted sequence of Old 97s, Rhett Miller, Jason Mraz, Liz Phair, Real Johnny Cash and fake Johnny Cash. My Ipod provides a soundtrack for my day, a beat to walk to. And lately, my beat has been a little...guitar driven.

Maybe it's because music is escape. I live in the ghetto, and as E says, "not the quaint ghetto. The ghetto with broken glass, chicken bones and hypodermic needles littering the sidewalks." So I listen to music that reminds me of calmer places, like Texas, or Virginia, or prison. It's just easier to deal with dogs shitting in the middle of the sidewalk when you're listening to music with lines that talk about a fever being "hotter than a pepper sprout."

Moreso than escapism, I've been hit with a simple lack of good hip-hop. From November '03 to August of '05, we saw the release of The Black Album, the subsequent brilliant mash-up, Kanye West's debut, Talib Kweli's second album, Mos Def's second album, John Legend's debut, a Kanye-produced Common album, and Kanye's follow-up. Even Eminem's fourth studio album provided a few good songs and an eerily prescient music video. But since last summer? Nothing. Sure, I've been told that I need to buy The Minstrel Show, but I still haven't been able to get really excited about anything that's been released. Until Robert DeNiro made me get excited again.

April 25th marked the beginning of the fifth Tribeca Film Festival, Robert DeNiro's ploy to make me thrilled to pay $13 to see a movie at the Regal by my office. Every year, Tribeca has a three-day series called the Tribeca Drive-In. These are free outdoor movies shown at the World Financial Center Plaza. On Saturday, I went to the premiere of Word.Life (AKA The Hip-Hop Project.) The Hip-Hop Project is a documentary about a New York City program called Art Start. The film spans three years and follows a group of inner-city teenagers as they make a hip-hop album. The process is more than just writing rhymes. They put this album together from the beginning. They help secure funding and studio space as well as produce, write and perform all of the tracks. The film itself is amazing and is a must-see even for people who hate hip-hop. At points in the screening, the audience was cheering, yelling and crying; we all got sucked into the drama of these kids' daily lives.

While the film reminded me about what I love about hip-hop (the emotion, the pain, the roots in poetry) we had the extra bonus of a Hip-Hop Project performance before the film started. The energy and the raw passion that they showed is so rare in a lot of music today. They had everyone on their feet and as corny as it sounds, they left more than a few people inspired. I went online and ordered their CD, the proceeds of which go back to the Art Start program, the purpose of which is to "value and nurture the voices, hearts and minds of under-served children and teenagers and help them transform their lives through the creative process."

I'm looking forward to getting the CD and walking to a brand-new beat.

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