Dave Chappelle’s Block Party

| March 7, 2006

Perhaps one of the most intriguing and controversial topics plaguing the international public these days is the issue of stem cell extraction and development.

The idea of curing diseases and the construction of limbs and organs certainly appears to be a worthy endeavor, despite the criticisms from religious sects and governmental bodies.

And although the primary focus of this pursuit has been the intention of reproducing organs, some scientists see an even greater opportunity arising from the process.

That being the creation of the ultimate Hip Hop artist.

In an undisclosed location outside of Lubbock, Texas, Eugene Reynolds, Chief Development Engineer at Embrio Industries, has been working feverishly with stem cell technology for five years now, using its reproductive qualities in the development of a Rap artist most suited for commercial and critical success.

“It’s been a lot of lonely nights with basic cable and a beaker, but after nearly five years, all our dreams are about to come true,” Reynolds says.

Growing up in rural Kansas, Reynolds found it difficult to relate his love of Hip Hop with the rest of his family and friends.
“In the beginning, I was majorly into License to ill. I mean, what can I say? You hear those rhymes and beats and you’re like oh my God, this is real. I just never wanted it to stop. My dad though never got it, and some of the things he said really made me want to punch him. But he’s a war vet, so you know how that goes.”

Soon after graduating from Stanford, Reynolds started Embrio Industries, aimed at incorporating technology into the preservation of Hip Hop.

With an array of colleagues brought in from around the world, Reynolds and his team were able to achieve their early successes by means of cells resting in discarded umbilical cords.

“Adult stem cells are definitely capable of improving cardiac and arthritic conditions. This has been known for some time. But after close inspection, you soon see their ability in the precise construction of vocal cords and joint movement. Both key in a project such as this,” Reynolds says.

The process of extraction is a delicate one. Typically, the nucleus of a skin cell is inserted into an egg whose nucleus has been removed. After five days, scientists transfer the embryo’s inner cell mass-with its 40 stem cells- to a lab dish lined with feeder cells. As the cells sit in the dish, a Sony boom box is placed in close proximity, allowing the sound waves of A Tribe Called Quest and Big Daddy Kane to be absorbed by the developing cells. Several months later, healthy, Hip Hop induced cells have been created.

“It of course is essential that the primary sound device be a Sony. We tried Philips for a while, but just weren’t getting the results we wanted.”

After months of intense labor, Embrio Industries will finally unveil their prototype model at the Holiday Inn Resort and Hotel in Singapore this July. A being that by all accounts should be the epitome of musicianship. A being Mr. Reynolds has dubbed Lil’ Cella G. Reppa.

“Cella G will go places no other Rap artist has even thought of before,” Reynolds says.

“First of all the vocal delivery is impeccable. He makes Busta Rhymes look just plain busted. We’ve entered him in several battles, where he has performed beyond our expectations. It’s like seeing your child win the second grade spelling bee you were cheated out of by a woman telling you to spell sole, and wouldn’t specify whether she was referring to the spirit or the fish. I mean, I’m not a mind reader.”

Having recently achieved an agreement with Epic Records, Embrio will begin their new line of Lil’ Cell G. Reppa’s by the end of the year.

With production going at full force, it seems Mr. Reynolds will finally achieve his dream of an everlasting Rap artist.
“When this whole stem cell thing started all anyone could think about was the development of stronger organs and the regeneration of limbs. But I always knew there was something more vital to the science. Something that could not only repair veins and skin, but also deliver a rhyme worthy of Bartlett’s. Saving the world is not an easy job. But with Cell G on board, I honestly think we’re a little closer.”

Although the Cell G. is still being perfected, other alternatives exist for the common person to encounter a truly moving Hip Hop experience. The most logical one of these being Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, a concert film incorporating the elements of comedy with some of today’s most talented musicians.

Directed by Michel Gondry(Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) the film follows comedian Dave Chappelle as he throws a free performance in Brooklyn’s Bedstuy area. Working with innovative artists such as Mos Def, Common, Erika Badu and The Roots, the film showcases that Hip Hop is more than “bling” and “crunk,” but rather a social conscious art form, hoping not only to entertain but inform as well.

Beginning in Dayton, Ohio, Chappelle announces to his hometown that he’s throwing a block party in Brooklyn. After recruiting the local college band and a handful of residents, many of who are not even fans of Hip Hop, Chappelle heads to New York where he begins his search for the appropriate location.

The area chosen though is a far cry from the grassy fields of Woodstock. Scrunched between a day care and a building that could be mistaken for a crack house, Chappelle sets up shop, and soon a flood of anxious fans pour in for an experience they’ll never forget.

Kanye West opens the show, and sets the tone for the rest of the day, which is populated by both powerful performances and Chappelle’s entertaining comedy interludes.

With the crowd pulsating to every word and beat, Chappelle acts as the ultimate gift giver. Not only offering a free concert, but also creating an outlet for the artists themselves to communicate their knowledge to the hungry minds of the onlookers.

Like D.A. Pennebaker’s Monterey Pop and Martin Scorsese’s Last Waltz, the film offers more than just performances, but rather showcases the thriving Hip Hop culture.

The location of the concert seems to be a clear illustration behind the motivation of the event.

A brochure to Bedstuy is not a popular one distributed by your travel agent. But as you see the crowd jumping and hear the music swirling through the air, you realize that even the most seemingly dismal places posses a great degree of heart and soul. And often in conditions such as these, you need it.

Perhaps more essential than the location is the roster of artists. Chappelle has carefully selected a range of artists based on their message and creative merit rather than their commercial popularity.

A particular significant performance occurs when the political duo Dead Prez take the stage.

With their fists high in the air, these guerilla musicians offer a meaningful alternative to the often-lackluster efforts of their radio contemporaries.

They sing, “I’m sick of that fake thug R&B Rap scenario all day on the radio, same scenes in the videos, monotonous material, ya’ll don’t hear me though.”

As the crowd hangs on every word, they end with, “Would you rather have a Lexus or justice, a dream or some substance, a beamer, a necklace or freedom?”

Throughout the film, intimate interviews of the artists interacting with the audience, demonstrate the close bond between listener and musician.

One of the more insightful episodes occurs when Wyclef Jean is playing a song called, “If I were President,” to a small classroom full of students.

As he finishes the song he goes on to say, “Remember, the white man don’t owe you shit. You’re responsible for yourself. They got libraries in the ghetto. You need to go in there and educate yourselves. I couldn’t speak English when I came to this country, but I went to the library and read. That’s what you got to do.”

And although nearly every performance is exciting, none is more exhilarating than when the reunited Fugees take the stage.

Lauren Hill’s breathtaking vocals cause goose bumps to surface, as the trio tears through moving numbers including the essential, “Killing me softly.”

As the moon rises high in the sky, Chappelle thanks everyone for coming out and admits that the experience has been the highlight of his life thus far.

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party is not just a run of the mill concert video, but rather a document to a significant time, place and group of people.

To this day, the majority of outsiders contend that Rap music is nothing more than a genre populated by shallow artists concerned with money, violence and sex.

But the display of artistic integrity highlighted in Block Party, puts those misconceptions aside by shattering the pimp cup, and instead sending the microphone high into the air. Allowing the voice and message of inspiration to reach new heights.

While the Cella G. prototype waits to be unveiled, the true substance contained within Mr. Chappelle’s film is enough to satisfy the appetites of even the pickiest listeners. So sit back, relax and get ready to dig in.

A Film by Michel Gondry
A Rogue Pictures Release
Dave Chappelle
Kanye West
Erika Badu
Mos Def
The Roots
Talib Kweli
Dead Prez
The Fugees
Jill Scott
Cody Chesnutt
Big Daddy Kane
Official Website:
The official site is here: www.chappellesblockparty.com

About the Author:

Matthew Vasiliauskas is a graduate of Columbia University. His work has appeared in publications such as Conjunctions, Berlin’s Sand Literary Journal, Chicago Literati and The Pennsylvania Review. Matthew currently lives and works in Los Angeles.
Filed in: Film, Video and DVD

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