Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Beyond Beats and Poppin' Bottles with Tyrone...

For weeks now, folks have been urging us to check out "Beyond Beats and Rhymes,"a new documentary by Byron Hurt (pictured to the right) which looks at hip-hop and masculinity. The thinking was that given the timing of the film and DT, our projects have the potential to have great synergy. So far that's been the case quite unintentionally: In November we appeared with Byron on Blackademics, a radio show on D.C.-based WPFW Pacifica radio station at the urging of host Shani. Our friend Lisa is trying to put together a panel discussion with Byron and us at a law school in the Spring. Well, On Dec. 2 while we were in Chicago for an event, The Natalies finally were able to check out a screening of the film at the Cultural Center. Long story short: Byron's documentary is terrific! Beyond Beats is a passionate multimedia essay in the vein of a muckraking Michael Moore which probes masculinity gone wrong in hip-hop. There have been others maybe most notably the performance artist Sarah Jones who have covered similar themes in the past, but we are hopeful that this particular sermon will reach beyond the choir. The most obvious reason is that the man behind the camera/microphone is a brother, a "real" brother, former college football player and Que dog, who is stepping to his peers, man to man, asking uncomfortable questions about the directions that hip-hop is going--coming from a place of love for the culture and concern for its future. Hip-hop afficionados will nod heads and enjoy the classic video clips and interviews with folks like Chuck D, Talib Kweli, Jadakiss, The Clipse, Russell Simmons, Busta Rhymes, Kevin Powell, Mos Def, De La Soul, William Jelani Cobb, Nelly, Mark Anthony Neal. Then we hear from countless anonymous hip-hop fans like revelers at Daytona Beach Spring Bling, trannies and white hip-hop fans on safari. We won't spoil the film but several high-profile hip-hoppers straight-up play themselves--especially when the subject of hypermasculinity, homosexuality and misogyny come up. Judging from all the awkward silences, eye-shifting, and stuttering that followed Byron's questions, many men of hip-hop are plain old scared to say they scared. Byron, thanks for a terrific film and showing how comfortably masculinity and awareness of gender issues can coexist in one body. We're sure The Natalies aren't the only ladies who have noticed how great it looks on you(: We look forward to crossing paths again in the future. The film airs in February on PBS; check out a clip HERE)

Earlier that day before we saw the screening on Dec. 2, we attended a brunch sponsored by the Windy City Chapter Links chapter, "Champagne Breakfast with Tyrone" at Pearl's Place on 39th Street. At least 75 people showed up and we got all teary -eyed up there, speaking in front of all of Nat. M's parents and old childhood friends, neighbors and even an English teacher!! We met Ginger, one of the B.A.P. girls who made a splash with their book and were generous with marketing advice early in our process with DT. After the bottles were popped we moved 100 units in one morning and could have done more. Thanks so much to Yvonne Moore, Nat M.'s mom who organized, and Alma Dodd who hosted us at her restaurant in Bronzeville and Aunt Joyce for a great, personal introduction. Thanks to Charese for taking us out afterward and Tom and Suzanne for coming out to kick it afterwards in the West Loop.

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