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Laramie Movie Scope:
Dave Chappelle's Block Party

A concert film with a big party

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 16, 2007 -- “Dave Chappelle's Block Party” is a documentary concert film based on a party and concert organized by TV personality Dave Chappelle. The film was inspired by the 1973 documentary “Wattstax.”

In addition to many concert numbers, there is a lot of other footage of Dave getting the show organized, inviting various people to the show from Ohio and New York City, providing bus transportation, visiting with the neighbors on the block. During the concert, Dave tells some jokes and does some songs, along with Kanye West, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Common, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, The Fugees (reunited for this show), Wyclef Jean, Bilal, Dead Prez, Cody ChesnuTT, John Legend and the Central State University Marching Band. The party was held near the corner of Downing and Quincy in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y.

I'm not familiar with Dave Chappelle or most of the artists, except for Lauryn Hill, who performed a highly stylized version of “Killing Me Softly” in concert. Chappelle is a likeable character and everyone seemed to be having a great time at the party. It looked like fun. I found the music to be a bit repetitive after a while. I saw this on the uncensored DVD, which did not feature subtitles. I was unable to follow the lyrics of many of the songs, with the exception of “Killing Me Softly” and Wyclef Jean's solo reggae number, “President,” which was the musical highlight of the film for me. It was an OK concert film. Your own reaction to will depend a lot on how well you like the particular artists performing during the concert. There really isn't enough besides the concert to recommend it, except for the fantastic “Broken Angel” house. The two hippies living there, Arthur and Cynthia Wood, and the house, were interesting. There was a fire in the house after the concert was filmed. The house was closed after numerous construction code violations were discovered there. This film rates a C.

The film is dedicated to the memory of hip hop producer J. Dilla (James Dewitt Yancey), who died from lupus. Songs performed during the concert include “Overnight Celebrity,” by the Brooklyn Steppers, “Get 'Em High,” by Kanye West, featuring Talib Kweli and Common, “Two Words,” by Kanye West and Mos Def “Definition,” by Mos Def and Talib Kweli, “King of the Game,” by Cody ChesnuTT, “Move Somethin'” by Talib Kweli featuring Common and Mos Def, “Jesus Walks,” by Kanye West featuring John Legend and Common, “Turn Off the Radio,” by Dead Prez, “It's Bigger Than Hip Hop,” by Dead Prez, “Back in the Day,” by Erykah Badu, “Love of My Life,” by Erykah Badu and Common, “The Way,” by Jill Scott, “Boom,” by The Roots featuring Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap, “You Got Me,” by The Roots, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu, “Umi Says,” by Mos Def featuring Talib Kweli, Common and Chairman Fred Hampton, Jr., “Get By,” by Talib Kweli featuring Mos Def and Common, “Nappy Heads,” by The Fugees, “Parting Ways” by Cody ChesnuTT, and “Upstarts in a Blowout,” by Cody ChesnuTT.

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Copyright © 2007 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

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