This has been the summer of too much…too much to do in L.A., that is. In a summer of record gas cost and rising inflation, we are all looking for an escape. Maybe our plans for traveling have been put on hold due to the economy, but it doesn’t mean we all can’t have fun, right? It’s just now we have to wait for the fun to come to us.
June 20th marked the arrival of Seun Kuti to Los Angeles. There were a record number of people at the show at Grand Performances, not only for Seun but for the price (free).
Seun performed with Egypt 80, Fela Kuti’s last band before his premature death. Since Fela’s death more than 10 years ago Seun has been performing with the group, and this was their first time in Los Angeles. Egypt 80 is the real deal. Not to knock bands such as Antibalas and The Budos Band who play Afro-Beat (and do it quite well, I should add), but there is nothing like hearing Afro-Beat being performed by the people who have been doing it for years. About five thousand plus were absolutely losing it. The dance floor was packed to near capacity and people were dancing in the pools that separated the people from the group.
The next day (Saturday) I went to MOCA for their CineMoca series. For $10 you can check out the featured movie the exhibits inside The Geffen Contemporary. On this particular night, MOCA featured a mash-up of two similar themed movies created by Los Angeles–based artist Edgar Arceneaux. The two movies, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party and Wattstax, seamlessly flowed in and out of each other much like a DJ mix and created its own movie -- from Rufus Thomas to Mos Def, The Bar Kays to Erykah Badu, Dave Chappelle to Richard Pryor. I love seeing movies outdoors, so this was a treat for me. On top of that, I met one of my favorite writers at showing. Her name is Marisela Norte. Marisela has been a big inspiration on not only my writing, but also how I look at life. She was part of infamous ASCO artist group back in the 80’s and her Norte/Word spoken word CD released on Freeway Records is a classic. It is way out of print but if you can find it I suggest it most highly.
Wackness is about white teens in the first half of the 90s who say stuff like, "You only see the wackness; I see the dopeness." They're in their 30s now, so the nostalgia is ripe. It was the period when the classical tradition in rap was giving way to the method acting mumbling of gangster wannabes selling the “real” to undergraduates. In a nod to Vincent Price famously referring to the method actors as "the mumblers," either Big Daddy Kane or Chuck D once lamented the fact that so many of the contemporary MCs gargled into the microphone. Anyhow, the film's soundtrack reminded me of why I started to hate commercial rap (not that I needed the reminding). Each line Big E wheezes brings him one step closer to a cardiac arrest and me to the door. But, in trying to see the dopeness -- this movie wasn't Hancock, after all -- I soldiered on. I will draw the line at Sundance films set in a Lilith Fair concert.
So, the story: Luke (Josh Peck) is a pot dealer who’s just graduated from high school in the first year of Giuliani’s Manhattan. This is one of those introspective comedies (à la Little Miss Sunshine) that dominate Landmark’s arthouse chain, so Luke’s one and only friend is his psychiatrist, Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley, supposedly a Brooklyn Jew, but looking like Cheech Marin circa Up In Smoke with an accent that slips into British, Indian caricature and Classic Hollywood Nazi). Luke trades the doc dope for counseling. Luke’s problems are that no one is his friend outside of wanting drugs from him and he can’t get laid. One such “friend” is the hip hop Asian character who functions as the foil for Luke’s romantic interest in Squires’ step-daughter, Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby). Another is nuevo hippie chick Union (Mary-Kate Olsen, the same twin – I checked – who plays the same character on Weeds).