the Change I Wish to See

...and whatever else it takes to find my pants

A bunch of us flocked to Busboys to see Byron Hurt's "Hip Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes."

At the tables were mini-questionnaires about the film, the experience, etc. One of the questions was about what we wanted the film to do, or what it didn't do, something like that. I took that as an invitation to tell whoever the reader would be what I really thought.

In Beats & Rhymes, Hurt presents a state of the union for hip-hop, questioning the misogyny and commodification, but also looks back at the roots and forward with an eye somewhat on the goals. I think he closed the comprehension gap well. So often, there's a generational schism and he did a great job of using language a span of ages can understand.

But I couldn't help but notice that the film is missing the "what do we do" component. It reminded me of "Traffic." I guess it was near the end of high school when it was released. It presented what was thought to be a revealing portrayal of the various strands of a web of drug-trafficking. The problem with Traffic, as here, is that for those of us at the core of the depiction - this generation, these kids - so many of us already get it. We were as unsurprised seven years ago that the daughter of the nation's drug czar could be holed up in a crack house as we are that today 17 year olds are killing each other to effectuate battle rhymes.

If you didn't know, then I suppose you'd have rated B&R the five out of five the questionnaire allowed. But I felt incomplete; I gave it a 4. I felt like Hurt led the ones of us who just aren't sure how to drink, to a bowl of water we'd already found. I've kept telling myself, "You can't assign Hurt the responsibility of single-handedly lifting us from the predicament he notes." Maybe his only job is to illustrate.

But what if it isn't? What if it's more? What if what holds us - and by that I mean all of us - back is that we keep limiting our duty? It's so easy to say, "My role stretches but so far." Maybe it's too easy. We've all heard that story about Everybody, Somebody, and Nobody. The gist is that when Everybody thought Somebody was going to do something, Nobody ever did anything. I guess I think of awareness as an ocean. If there's a kid who's never seen it, then I've done something great by taking her to the beach, walking her down the coastline... But if I just push her off the boardwalk, if I totally immerse her in the water, what does she do when she realizes she can't swim? When she drowns, does the fact that I at least opened her eyes serve as any consolation? And how many kids like her do I strand before I realize I have to start giving swimming lessons and that maybe I need to be the lifeguard too?


Katie said...

I just caught this last night and I was left with the same impression. It seemed like he was starting to reach for solutions at the very end in the interview with chuck d, but then decided to keep most of that conversation private, or out of the film. But I think the inability to come up with strategies and actions goes much farther than just the issues addressed in this documentary. It seems far too easy to get caught up in our generation's reputation for apathy and resign ourselves to dissatisfaction and complaining (I am definitely guilty of this behavior). There has to be some other option, and perhaps its time we started taking more responsibility for all of the things we complain about but just accept as the status quo. Being thoughtful and informed is great....but it isn't changing anything. Where did we lose our idealism....and how do we get it back?