Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

snoop-lion-reincarnated

We all know Snoop Dogg.  He’s the man at the start of the 90’s who along with super-producer Dr Dre helped the West Coast step from out of the shadow of New York, and dominate the rap scene. But some 20 years later, when all of his G-Funk contemporaries like Ice Cube, Warren G, Daz and Kurupt, and The Lady Of Rage have faded from the spotlight, or actually left this mortal plane like Nate Dogg and 2Pac, Snoop is still here and still relevant.

He’s managed to do this by being a larger-than-life persona that transends the narrow confines of Gangsta rap, re-inventing himself from Death Row gangsta with Suge Knight, to No Limit soldier with Master P, to smoothed out R&B playa with Pharrell and R. Kelly – an all-round fun guy who can star in ‘Starsky and Hutch’ with Ben Stiller, and Adidas adverts with David Beckham.

But when news came out last year that Snoop had visited Jamaica, re-named himself Snoop Lion, decided to become a Rasta and release a reggae album, eyebrows were raised. Perhaps he thought, being a Rasta gave him license to smoke weed every day, and the larger spiritual aspects had been lost on him?  Hearing a couple of tracks from this new album confirmed such fears, as the music sounded more Rastamouse than Marley.  So I was intrigued to see the documentary charting his latest incarnation  – was it just a publicity stunt or indeed some kind of Damascus road conversion?

It is indeed admirable that he would be trying to mature and expand musically, rather than re-hash the same old thing year after year, album after album, becoming an aging parody of his younger self.  In this movie he openly declares his desire to broaden his audience/fan base. “ I know that Obama would love to invite me to the White House,” he declares, “but if I went there, what the fuck could I perform?”

snoop doc

The doc follows him on his visit to Jamaica where they roll out the red carpet for him. He visits Bob Marley’s old stomping ground in the ghettos of Trench Town and is welcomed like the star that he is.  He meets up with Damien Marley and with Bunny Wailer, who he collaborates with in the studio. And just as you would expect, he focusses as much on weed culture as he does on reggae culture. At this point in the film I thought it would just be a 90 minute weed-filled joke fest, but 60 minutes in, the proceedings take a more serious turn, detailing Snoop’s earlier life, his murder charge,  the shooting  of Tupac, his meetings with Farrakhan, and the sudden death of his childhood friend and collaborator Nate Dogg.  Thus the doc moves from being the story of his new album to the story of his life.  When it returns to Jamaica we see Snoop, this time accompanied by his wife, at a naming ceremony with Niyabinghi Rastafarian elders.

He seems sincere, but many of us have gone on spiritual foreign holidays that make us re-assess our lives, only to return to our old ways after a couple of weeks back in the rat-race. Will the same be true for Snoop?  Will he be able to retain his new-found spirituality or will he be back to ‘G’s Up Ho’s down’ by next year? Only time will tell, but I can’t see him maintaining his popularity based on the music I’ve heard so far.

Snoop Lion Reincarnated’ is in selected cinemas now, and the DVD and album released later in April

Lee Pinkerton

 

A documentary that follows 12 years in the life of a clothes designer, sounds like it might be overlong and tedious – but ‘A Man’s Story’ – the doc on Black British tailor/fashion designer Ozwald Boateng, is never that.

Its shows Boateng rising from his humble Ghanian immigrant roots, to become the youngest and first Black tailor on London’s prestigious Saville Row, to go onto the even higher heights of patronage from Hollywood movie stars and recognition from the Queen (he was awarded an OBE in 2007).  And that is not even the highest of the heights he has reached.  Not only is Boateng at the top of the fashion trade, he has transended that industry to become something of an international icon.

Not only has he done tailoring for the likes of Will Smith, Lawrence Fishbourne, and Jamie Foxx,  in 2007 he was commissioned by the President of the Republic of Ghana, to design and orchestrate a show at the 9th Annual African Union summit  that was attended by Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe, and the now deposed leader of Libya Colonel Gadaffi.  The launch of his project to promote closer links between African-Americans and the African continent was attended by veteran civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and legendary Jazz musician Herbie Hancock. This guy has got juice worldwide.  Even former Secreatry General of the United Nations (and fellow Ghanian) Kofi Annan returns his calls.  That’s how large he is!

But this film is not just a P.R. exercise –  it shows Boateng’s ups as well as downs.  It reveals the breakdown of his marriage, and struggle to maintain a relationship with his children, and it shows that despite his worldwide acclaim, even his life is not without failures and disappointments.  But never the less its inspiring to see a British Black man rising to the very top of his field, through sheer hard work and talent.  And we all need a little inspiration right now.

The Man himself in his flagship Saville Row store

The Man himself in his flagship Saville Row store

This is a new documentary by Swedish filmakers detailing the rise and fall of the Militant Black Power movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s.  According to the doocumentary, the movement rose due to  disillusionment with the peaceful non-violent Civil Rights movement in the wake of assassinations of Martin Luther King and John and Bobby Kennedy.  The movement fell due to the harrassment, imprisonment and murder of its leaders and the swamping of the ghettos of its homebase with drugs by the U.S. government’s Co-Intel-Pro.

the Black Power salute – on the podium at the 1968 Mexico Olympics

All students of Black history know the story and the Black Power iconography, but this documentary features powerful interviews with some of the main players of that era – Stokley Carmichael, Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, and a young Louis Farrakhan.  And note that these are not the usual interviews with veterans of the  struggle, looking back on ‘the good old days’.  Despite the fact that this is a new documentary these interviews were done at the time – with Angela Davis whilst she was in prison on terrorism charges, with Eldridge Cleaver whilst he was in exile in Tangiers, and with Louis Farrakahn as he was positioning himself as the new leader of the Nation of Islam.  To put these interviews into a modern day context there is also commentary from current artists like Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, and Questlove (though I would have liked to have seen their faces on screen rather than just heard their voices).

My one criticism of the film would be the lack of music from the period, which after-all was the golden era of Black American music.  Perhaps the Swedish filmakers don’t realise how important music is to the Black experience, or maybe they had licensing issues.  That aside, this is still required viewing for students of modern Black history.

Lee Pinkerton

I for one raised an eyebrow when I discovered that Tottenham’s MP David Lammy had released a book about August’s riots,  only a couple of months after they had happened.  Some dismissed it as ‘shameless opportunism’.

In truth,  like Barack Obama’s ‘The Audacity Of Hope’, Lammy’s  ‘After the Riots’ is more part autobiography, part  personal political manifesto and explanation of our broken society rather than simply an explanation of the urban uprisings, though there is clearly much overlap.

In the immediate aftermath of the riots I was disappointed with his response in the media, condemning the violence like all the other MPs, and blaming the violence on non-Tottenham residents,  so in this book it is good to hear his views argued fully and cogently, rather than the soundbites of PMQ’s and Sky News that we usually hear from him.

He gives his opinions on reform of the tax system, immigration policy, the judicial system, and prison sentencing amongst other topics, and with so many good ideas I wonder why his own party leaders are not listening to him.

Lammy comes across well intentioned and full of good ideas in the book, with a good understanding of the problems of Britain’s struggling masses, both white and Black.  He highlights the policy mistakes of both the Conservatives and his own Labour party, which leads me to wonder why if successive governments (including his own) have been so unwilling or unable to improve the lives of his constituents,  he is still happy to be part of a system that patently isn’t working.

Lee Pinkerton